§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he rose pursuant to notice to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances under which compensation was granted to the patentees of the screw propeller, as used in Her Majesty's ships and vessels. He considered that this question concerned one of the most important inventions—saving the electric telegraph—that had been invented for many years. He would deal with the question in a manner as little personal as possible. He would attack nobody, for he was only demanding justice on behalf of an individual who had been unjustly treated by four consecutive Boards of Admiralty. A noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) had already taken up this question in another place, and he was not a person to have done so unless he had been convinced that a great grievance existed. The question related to the screw propeller, used in the Royal Navy. So important did this invention seem to the Admiralty of the day that two votes of 10,000l. each were taken, one in 1851 and the other in 1854, to reward the patentee, not of the best screw, or of the earliest screw, but for the screw that should be adopted in the Royal Navy. These were the terms of the grant, and before he resumed his seat he should show to the House that the grant had not only not reached the person for whom it was intended by the House when the grant was made, but that they had been excluded from the dispensation of the Vote. That was his statement, but he only asked that the circumstances should be inquired into, and to this he considered there could be 640 no objection. He would candidly tell the House that he had ascertained that the Government would not grant this inquiry, and he, therefore, appealed to the House to do so. Did the parties who had received this money ask for an inquiry? One of them, though he had since recanted, had asked an hon. Member to second this Motion. And the House also had before them the petition of Mr. Lowe, asking for an inquiry and impeaching the utility of Mr. Smith's screw. He mentioned this in order to show that the five parties who received the money voted by Parliament had quarrelled among themselves. He would now lay before the House evidence to show that the screw used in Her Majesty's ships was not that of either of the parties to whom the 20,000l. were given. The person who really got the money was Mr. Henry Currie, a banker in the City, then a Member of the House, and sitting on that (the ministerial) side of the House, who had previously applied to Sir Robert Peel and to Lord John Hay without success. Mr. Currie had stated his own case in a letter to the Solicitor to the Admiralty, dated the 30th of May, 1854. His statement was to the effect that he had become the director of a company to which Mr. Smith had conveyed his patent; that the company, having expended their money in experiments and trials at law, had consented to an amalgamation with other companies which were the proprietors of four different patents; that in 1851 he was instructed to put himself in communication with the Government, and the merits of the five patents were again investigated; that the result was an agreement by the then First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir F. Baring) to pay him the 20,000l. upon his personal security to relieve the Government from all further claim; and that the distribution of the money was left entirely to him, but was made according to the award of the eminent patent agent, Mr. Carpmael. Mr. Currie concluded by saying that, in his opinion, the screw used in the navy was Smith's, and Smith's alone. He (Captain Scobell) contended that, according to the documents in his possession and the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the invention was Captain Carpenter's, and Captain Carpenter's alone. Captain Carpenter was a captain in the navy who had not endeavoured to make a profit of his invention by private trade, but who desired that the screw he had constructed should be 641 adopted in Her Majesty's navy; and the question was, whether Captain Carpenter's screw had not been adopted in the Duke of Wellington, the Agamemnon, and other vessels which had sailed or were to sail for the Baltic and the Black Sea? Mr. Lowe, one of the five persons who had obtained a share of the money granted by Her Majesty's Government, had applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council four or five years ago for a renewal of his patent, but the application was refused, on the ground that the invention did not possess sufficient merit. About the years 1838 or 1839, before Mr. Smith's screw was known, Captain Carpenter made communications to the Admiralty, stating that he had perfected a screw, which he believed to be very useful to the ships of Her Majesty's navy, and in 1840 he took out a patent for the invention. Some experiments having been made by Captain Carpenter on the Thames, in the presence of Sir Edward Parry, Surveyor General of the steam department of the navy, and others, on the part of the Government, Captain Carpenter was appointed to the command of the Geyser, a ship of war, and was ordered to the Mediterranean, having been permitted to fit his screw to the pinnace of that vessel. The pinnace to which the screw was adapted was tried in the Mediterranean in the presence of Admiral Sir William Parker, and her sailing qualities excited great admiration and surprise. Captain Carpenter did not return to England until 1845, when he found that many persons had been endeavouring to establish claims to his invention; and he was informed, in reply to an application to the Admiralty, that a certain sum of money had been granted to the inventors of the screw used in the navy. Captain Carpenter had, however, unsuccessfully urged his claim to this reward. Last year Captain Carpenter applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a renewal of his patent, and officers employed by the Government declared that his screw was that which was in use in Her Majesty's navy. The Attorney General appeared before the Judicial Committee to watch the proceedings, and he did not object to the renewal of the patent, but desired that the Government might have the use of Carpenter's screw. The Judicial Committee, however, refused to assent to such an arrangement, and at this moment the Admiralty were wrongfully using 642 the screw, though it was impossible