HC Deb 19 May 1862 vol 166 cc1933-48

, in rising to move for Returns upon the subject of iron-plated ships of war, said, that on a late occasion, when he troubled the House with regard to the public expenditure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended that a practical issue should be taken on particular items, in order to secure retrenchment. That was now his object. Since the year 1854, when the value of iron-plated ships had been proved as vessels of war, no less than £10,000,000 had been wasted in building wooden ships; even this year twenty-two ships of 13,900 horsepower were being built; and the Admiralty were about to launch into an enormous expenditure in constructing cupola ships, without knowing what was the best form for such vessels. If the best form were already known, why had it been laid by for eight years, and wooden ships built instead? There might, in a similar manner, be plans of a better form, collecting dust in a pigeon-hole of the Admiralty, which would also not be regarded until they had already done execution in the hands of the Americans. The iron vessels suggested twenty years ago had met the same fate. It was known that iron vessels, of plates only ⅜ in. thick, required few or no repairs. Some had lasted for twenty years with almost no repair. In the merchant service they had for a long time been preferred because of their cheapness; the annual cost of repairs being about one per cent of the original cost. On the other hand, a wooden line-of-battle ship was built, and then laid up in ordinary for four or five years; when the dry rot was found to have invaded her timbers, and half the original cost had to be expended in repairs. Iron ships also retained their form longer than wooden vessels, as the Mosquito and other famous yachts had shown, notwithstanding the great strain caused by the enormous spars which were carried by racing craft. The Fairy was built in 1844, and was still in perfect form. It was found, too, that iron vessels built of plates only ⅜ in. thick were valuable as ships of war. The Nemesis frigate was built of ⅜ in. plates. Yet Captain Hall wrote of that vessel— The Nemesis was frequently struck, as often as fourteen times in one action, and much damaged in her upper works. But only one shot can be said to have gone straight through the vessel. …Other shot struck the Nemesis in a slanting direction, and merely indented the iron, glancing off without penetrating. …I should give the preference to an iron over a wooden steamer, as a command under all circumstances. These facts had long been patent; yet how had the Admiralty taken advantage of the knowledge? When Sir Robert Peel came into power in 1841, he found six iron ships were being built. Two of them had, indeed, already been nearly finished. He took the opinion of Sir Howard Douglas, who said of them that "iron ships were utterly unfit for purposes of war, whether armed or as transports for troops" That was u mere expression of opinion, not founded upon experience; for there had been no investigation. The object of this Motion was to substitute knowledge for opinion. The suggestion which he should make was, that the Government should appoint a Committee of scientific men, who would investigate the subject of ship-building with a desire to obtain a real knowledge of facts, instead of relying upon empty opinions. He would next turn to the question of armour-plated ships. In 1840 some experiments were made in the United States to test the effects of heavy shot upon iron plates. The results were so astounding that other experiments were made in 1842, at Portsmouth, in order to verify the results arrived at in America. One was against fourteen plates, making; together six inches of thickness. Now, it was known that such a combination was not so strong as a single plate of much less thickness. The result, however, was that shot from an 8-inch gun, at 400 yards range, against those plates could make no impression. Even the plates of the Simoom, of ⅝ in. in thickness, were found to break up the shot, although the pieces went through. The next experiment was during the Russian War. But then we never thought of building iron batteries until the French had done so. We were content to follow the French; and therefore ours were not ready when theirs were tried at Kinburn. Upon that point the present head of the Indian Department (who was over the Admiralty) told the Admiralty Committee that— The result of the experiment, or rather the conclusion to which we came in consequence of what we had learnt of the iron-cased batteries, was that we were considering whether it would not be advisable to build a ship coated with iron. The matter, however, remained under consideration until 1859, while the French were building armour-plated ships; and, as Sir Charles Wood said, "While the Admiralty were consulting, the French were acting." The Commissioners on the Management of Naval Yards, in their Report (p. 12), said— Q. 51, "In 1854–5 several floating batteries were constructed with iron defence-plates of great thickness. These batteries were never practically tried, although similar batteries belonging to your Majesty's allies were used at Kinburn and found highly efficient. The principle of the protection afforded by iron defence-plates was proved; but no attempt was made to apply it to ships of war