for Captain Carpenter to bring an action, for this wrong, against the Government. Mr. John Ellis, one of the witnesses examined, stated that the screw of the Agamemnon, which he manufactured himself, was Captain Carpenter's screw. The screw invented by Captain Carpenter combined the maximum of power with the minimum of resistance, and Sir Edward Parry, who, as he had previously stated, was Surveyor General of the steam department of the navy, in 1838, and who had been ordered to witness the experiments with Captain Carpenter's screw, testified that those experiments, as far as they went, were satisfactory. The next witness examined before the Judicial Committee was Mr. Robert Galloway, the surveyor of steam vessels to the Board of Trade. He gave evidence distinctly to the effect that the screw used in the navy was a screw formed on the model of that of the Agamemnon, and that he had never seen one of Smith's screws used, either in the Royal Navy, or in the mercantile marine. Here was additional evidence that the screw used in the navy was that of Captain Carpenter. Then Mr. Thomas Lloyd, the chief Admiralty engineer, gave evidence that there was no vessel in the Royal Navy fitted with the screw before 1843, and that there was no vessel fitted with one entire turn of the screw, which was the description of screw made by Mr. Smith. The evidence of Captain Carpenter described the various applications made by him to the Admiralty, and the replies he received, showing that there was no chance of his obtaining redress from the Board. Then came the judgment of the Judicial Committee, which was given on the 30th of May last, and in which he found it distinctly stated, that "The Government did not contest the validity of the patterns or the utility of the invention;" adding, "that it has been proved at the bar that this very invention is at this day, and has for some time, been in use in the Royal Navy." Now, after evidence like this, he would appeal to the sense of justice of the Lords of the Admiralty, and ask whether they were not prepared to remedy the error which had been committed? The Judicial Committee then showed that Captain Carpenter had been no party to the arbitration. But now, 20,000l. having been paid, the question was what could be done? Before this sum of 20,000l. was given by the Government 643 a bond of indemnity was entered into. Therefore, the money was recoverable; and one of the persons who ought to have the whole or part of it had been unjustly deprived of compensation. It might be asked, why did not Captain Carpenter bring an action against those parties giving the indemnity; but the answer was, that he could not, as the bond was given to the Admiralty, and none but the Admiralty could act upon it. He had shown that a sum of 20,000l. had been voted by that House, and that it had gone into the hands of five screw companies, who amalgamated together, under the advice of a director in one of them, who was of course an interested party. He now called on the House to show that when an individual, however humble and however disregarded for many years, appealed for justice to the last resort within those walls, that justice would not be denied him.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances under which the sum of 20,000l., voted by the House of Commons as a reward or compensation to the Patentees of the Screw Propeller, as used in Her Majesty's ships and vessels, has been applied, and as to what persons have preferred claims, either to the Admiralty, or other Public Departments, to share in the Public Grant in respect to their Patent rights, and to report thereon.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that, as he was the party practically responsible for this transaction, in so far as he had committed the Admiralty to what had taken place, he trusted he might be allowed to make some explanation on the subject. The hon. and gallant Member having altered the Motion of which he originally had given notice, and which contained charges against the Admiralty of having misappropriated public money, nevertheless repeated those charges in his speech. He was anxious, therefore, to explain the facts of the case, because, if the House thought that they had the real history of the case before them from the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, they were greatly mistaken. Now, what were the real facts of the case? When he (Sir F. Baring) was at the Admiralty, considerable difficulty was felt in respect to the claims of different parties with reference to the screw propeller. According to the opinion of the Admiralty and its officers, the screw propeller used in Her Majesty's service was not the specific 644 screw of any one patentee; but the Admiralty, having in regard to the screw so employed, infringed several patents, thought that the patentees were entitled to consideration. Application was made to the Admiralty for compensation. Now, the Admiralty did not refuse to consider these claims, but the answer given was that, inasmuch as various claimants were at law one with another, the Admiralty did not know who was the proper party to pay. For some time the question remained in that state, most inconveniently for the Admiralty, until at last it came across the mind of some of these claimants whose patents had been infringed, that it would be a much more sensible plan, if, instead of spending their money in lawsuits, they combined together and applied together to the Admiralty for compensation. That was the history of this amalgamation, of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had spoken, and it appeared to be only a sensible proceeding on the part of persons having contested rights. In consequence of this arrangement Mr. Henry Currie called on him, and, as the hon. and gallant Member had said that that Gentleman was a Member of Parliament sitting on that side (the meaning of which statement was very well understood), he begged to remind the hon. and gallant Member that, though that Gentleman was a Member of Parliament, he sat on the other side of the House. Mr. Currie called upon him as the agent of these parties claiming compensation, and he wished to point this fact out, because it had been endeavoured to be represented that the Admiralty employed Mr. Currie. That gentleman had a document signed by all the parties he represented, authorising him to settle their claims and receive their money. He would now state what the law with respect to patent right was in this case. If the Admiralty made a screw in the Government yards, and used it in the Queen's ships, the patentees had no legal means to obtain money from the Admiralty. If, again, the Admiralty employed a contractor to make a screw, and used it in the Queen's service, there was no legal remedy for the patentees as against the Admiralty, but they might go against the manufacturer. Therefore, the contractor so employed either added to the charge for his work another charge to cover the payment for the patent right, or arranged that the Admiralty should pay for the latter. When Mr. 645 Currie called on him, his first object was to ascertain whether that gentleman represented the proper parties to be paid. On consulting the officers of the Government departments he was informed by them that, so far as their professional opinion was concerned, these were the proper persons to be paid. The then Attorney General, the present Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who had attended before the Privy Council on behalf of the Government, while several of the cases were being heard, and who was fully acquainted with all the details of the transaction, also gave it as his distinct opinion, in a private conversation which he had had with him, that he could safely and properly pay the parties with whom he was dealing; and, further than that, having communicated with various engineers and contractors who were exactly in the same boat with the Admiralty in regard to these parties having, in executing work for the Admiralty, equally infringed on their patents, he was informed that they had all either actually paid, or made arrangements to pay, these companies who asked compensation from the Admiralty. Having fortified himself with these various opinions he went still further, and required Mr. Currie to give a guarantee to secure the Admiralty from any further claim; and if, after all this, he had still refused to pay the claim, he thought he would have been justly liable to considerable blame. He would not even have had the excuse that the money was claimed by an officer of the Royal navy, for at the time when he made his agreement with Mr. Currie, he had not heard that Captain Carpenter had made any claim against the Admiralty for money compensation for infringement of his patent right. In this he was supported by Sir Baldwin Walker and Mr. Lloyd, who were equally unaware of any money claim having been made by Captain Carpenter at that time. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and gallant Member for Bath would not now think that he had acted inconsiderately in making this agreement with Mr. Currie. The bargain was a payment for the past and a purchase for the future; it was not a reward for an invention, but a payment for invasion of patent right, which had been made by others, and which he thought the Admiralty ought to make also. The 20,000l. was very well spent, and altogether the bargain he made was a very good one, for Captain 646 Carpenter, in estimating the value of his patent right, had not only claimed the 20,000l., but had sent in a Bill to the Admiralty of somewhere about 44.000l. more, making altogether a claim of 64,000l., besides some little postscripts which he was anxious to put in. He certainly could not understand Captain Carpenter's logic in this. The vote of 20,000l. was granted by Parliament as a final payment for all rights past and future, and how, then, could the gallant captain claim this 20,000l., which he would have to receive as a final payment for all claims past and future, and yet send in an additional bill for 44,000l.? The hon. and gallant Member (Captain Scobell) seemed to speak as if Mr. Currie had been employed by the Admiralty to distribute the money among the claimants, but, on the contrary, Mr. Currie came to the Admiralty as the agent of the claimants; the money was paid to him as their agent; and it would, indeed, have been very unwise for the Admiralty to make itself at all responsible for the conduct of that agent in distributing the money. In fact, it was distributed by an arbitrator chosen by the different claimants themselves. He had been accused of having misappropriated the public money. Now, the last Vote distinctly referred to the sum of 10,000l. which was paid before, and paid under a particular agreement with other parties. This part of the case had never been concealed, and he had twice explained the whole transaction to the House. The Government would, therefore, have misappropriated the money if they had given a single sixpence of it to Captain Carpenter. Subsequently to the agreement above stated being made, Captain Carpenter put in a claim which the Admiralty referred to Mr. Lloyd and Sir Baldwin Walker, who afterwards reported that Captain Carpenter's screw was not the one used in Her Majesty's service. It had been said that Captain Carpenter had obtained a decision in his favour, but it must be remembered that the trial was not one affecting the rights of parties, and all that was decided in that case was, that Captain Carpenter had a patent right which ought to be renewed, and which was renewed for a certain period. That opinion, therefore, was not worth anything in a court of law—it was a mere extra-judicial opinion of Lord Justice Knight Bruce, and could be of no weight in settling Captain Carpenter's claim. The patent right was not contested. 647 He (Sir F. Baring) certainly wished to say nothing uncivil, but the Admiralty considered the patent to be perfectly worthless, and were quite willing that Captain Carpenter should have it secured to him for 100 years if he pleased, so far as they were concerned. When, therefore, the opinion of the Privy Council was so much relied upon, let it be recollected that when the matter was bonâ fide fought in a court of law, Lord Cranworth declared that the screw used for the navy was mainly the result of the experiments and exertions made, as well as of the expense incurred by the Admiralty. It was a remarkable fact that the screw of the Agamemnon happened not to be the same that was generally used by the Admiralty. It having been found necessary that a portion of it should be cut away, in its altered state it in some degree resembled Captain Carpenter's screw, and from this circumstance perhaps the Agamemnon's screw had been represented as the model of the screw