generally until 1858. It might be said that all these references were to past events; that we should not revert to the past, but consider the future. However, they could only judge of the future conduct of the Admiralty by considering what had been their conduct in past times. Captain Coles's invention, of which so much had been heard from the columns of the leading journal and the debates of that House, was made as far back as 1855. At that time there was a scientific Committee in the Black Sea, during the Russian war, to whom that invention was referred; and they reported, on the 13th of November, 1855, that "the invention was one of the greatest practical value," and "we are further of opinion that this invention merits the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government." That was not the only invention that was brought under the notice of the Government at that time; for on the 15th of November, 1855, Captain Halsted wrote to them giving plans of iron-cased vessels. He said— About five years ago the eminent steam-ship builder of America, Mr. R. L. Stevens, communicated to me the result of a long series of experiments made, at the expense of the United States Government, by himself; the chief practical result of which was, that iron plates of five inches in thickness were absolutely impenetrable by the heaviest shot, fired by the longest guns in the service, the heaviest charge of powder, and at the shortest distance. Although Captain Cole's invention was supported by the independent testimony of Captain Halsted and the experiments of the United States Government, yet the British Government refused to notice the invention. Hopes of peace were made an excuse for passing over the inventions of war. In 1856 peace was concluded. Then the Emperor began to build; but it was not till 1859 that we commenced to make experiments, to see whether we would build or not. A short time since the Duke of Somerset had said in another place— I considered the question of building a vessel specially for this purpose, and I arrived at the conclusion that to this end the cupola ship recommended by Captain Coles would be very well adapted. But the experiment has never been tried; and I therefore caused a tower upon this pattern, which had been commenced a year or two before, to be finished and put on board a ship. The officers reported very favourably. There was a little story attached to that tower. It appeared that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) ordered on February 14th, 1859, a battery upon Captain Coles's principle to be built at Shoeburyness, the cost being limited to £1,000. He also appointed a scientific and professional Committee, of which Captain Coles was one, to investigate the invention. The Earl of Derby's Government went out of office, and the present Government came into power; and upon the 30th of July of the same year the contract for the tower was given to Mr. Scott Russell, and the price was raised to£2,650, upon condition that it should be finished by the 1st of November, 1859. On the 1st of August, 1860, the cupola shield was yet unfinished; and the Admiralty were then requested to finish it. On the 9th of August the Admiralty refused, saying it was "inexpedient to undertake experiments with the shield in the manner proposed." On the 21st of January, 1861, the War Office again requested the Admiralty to take the unfinished shield in hand; and the Admiralty at last consented. Scott Russell's unfulfilled contract was then terminated by the payment of £3,000. On the 12th of March the unfinished shield was removed to Woolwich; and the scientific Committee was dissolved. On the 12th of August, the shield was at last ready for trial, and on the 24th of September, 1861, it was reported on as "most satisfactory." That was the story about the tower. The Duke of Somerset continued— I was at once satisfied that we had got a vessel which would be most useful for the protection of our harbours; but as there was no pressure for defence, and no alarm about the safety of our harbours, I did not think it necessary to apply to the Treasury for authority to commence that vessel at once. I thought I might leave the matter to be discussed by Parliament. At last the news of the engagement between the Monitor and the Merrimac arrived in England, to urge the case with increased energy, and make it meet with a tardy success. For the news rolled like a thunder peal over the country and aroused the Admiralty from their dilatory proprieties, and sleepy considerations. Immense sums had of late years been spent upon wooden ships, and the reason assigned by the Duke of Somerset to Question 451 of the Admiralty Committee was, that he found that the Government of the Earl of Derby had left a recommendation that a large addition should be made to the wooden fleet. Now, what was the amount of expenditure, or rather of waste, occasioned by this? Last year (Account of Naval Expenditure, No 27) there was an excess of £266,276 on Vote 10 for naval stores. The note at the foot says that this arose from "large quantities of timber, ordered after the Estimates had been prepared, to meet the unprecedented expenditure in building ships." Yet the amount of timber alone in Vote 10 was £1,351,520 (see Return 44, 1862). The Votes for labour, timber, and stores during the six years, from 1852 to 1858, amounted to £14,105,000 (see Report of Committee of 1858 on Navy Expenditure, and the Commissioners' Report on Navy Yards, p. 426). The price paid for ship-building timber from 1854 to 1859–60 was £2,622,691; the sum in 1854–5 being £284,301; and the sum in 1859–60 being £672,373 (see Admiralty Committee, p. 543). In August, 1859, Lord Clarence Paget urged on his colleagues that it would be well— to pause in the enormous expenditure on wooden line-of-battle ships. …The French are devoting their full energies to the construction of iron-cased ships. …Would it not be well to put a stop to the preparation of timber, &c., for the three new line-of-battle ships ordered to be laid down, and to substitute three iron-cased ships?"