used in the navy generally. The question before the House, therefore, was not one adapted for a Committee by any means—it was a strictly legal question; and when it was said that Captain Carpenter's case was a hard one, it should be remembered that that gentleman had still his remedy against the contractors who manufactured for the Admiralty. A legal trial had been resorted to by the private parties since the amalgamation of the different screw companies, and the decision then given was in favour of those parties. In the case of seven distinct ships, bills had been filed by them in Chancery, and injunctions were granted in each instance. A court of law having, therefore, decided over and over again against Captain Carpenter, why should that gentleman, because he chanced to be an officer in Her Majesty's service, be allowed to take what was fairly the property of other people? The opinion of a Committee of that House, under these circumstances, would be of no more value in this matter than the paper on which it was written, because the contractors would consider themselves bound by the decisions of a court of law, which decisions recognised the right of other parties. He had trespassed thus far on the attention of the House, because it had been represented elsewhere that a great job had been perpetrated in this case; but, as regarded his own conduct, and that of the Admiralty, it was a matter 648 of perfect indifference to him whether the Committee now moved for were granted or refused.
said, he wished to state the grounds on which he should vote in favour of the present Motion. He had not understood that the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Scobell) had imputed to the right hon. Baronet who had last addressed the House, or to any one connected with the Admiralty, anything like a charge of wilful misappropriation of the public money. Had such an imputation been made, he (Mr. Keating) could not assent to the Motion; but the case, as he understood it, was this—that there was used in Her Majesty's ships a screw propeller of a certain form, and that Parliament had voted a sum of money to recompense those who were interested in the patent or patents which might be infringed by the use of the screw propeller in Her Majesty's service. The Admiralty took this Vote of Parliament, and placed themselves in the situation of trustees of 20.000l. of public money, to be distributed as the public intended it should be; and the hon. and gallant Member, by his Motion, asked the House, on the materials he had laid before it, to appoint a Committee to inquire whether the money had been distributed in the way the public intended; or whether, by inadvertency or mistake, the Admiraly had by an arrangement they had entered into deprived one or more parties entitled to a share of any participation in that money. The right hon. Baronet had stated the case of the Admiralty, and said that they received the 20,000l., took all means of ascertaining the parties entitled to it, and that among those parties it had been distributed. He was sure the right hon. Baronet had intended it so to be distributed; hut his intention had not been carried out. The mode in which the distribution of the money was made did not appear to have been so businesslike as the right hon. Baronet supposed. It was said that the Attorney General was consulted; he investigated the claims of the parties who received the money, and pronounced them to be the only parties entitled to it. Neither the Attorney General's opinion, however, nor the case upon which it was given, was before the House; but, assuming that this was the correct version of the opinion of the Attorney General, although it might justify the Admiralty 649 to themselves in paying over the money as they did, yet, as the Attorney General was not infallible, this did not, he conceived, preclude the House from inquiring whether the money had been distributed according to the intention of the public. The right hon. Baronet repudiated the idea of Mr. Currie having been appointed by the Admiralty to distribute this money. He said, the money was paid to Mr. Currie as the representative of the five companies entitled to it. Mr. Currie, however, appeared to be of a different opinion, as in the bond of indemnity it was stated that the money was received by him, not to be paid to certain individuals named, but to any persons who were entitled to it by means of a patent right to the screw in use in Her Majesty's navy, and that he was the person to decide who were so entitled was clear from his being called upon to give the identity. On these terms Mr. Currie appeared to have received the money, and, such being the terms, he (Mr. Keating) considered that the selection of Mr. Currie to regulate its distribution was most unfortunate. He did not wish to impute to Mr. Currie, or any one concerned in the matter, the slightest wish to do anything wrong, but as, from the recital in the bond, it appeared that Mr. Currie was one of the parties claiming to be entitled to a portion of the money, he thought it unfortunate that that gentleman was selected to distribute money in the distribution of which he was an interested party. It was said that Captain Carpenter might sue other parties, although he could not sue the Admiralty. But the real question for consideration was, whether the money was distributed in the way in which it was intended to be distributed. In the proceedings before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, presided over by Lord Justice Knight Bruce for the purpose of extending the patent, that learned Judge seemed to think the Admiralty must be considered as not having contested the validity of the patent, and as admitting that the invention was in use in the navy. With respect to the suggestion that Captain Carpenter might proceed at law, if he were to do so he could not recover any portion of the 20,000l., but would take upon himself a very considerable burden, and find the utmost difficulty in succeeding after such a lapse of time. But had all the persons who had received the money established a right at law? He 650 (Mr. Keating) believed not one had done so. Mr. Lowe, indeed, had tried a court of law, and was assisted by the first legal advice, the hon. and learned Member for Stamford being leading counsel in the case. [Sir F. THESIGER: Against him.] The result of the elaborate and extensive proceedings taken by him was a compromise; and if Captain Carpenter proceeded in the same manner he would probably have to go through the same kind of process. What Captain Carpenter now asked was, the means of inquiring whether he had not a right to participate in the money voted by Parliament, and beliving that a fair ground for inquiry had been made out, he (Mr. Keating) should support the Motion.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
said, he understood the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Baring) to say that no claim was sent in to the Admiralty by Captain Carpenter before the money was handed over to Mr. Currie. He had the authority of Captain Carpenter for saying that he did, previous to that time, lay before the Admiralty a memorial, setting forth that he was the inventor of the screw, and making a claim for compensation. He should vote for an inquiry, because he thought Captain Carpenter's claim could be tested in no other way; and it must be remembered that the testimony of that distinguished officer Admiral Sir Ceorge Cockburn, was in his favour. In his opinion, it was a misdirection of the money which had been voted by the House, to place it in the hands of a gentleman who was an interested party, with authority to appropriate it, and he therefore thought a case for inquiry had been made out.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, he must explain that his statement was that, when he entered into the agreement with Mr. Currie he was not aware of Captain Carpenter's money claim, nor were Sir Baldwin Walker and Mr. Lloyd; and he believed the records of the Admiralty did not contain any formal application.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
said he regretted to state that he entertained a very different opinion to that expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Reading (Mr. Keating) who had given the weight of his authority in support of the Motion. The hon. and learned gentleman, however, had formed his opinion upon an imperfect view of the circumstances of the case,—probably upon the partial representations contained in the book published by Captain 651 Carpenter. He (Sir F. Thesiger) was most anxious to avoid saying anything that might derogate from the fair and just claims of Captain Carpenter, whom he believed to be a gentleman of great scientific attainments, but it was impossible to do justice to this question without considering Captain Carpenter's merits with respect to the important invention to which the Motion referred. He (Sir F. Thesiger) was bound to say he had come to the conclusion that Captain Carpenter was not entitled to claim any merit whatever in respect to any share in the invention of the screw propeller. Those who had paid any attention to the history of this important invention were aware that it had exercised the ingenuity of many able persons, that it had been the subject of no less than forty-four patents, that the honour of the original invention had been very warmly contested, and that enormous expenses had been incurred in deciding the rights of the different competitors. He believed it would be admitted, whatever merit might be due to the various parties who had turned their attention to the subject, that, so far as the practical application of this important instrument was concerned, the merit belonged to Mr. Francis Petty Smith, who, in 1836, four years before the date of Captain Carpenter's patent, took out a patent for a screw propeller, which was then a propeller making the entire turn of the screw, but which afterwards, when it was used on board the Archimedes, was converted into two half-turns. This was, in fact, the origin of the present two-bladed propeller, which is merely a modification of Mr. Smith's original invention. In 1839 and 1840, Mr. Smith fitted his propeller to the Archimedes; he placed the propeller in the dead wood, just before the rudder; and the attention of the Admiralty having been called to the invention, they directed Captain Chappell and other nautical and scientific gentlemen to test the comparative advantages of the screw and the paddle. In 1840, prior to the time when Captain Carpenter took out his patent, Captain Chappell had made a very interesting report of the result of the experiments in the Archimedes, which was published. It had been stated that Mr. Smith had derived no personal benefit from this important invention, but it was to that gentleman that the country was mainly indebted for the advantages which had been derived from the introduction of the screw 652 in place of the paddle. Mr. Smith, having no means of his own by which he could carry out his patent, Mr. Currie and other gentlemen came forward to assist him, and a company was formed for the purpose of working the patent. The right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) had done frank justice to Mr. Currie in the allusions he had made to the character and conduct of that gentleman; and those who knew Mr. Currie would be satisfied that he would not condescend, for any personal advantage of his own, to avail himself of any means of advancing his interests to the prejudice of others. In 1838, long before Captain Carpenter obtained his patent, Mr. Lowe had taken out a patent for a propeller, and, although the specification of that patent was vague and indefinite, the drawings attached to the specification described or represented a two-bladed propeller. The discovery was, perhaps, not entirely due to Mr. Smith, who practically first applied it, nor to Mr. Lowe; but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council expressed their opinion that the discovery was attributable to the expenditure of money supplied by the Admiralty for investigating this subject by a sort of process of exhaustion. He believed that if hon. gentlemen inquired into the matter they would be disposed to consider that Captain Carpenter's invention did not relate to a portion of a screw at all, but to the use of flat blades. In 1840, when Captain Carpenter took out his patent, four of the parties who claimed the merit of the invention, and who subsequently combined their interests, were in the field. The fifth had brought the validity of his patent to the test of an action at law, and had established his right. Now, during a period of ten years—from 1840 to 1850—these different persons were litigating their rights, and bringing the validity of their patents