—[Commissions on Naval Yards, p. 45.] Yet the Admiralty never attended to this advice. The French had abjured wooden line-of-battle ships in 1855. Yet we never began to build armour-plated ships till 1859; and even then there were none built under 4,000 tons till 1862. From the returns, he found that the the expense of converting and repairing wooden ships from 1854 to 1858 was £5,500,000; in 1858–9, £900,000; in 1859–60, £2,000,000; and in 1860–1 £2,500,000. These sums do not comprise the expenses of fitting. So that as wooden ships were proved to be useless, so the Government increased their expenditure upon them. In 1858–9 there were twelve wooden line-of-battle ships being built, at a cost of £250,749. In 1859–60 there were thirteen, at a cost of £485,662; and in 1860–1 there were seventeen, at a cost of £275,623. Of wooden frigates and smaller vessels there were built in the same years 26, 36, and 65 respectively. The total amount for building and converting wooden ships from 1854 to 1861 was £7,653,099. The total amount for the repairs of sailing ships was £2,933,571, making a total of no less than £10,500,000. That money had been thrown away and wasted. During the Earl of Derby's Administration the Admiralty began to follow the example of France in building iron-cased frigates; but the Warrior was only partially plated, on the presumption, that if she were plated fore and aft, she would not be a good sea-going ship. She was therefore vulnerable at her unprotected parts. La Gloire, on the other hand, was armed all over, and she was incontestably a good sea-going vessel. Again, since then they had discovered a gun which would penetrate the sides of the Warrior; so that the country was as a pendulum swinging betwixt iron ships and Armstrong guns; and each oscillation cost us millions. He contended that the Admiralty had entirely ignored the experience of which they might have availed themselves. The war with Russia might have taught them two facts. At Sebastopol they might have learned that wooden ships were of no use against forts; and at Kinburn, that forts were of no use against iron ships. The French had profited by by these facts; we had not. They were quicker both to try what iron ships could do, and quicker also to profit by the experiment. They set about to build; we set about to consider of it. The facts upon which the Emperor of the French acted with such promptness and decision only seemed to produce vacillation and indecision in the mind of the English Government. It was this indecision which had cost us £10,500,000. The battle of Hamp- ton Roads similarly proved two facts: first, that wooden ships were of no use against iron; and, secondly, that iron ships were of no use against iron ships. Now, should we act upon this knowledge, or merely consider of it? The value of the ram principle was amply demonstrated by the Merrimac. That, also, was an old plan; it was suggested in February, 1853, and was published in the Liverpool Albion; and in 1854 Mr. Ward, of Liverpool, offered to build a ram with ball-proof sides which would sink a line-of-battle ship; but this offer was scorned by the Admiralty. Carelessness, vacillation, delay, and negligence were the tale of a century; they were the traditionary policy of the Admiralty. Screws were once about to be applied in the navy. But in 1846 a new Government came into office; and thinking it necessary to do the exact opposite of their predecessors, they actually issued circulars to know if the machinery for screws could be adapted to paddle-wheel steam-ships; the machinery, however, was nearly completed; and to that accident alone was owing the salvation of the screws from being strangled at birth. The delay in the application of screws to line-of-battle ships enabled the French to exceed us by 15,000 horse power in the course of two or three years, although the screw was entirely an English invention. This was stated in evidence, before the Admiralty Committee by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich. He said, also— Q. 1706. "We were strongly of opinion that no time ought to be lost in endeavouring to recover the superiority thus taken by France; but the lead which France had taken was irrecoverable. England had by nature the two things most essential for the creation of a powerful navy—iron and coal—of which France had been deprived by nature. Yet the French were the first to apply steam to their men-of-war, and the first to build iron-plated ships. They had not the same advantages as we had; but by treaty we supplied to them the defects of nature. There were also many other glaring cases of