to the test of an action at law; but during the whole of this period Captain Carpenter, who said that the screw which was in use was his invention, was never heard of, and never brought forward his claim in any tangible shape, while the engineers who were contesting the matter never once urged Carpenter's patent as an objection to the originalty of other patents or as an answer to the claims put forward by the parties to whom they were opposed. Then came the question as to the Admiralty. The Admiralty very properly said they could listen to no application to pay 653 for the use of the propeller till the parties had settled their several actions at law. The patentees had been tearing themselves to pieces, but did they now combine together to exclude all other persons who should not associate with them from any benefits which they might be able to obtain? On the contrary, they adopted the fairest course that could be taken under the circumstances. Their object was peace and self-protection, and therefore they referred the matter to an engineer of very great ability. This engineer, taking the forty-four patents into consideration, gradually brought them down to five, which appeared to him to have that claim to original merit which entitled them to join together, and to derive any advantage that might arise. This was the state of things when a scire facias was obtained by the engineers for repealing Mr. Lowe's patent. The Attorney-General, now the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, was counsel on one side, and he (Sir F. Thesiger) on the other. It was evident to both of them that no advantage was to be gained by a contest of this description, and the engineers, on their advice, entered into an arrangement by which they agreed to pay in all money received, or to be received, for propellers paid or contracted for, the account to be furnished and settled by the 1st of May. The persons who entered into this arrangement were the most eminent engineers in the trade, and they entered into it perfectly well knowing that Captain Carpenter's claim was utterly unfounded. The period had now arrived when the patent rights could be made available with the Admiralty, and accordingly Mr. Henry Currie went as the agent of these parties to the Admiralty, not to ask a reward for the merit of the invention, but to ask the Admiralty to pay those who were now admitted to be the persons entitled to claim for the past use of the screw propellers, and to purchase it for themselves for the future. The right hon. Baronet then at the head of the Admiralty (Sir F. Baring) referred the question to the person who was usually resorted to by the Board on these occasions, and on his report, and seeing that the parties had been confirmed in the establishment of their rights, the right hon. Baronet paid the money that was justly due from the Government. That money was paid to Mr. Currie; and when it was insinuated, as had been done in 654 another place, that Mr. Currie had distributed this money among his friends, he begged to call the attention of the House to what Mr. Currie really did do. An arrangement had been made beforehand by all the parties that Mr. Carpmael, an eminent patent agent, should be selected to ascertain the proportions which the different persons interested were to receive of the sums obtained either from the engineers or the Admiralty. If that gentleman had conceived that Captain Carpenter had the slightest claim, he would, of course, have interposed and told the parties so. Under his award Mr. Currie acted, and from the beginning to the end had transacted the business in the most disinterested way, with the anxious desire that the interests of all parties should be ascertained and protected. During all this time the screw propeller, which Captain Carpenter says was his own invention, was used in hundreds—he had almost said thousands—of vessels. It was an invention of the greatest public benefit, and one to which any person entitled to the merit of the discovery would have been most anxious to make good his claim. Nevertheless, from 1840, when the patent was taken out, down to 1853, Captain Carpenter never asserted his right at all, or challenged the use of what he stated to be his invention, and even allowed other persons to go into the field against the engineers, who sought to obtain the free use of the screw. But in 1854, however, Captain Carpenter applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for an extension of his patent. Now, it was important that the nature of that proceeding should be understood. No patent, it was well known, was valid, unless it possessed the merit of novelty. If an action were brought on a patent, it was an answer to show that some person had discovered the patented invention before the patentee; but when a person went to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for the extension of a patent, the question of novelty was never entertained. In one case, a patent had been extended, although its novelty was in question by proceedings in Chancery, and the patent was afterwards declared to be invalid for want of novelty. Therefore, the extension did not at all affect Captain Carpenter's rights. He had never established the validity of his patent by any trial at law. According to his own petition, however, he went before Vice 655 Chancellor Stuart, asking for an injunction against the Peninsular and Oriental Company. That was not granted, but the Vice Chancellor told Captain Carpenter that he might proceed by action at law. To the other patentees injunctions had been granted, which were only granted in cases where the patent had been established by an action at law, and this, therefore, proved that those patents had been so established. Therefore, if it were asked, why did not these parties appear before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and oppose Captain Carpenter's application, the answer was obvious. Considerable expense was incurred in opposition before the Judicial Committee, and Captain Carpenter never having challenged his right to the patent would not have that right established or rendered more valid by the extension of a patent. Therefore the parties were content to leave Captain Carpenter to pursue any course he pleased before the Judicial Committee. The words in which the judgment of the Judicial Committee was pronounced had been made good use of by the supporters of the present Motion, but they amounted only to this, that on the evidence before them the screw propeller used in the Agamemnon was the screw propeller in the specification of Captain Carpenter; but as to whether it was a novelty, or as to whether it was not borrowed from other inventions, nothing was said. Consequently, the rights of Captain Carpenter, whatever they were, remained exactly as before. This brought him to the consideration of the practical question of what they were now called on to do by the present Motion. But Captain Carpenter never had brought his action, because he knew perfectly well that the question of the novelty of his invention would necessarily be raised in answer to it, and he had no hesitation in declaring, moreover, that if Captain Carpenter had brought any such action, he would most unquestionably have failed in it. Captain Carpenter, however, had declined to submit himself to the ordeal of a Court of Law; he preferred to come to this House, through the hon. and gallant Member for Bath, to ask for a Select Committee, the only foundation for which could be that he had a valid title to a portion of this compensation. The question was, then, was the House prepared to take this course under the very peculiar circumstances of the case? Were they prepared to substitute, 656 what he must call, the very imperfect inquiry of a Select Committee for a solemn trial at law? If the House did decide thus to supersede the functions of a Court of Law, it would be setting a very inconvenient and a very perilous example; and he confidently hoped, therefore, that they would reject the Motion.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, the elaborate character of the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks showed the necessity for an inquiry. With regard to the disposal of the 20,000l. by a former Board of Admiralty, no one could suppose that the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) was not actuated by the most proper motives. If the Admiralty had acted in 1839 and 1840 in the same manner that it had done since, the question of invention would not now be in such a confused state. He sincerely regretted that a brother officer should be placed in the position of Captain Carpenter; but it could not be doubted that the country was especially indebted to Mr. Francis Petty Smith, whose merits had been admitted almost universally. He did not expect any advantage to be gained by the scire facias proceedings recommended by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Thesiger). An inquiry by a Committee of that House appeared to him far preferable. He hoped justice would be done to Captain Carpenter; but whether it was to be done out of the 20,000l. must be left to the lawyers.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, the question that had to be considered was not whether Captain Carpenter was the original inventor of the screw propeller, but whether, supposing he were so, he had had an opportunity of substantiating his claims. Now, Mr. Currie never pretended that he had investigated Captain Carpenter's claims. That an inquiry was necessary was obvious from the fact that there had been an error in the distribution of the 20,000l., Lord Cranworth having stated that the patent of Mr. Lowe—one of the parties who received a portion of the money—was not one that had conferred on the public the real benefit of the screw propeller. Again, of all the people in the world to decide upon Captain Carpenter's claim, Mr. Currie was the person most unfit. This observation implied no disrespect to Mr. Currie, whose disqualification arose from the circumstance, that he was the representative of the rival claimants and had a direct interest in the matter 657 in dispute. Captain Carpenter might not have tried his claim by an action in a court of law; but then the whole of the five other parties who participated in the 20.000l. did not bring actions before they received their share of the money. Captain Carpenter had already spent 3,000l. on his patent, and he might well have shrunk from incurring the enormous cost attendant upon litigation, but a Select Committee would afford him that opportunity of establishing his right to which he (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) thought he was equitably entitled.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he was astonished to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last repeat, after the explanations that had already been given to the contrary, the assertion that Mr. Currie was the person who acted as the judge upon the competing claims to the invention of the screw propeller. The claims of the parties were submitted for investigation to one of the most eminent engineers in this country, and were after-wards examined by the Surveyor of the Navy, when it was ultimately decided by the Admiralty that five individuals—some of whom had established their right in a court of law—were entitled to receive compensation for the use of their patent rights. All the eminent engineers in London had agreed to be bound by that decision; and, although the Privy Council might have declared that Mr. Lowe was not the original inventor of the screw, yet it also decided that his patent right had been more or less infringed. A more honourable man than Mr. Henry Currie did not exist, but that gentleman never adjudged the question who were the parties entitled to compensation, or what amounts they should respectively receive. The sums were apportioned by Mr. Carpmael, the patent agent. The House could not admit the plea which had been urged to the effect that Captain Carpenter belonged to a profession by no means remarkable for its wealth. The real question was, was he an inventor or not? And a Committee of that House was surely not a competent tribunal to decide the preliminary question whether or not he had a patent right. He had no claim against the public, the Admiralty, or private individuals, unless he had a valid patent right; and, if his right had been infringed, a court of law and not a Select Committee of that House could afford him his remedy. He thought, therefore, 658 it would be a mere waste of time to go into a question of this kind, as the Report of the Committee would be of no value, and Captain Carpenter could not make any claim until he had taken the preliminary steps of establishing the validity of his patent in a court of law.