neglect. For twenty years after the merchant service had adopted lightning-conductors, the Admiralty refused to adopt them in line-of-battle ships and frigates, notwithstanding the loss of men and spars. Captain Sullivan gives the following evidence before the Admiralty Committee:— Q. 5818. "I think there has been a great defect in our naval administration since I have been in the service, in not adopting sufficiently soon evident improvements, which have been urged on the Admiralty in different ways. I would instance the non-adoption of lightning-conductors in the navy; which I think took twenty years to introduce. ….. It was only after twenty years of sad loss of life and property, and expense to the country through their not being adopted, that they were at last permanently adopted, and from that time there has not been the loss of a man or a spar by lightning. The same neglect was shown in reference to Trotman's anchor; for though they were 29 per cent better than all others, the Admiralty still held to their old anchors, and would not avail themselves of the improvement. This was given in evidence by Captain Denman be-before the same Committee. It had been shown that in the Admiralty we had delay and hesitation without either investigation or thought. It was possible, however, to have hurry and haste, without thought or foresight. Let them pause to consider the probable effect in war of armour-plated ships. Let it be supposed that they had been generally adopted, and the theory of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) had also been adopted, namely, that war, on the seas, was to extend to navies alone, while all private property was to be considered safe. There would then be no stores to be burnt; for the Commissioners recommended that iron ships should be built at private yards. The navies would be unassailable; the ships invulnerable. Naval warfare would be entirely at an end, and our naval supremacy would be gone. We should then have, in self-defence, to return to the right of search, and the taking of prizes, as the only means of defending ourselves or ending a war; for a nation's resources were at sea, and by seizing those resources the nation's power was crippled. For this purpose it would be necessary to have a light class of ships, either of thin iron or wood, to damage trade, as well as the heavy ironsides which we were building now, because such a ship, being heavier, must be built fuller, and with a greater displacement, and could not have "fine lines." Or else we might hand over this duty to privateers. Now, what remedy was there for this alternate neglect and panic—for this hesitation and delay, and then this needless haste and anxiety? How should we prevent an invention from being cast aside, until we were forced by circumstances to adopt it? and how obviate the reckless manner in which we then rushed into un- bounded expenditure, to find, after all, that there was some other invention also shelved which would have been more efficacious and less expensive? This was a question affecting the financial interests of the country; for we lost power by neglecting inventions, and we wasted millions by hastily adopting them. The only remedy was the appointment of a Committee of scientific persons to consider and report upon all new inventions. That proposal was approved by the Duke of Somerset and the noble Lord the present Secretary; in their evidence before the Admiralty Committee. Admiral Elliott gave the following evidence:— Q. 4021. "I think that the present constitution of the Surveyor's office is very obstructive to improvement. There is not time to give sufficient consideration to scientific inventions and improvements; and there is a disinclination to take the responsibility of making trials of them, until they have become in general use elsewhere. Q. 4069. "Generally speaking, if it is a matter connected with ship building or fitting, it is submitted to the Surveyor of the Navy, and, in common language, he pooh-poohs it.…. I very much question whether you will find one single instance in which an inventor has gone to the surveyor's office and received an acknowledgment of his invention having been good; I never heard of one myself. Q. 4059. "I think that our changes have been generally put off until, from some sudden emergency, they have assumed a hurried appearance, and not been duly considered; whereas, if you had a permanently consulting Committee, you would have moved more gradually, and not in such convulsive starts—more economically, and 1 think more efficiently, without being behind other people. The Duke of Somerset (Q. 509) also approved of "a Committee of scientific men to inquire into novel inventions, such as iron-plated ships," and thought this "very desirable (688) that there should be every means of examining into every invention that is submitted to any Government department." Lord Clarence Paget said (to the Commissioners on Naval Yards, 150), he thought it most desirable that a Committee of Inquiry into inventions should be instituted, similar (159) to the French "Conseil d'Amirauté" and "Conseil desTravaux Publiques." He also stated (164) that he had made a written proposal on this subject in 1859, but the Board had not acceded to his proposal." The reason why he did not move for the appointment of such a Committee was, because he did not wish to hamper the Government. He therefore moved for these Returns as an expression of the desire of the House. If the Government refused them, it would be from a consciousness of neglect; for if they had done their duty, they would only be too glad to publish their good deeds, and turn this Motion, into an encomium and panegyric on themselves.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words" there be laid before this House a Return of the number of proposals or plans, for the purposes of shot-proof ships, which have been received at the Admiralty during the last three years; distinguishing those which are now awaiting consideration; stating the dates when such proposals or plans were received and reported on respectively; and, if any such proposals or plans have been referred to a Committee, giving the names and qualifications of the respective Members of which that Committee was composed, —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, I shall have no objection whatever to the production of these Returns; but, in mercy to himself and the House, I trust the noble Lord, when he hears that inventions in reference to iron-cased ships come to us at the rate of about 100 a month, will not insist on printing such a blue-book as they would make, if carried back to any remote period. I can assure him that they are receiving very careful attention. I cannot follow the noble Lord through all the topics he has introduced, but I shall be happy to give him all the information I can as to what is being done in ship-building. I regret the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) is not present, as I think he would probably administer some little rebuke to an ardent supporter for coming before the House with a grand proposal for building an iron fleet, and adding very considerably to the large Navy Estimates. The noble Lord accuses all Governments, but lays the principal blame on the present Government, for continuing to build wooden ships after France had begun to build them of iron. I am anxious to say a word on this matter, because I have heard from several quarters that the present Government has proceeded recklessly in the construction of wooden line-of-battle ships long after it was evident that these vessels would be useless. I beg the noble Lord's attention to this point. There are at present fifty-seven screw line-of-battle ships afloat. The late Government were in office rather more than a year, and they originated the conversion of eight of these vessels within that year. The present Government has been in office three years, and they have only commenced the conversion of four sailing line-of-battle ships into steamers. The late Government converted eight vessels in one year; the present Government in three years have only converted four. Now take the question of building line-of-battle ships. The late Government in its one year of office began to build no less than six line-of-battle ships. The present Government in three years have only commenced three; of these, only the frames were begun, and they have since been converted for iron-cased ships, and will, I hope, be afloat in this year. This accusation, therefore, against the present Government is unfair. And what is the history of the ships that have been built and converted? The present Government came into office in the month of July, 1859. They naturally adopted the programme of their predecessors; and whatever may be the responsibility for the programme of the year 1859–60 must rest principally with the late Government. The noble Lord had mixed up a great many matters together; but the vexata quastio was the cost of building wooden line-of-battle ships. The House must not take the noble Lord's figures for granted. In 1858–9, the year of the Earl of Derby's Government, the sum expended in building and converting line-of-battle ships was £442,000. In 1859–60, after the French had begun to build iron-cased ships, but when the programme of the late Government had to be carried out, £786,000 were expended for the same purpose. But in 1860–1 the present Government, who are wholly responsible, have expended only £416,000 in building and converting this class of ships. We had, on taking office, the Report of the Committee ordered by the Earl of Derby's Government to take into consideration the state of the navy. That Committee proposed that there should be six ships immediately built to raise the number of English screw ships of the line to fifty-six, and the Report contemplated that these ships should be complete by 1861. Nothing is easier than to get up in 1862, after we have made all these discoveries regarding the power of the iron-cased ships, and tell us what we ought to do. It is easy to be wise after the event. But, if the noble Lord had given his advice when the late Government was in office, he would have done some good. The noble Lord has quoted me as evidence in reference to speeches of mine in 1857, 1858, and 1859, and my evidence before the Committee on Dockyards condemnatory of line-of-battle ships. Having commanded a line-of-battle ship, I certainly was of opinion that the wooden ships could not long retain the position they had held in the navy of England, and that iron ships should be built; but I was in the minority, though I rejoice that subsequent events have brought others to my opinion. As to the Vote for timber, who has been the most eloquent advocate in this House for that vast expenditure? Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), who was a Member of Lord Derby's Government. That right hon. Gentleman over and over again called the attention of the House to the deficiency in the supply of timber; and when it has been procured, then the noble Lord complains of the large outlay for that article. The noble Lord has also referred to Captain Coles's cupola vessel, and charges the Admiralty with supine ness in not adopting it till after the action of the Monitor and the Merrimac. But, as long ago as February last, the drawings for a vessel on Captain Coles's plan were prepared, and only the consent of the House was wanted to issue calls for tenders for its construction. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Osborne) took me to task the other night, and charged me with having said the vessel was being built, when it was only ordered; but my only object was to show that the matter had not been neglected. I understood the noble Lord to say that the Warrior is totally unprotected at her two ends, which are made of wood, and that she is entirely unfit to go into action. He is quite mistaken in that. He is, perhaps, not aware that the Warrior is wholly an iron ship, though it is true her extremities are not provided with armour plates; but she has transverse iron bulkheads to protect her guns. That is a system on which opinions greatly differ. I, for one, frankly admit that I think a system of armour plates all round in the case of long ships with very sharp bows is attended with considerable disadvantage, although some eminent judges are in favour of that mode of construction. The noble Lord says we never take up an invention till it is very late. Why, if he will only come to the Admiralty, he will see that we have no less than seven different classes of ships in progress of the iron-cased family, by various inventors, some of which are iron-plated right round, and others plated only amidships. We are going on with reasonable speed, but not too fast. It is inadvisable to rush all at once into a condemnation of our wooden fleet, and to build only with iron. We are, however, constructing, as I said, various classes of iron-cased ships, some of them as low as 1,000 tons. It remains to be seen whether they will carry their armour and be fit for foreign service and all weathers. I think we have not been behind-hand, but are progressing with sufficient despatch to maintain our position as a great maritime Power. Reverting to Captain Coles's cupola, it should be remembered that the late lamented Prince Consort had the sagacity first to discern the value of that plan. I was sent for two years ago by His Royal Highness, who urged and entreated me to prevail upon the Admiralty to try that invention, the original merit of bringing which to public notice belonged to that great Prince, and I told His Royal Highness we were preparing a cupola for trial. I am afraid I cannot follow the noble Lord through all his statement of the misdeeds of various Boards of Admiralty; but the gist of his complaints was, that we do not institute due inquiry into inventions, that we have no machinery by which they may be tested, and that inventors feel that we regard them, as it were, as our natural enemies. That is very far from a correct representation. I am bound to admit, as he justly states, that I have always advocated that there should be a scientific Committee attached to the Admiralty, exactly as that attached to the Ordnance. When I had the honour of being connected with the Ordnance, there was a Select Committee, to which all matters affecting the construction of guns, &c., were referred. I have often expressed my opinion on this point very frankly at the Admiralty; and I must say, that without going quite as far as I go, the Board have taken very great steps in what I must call the right direction in this respect. First of all, let me allude to the Scientific Committee, pr the Iron-plate Committee, which has now been sitting for two years. If its Chairman, the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir J. Hay), were not now before me, I should say something of his merits, but his name is a guarantee that the Committee is well constituted. Its other members are—Colonel Henderson, R.A., the Vice Chairman; Colonel Jervois, R.E., Secretary to the Defence Commission; Dr. Percy, Superintendent of the Museum of Practical Geology; William Fairbairn, President of the British Association, and a most eminent engineer and author; William Pole, a very eminent civil engineer, who has been connected with the iron question for many years, and is now, in addition to other duties, Professor of Civil Engineering in the London University. Everything connected with plating iron-cased ships is examined by that Committee, and experiments are continually carried on under their supervision. The Admiralty have also lately called in the assistance of many eminent shipbuilders, and among others the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird), who has been asked to report on a most important matter, on which the future of our navy greatly depends—namely, the possibility of sheathing the bottoms of iron vessels. The Messrs. Samuda, of the Thames Iron Company, and Mr. Napier, the famous