§ MR. RICE
said, he wished to offer his testimony to the value of Mr. Smith's invention. A great deal had been stated as to this money not having been bestowed according to the intention of the public. He did not believe that the public had any intention in the matter, but that the Admiralty had proposed that this sum should be given as a recompense to those who were interested in the invention, and that this money was distributed in the best mode it could be. He thought it would be a very inconvenient precedent if they carried this matter before a Select Committee, and he should therefore vote against the Motion.
§ MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
said, he thought Captain Carpenter had perfect right to the patent of the screw-propeller, and the House had a right to see that a proper distribution was made of the money voted for the purpose of remunerating those who possessed patent rights. He could not avoid, however, expressing his surprise that Mr. Currie, the party selected for the distribution of 20,000l., should represent a company having a claim to the largest proportion of that money. It was said that Mr. Currie was not placed in the situation of an arbitrator or distributor. This was strange, as Mr. Currie in a letter described himself as the distributor, and in the bond it appeared that he received the money on behalf of himself and others. He must also protest against the course taken by the hon. and learned Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger), of making statements of his own knowledge of certain circumstances connected with this case. He thought that nothing could be more inconvenient or unjust than that a party concerned in the Courts below—deriving from his position certain information, imbibing certain opinions—should state to the House circumstances which the House knew nothing of. The question was, could they and ought they to deal with the case? He maintained that that House was the only tribunal to which Captain Carpenter could apply for a share of the money voted by Parliament. With reference to the expense of contesting a 659 patent, he would venture to say, that, though Captain Carpenter had already expended 3,000l., if he went into a court of law his expenses there would hardly be less than that amount. All that Captain Carpenter asked was, that the House should ascertain whether his claim to a portion of the public money voted by Parliament was well established. Then, with respect to the bond, that might be put in suit by the Lords of the Admiralty, and, in order to enable the Lords of the Admiralty to judge if they ought to place the bond in suit, they ought to refer it to a Select Committee, who would report whether Captain Carpenter's claim was well founded or not. The expenses of this inquiry would fall on the country, and thus expense would be properly incurred in order to do justice to Captain Carpenter. With regard to claimants, there were five, exclusive of Captain Carpenter, whose claim was not heard at all. The decision was made in the absence of Captain Carpenter, and when the claims of the five persons were decided upon, Mr. Carpmael, the patent agent, was called in to name the proportion which the five claims were each to take of the 20,000l. voted by Parliament. At the conference between the Attorney General and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford the case of Captain Carpenter was decided behind his back, and it was, therefore, right and proper for Captain Carpenter to appeal to the House of Commons to have his claim heard and adjudicated. He should vote for the Committee, on the ground that the House of Commons was the only tribunal that could hear the case.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, seemed to regret that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger), had been concerned in a cause which had enabled him to become acquainted with all the details of the question now before the House, and he also quarrelled with his (Mr. Drummond's) hon. and learned Friend for having made a most proper arrangement with the counsel opposed to him, by which a lawsuit was terminated that had wasted the money of both their clients, and substantial justice was done to all parties. Mr. Currie was not interested in the matter one way or the other, but had simply undertaken to distribute the money voted by that House among those who had established a claim 660 to it in a court of law. Why did not Captain Carpenter go into a court of law? If he had done so, the case would not have been decided behind his back. A Select Committee was the worst tribunal for the decision of scientific cases of this kind, and persons upon whom no suspicion could rest had already examined into and refused the claim brought forward by Captain Carpenter.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
, in reply, said, that the distribution of the money had been placed entirely under the control of Mr. Currie, and that Captain Carpenter's claim had never been examined previous to the distribution. Captain Carpenter had been designedly shut out, because the parties interested did not wish his claim to be referred to Mr. Carpmael. The House of Commons, as the holders of the public purse, had voted a sum of money to the inventors of the screw propeller, and he thought, therefore, that they ought to assent to the appointment of a Committee before which Mr. Smith, Captain Carpenter, or any other claimants of the reward might obtain a hearing.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 69; Majority 20.