shipbuilder of Glasgow, have likewise been requested to give their opinion on the sheathing of iron ships. Within the last fortnight we have had Committee sitting at the Admiralty on submarine rams—a subject which the noble Lord said we had never thought of. We have, besides, a standing Committee at Somerset House, composed of practical officers, who have laid before them a vast number of proposals relating to matériel for the navy. The noble Lord accuses us of never listening to anybody about anchors. Why, we have been testing a new anchor during the last month at Woolwich. It is quite true that Mr. Trotman has a standing grievance against the Admiralty, because naval officers do not altogether approve his anchor, which I, indeed, hope may answer, although it is to be doubted whether, taking all the roughs and smooths of a sea-going fleet, it will be as useful as the ordinary anchor. That, however, is a matter of opinion. Meantime it is now undergoing a trial in the Warrior. I might also advert to the experiments which daily go on at Portsmouth on board the Excellent and Cambridge, under officers experienced in gunnery. When I bring in our account for experiments at the end of the year, the House, I believe, will not think that we have been niggardly in these matters. I can only assure hon. Gentlemen, that we have at this moment before our attention a considerable change in regard to our navy; and I am bound to say—and it has been alluded to to-night by the noble Lord the First Minister—that it is necessary, for we have intelligence that the French have made considerable progress in their iron-cased fleet since I delivered my statement last February, in which I gave a list of their ships of that description. I do not express any opinion for or against what the French have done since then. I, however, regret it, because as soon as the French build, we shall build too, and so we ever shall do. Remember, then, that the French now have built and building thirty-six iron-cased ships of various sizes. I say we must have a corresponding increase. We have various vessels that will very shortly be commenced in our dockyards—vessels that were already partly built, and which will be eminently useful as iron-cased ships; and I also trust, at least as far as we can at present see, we shall not have to call for any increase in the Estimates of the present year. I have endeavoured to answer the questions of the noble Lord, and with regard to the Motion, there will be no objection to give him the Returns he wishes for provided his Motion is confined to the last three years.


said, he wished to know if he had rightly understood the noble Lord to say that he had been appointed a Member of the Committee to which he had referred.


I signed a letter to the hon. Gentleman myself on Monday.


said, he much regretted that there was no tribunal before which inventors might have their plans and projects properly investigated by scientific men. A vast number of them were mere rubbish, and might be discarded at once. The noble Lord said the Admiralty had seven different descriptions of iron ships in a progressive stage of construction. That was a state of things which he considered peculiarly alarming, especially when taken in connection with what he afterwards stated, that in the race of construction we were certain to succeed. The noble Lord had formerly praised the Warrior as a sea-going vessel, but the fact was she rolled 45 degrees. She was un- easy and unseaworthy, because the requisite consideration had not been bestowed on the stowage of her waist. She was also badly masted. The first thing that should be done was to take her three masts out of her, and her bowsprit, which was that of a 90-gun ship, to shift her motive power into the middle of the ship, and to give her another mast, probably two. She would then be more seaworthy. They had heard little of the Warrior lately, but after all the repairs and alterations which had been made, till her rigging was entirely altered she would never be a seagoing ship, fit to point her guns under any circumstances of bad weather. We had sacrificed stability and the comfort of our crews to speed. As an old sailor said to him of the Warrior— "Why, Sir, that ship is like a musical snuff box—it is all music and no snuff." Let them have the reports of the Warrior on her passage to Lisbon, and let them know her capabilities. They were going to strip some of the old wooden line-of-battle ships, and clothe them with iron; let the Royal Sovereign be completed as fast as possible, let her be fairly tried, let a committee of naval officers go in her, and let them report on her. After that the Admiralty might proceed with other ships, and, as the noble Lord said, in the race of construction this country must succeed.

Question put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That there be laid before this House a Return of the number of proposals or plans, for the purposes of shot-proof ships, which have been received at the Admiralty during the last three years; distinguishing those which are now awaiting consideration; stating the dates when such proposals or plans were received and reported on respectively; and, if any such proposals or plans have been referred to a Committee, giving the names and qualifications of the respective Members of which that Committee was composed.