§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
rose to call attention to the present condition of the Ordnance Department and to move for the appointment of a Select Committee. He said that he had no complaint to make against his right hon. Friend (General Peel), there having unfortunately during the last few years been a rapid succession of Secretaries of State for War, not one of whom had had a sufficient tenure of office to enable him to acquire a proper knowledge of the Department over which he had been called to preside. The exterior of the War Office might be taken as a very fair typo of its interior arrangements. In the one case was presented a number of old private houses of every size and shape huddled together to constitute a Government office; in the other a number of departments of different kinds huddled together under the nominal control of a Secretary of State, but really and practically governed by men who, though unknown to the public, contrived to exercise absolute and irresponsible power. The present organization of the War Department was effected during the course of the Crimean war, when the existing system was manifestly incapable of such expansion as to accomplish the vast increase of business which a war necessarily engendered; and 1786 it seemed to have been thought by those then at the head of affairs, that the best course would be to unite under one single head all the different branches of the service, and thus greatly to increase the duties and responsibilities of the Secretary for War. Now, the Ordnance Department was one of those thus united to the War Department, the management of which was, perhaps, with the exception of the Admiralty, the most difficult of any in the public service; for, like the Admiralty, it involved, in addition to ordinary business, the control and direction of vast manufacturing establishments. This amalgamation of the Ordnance Department with the War Office had operated most disadvantageously for the country. The Master General of Ordnance, who previously presided over that Department, was always selected from the most distinguished officers of the army — indeed, the Duke of Wellington once held the appointment—and he was directly responsible to the Government for its management. Who, however, he should like to know, was responsible now? He should doubtless be told that the Secretary for War was; but was he responsible in the same sense in which the Master General was formerly responsible? Could it be expected that a Minister with so many other duties to perform—often a civilian selected, perhaps, solely from political considerations—should know anything of the management of these great manufacturing establishments? He must obviously be dependent on somebody else; and as regarded the construction of warlike implements he had for the last ten years been mainly dependent upon the Ordnance Select Committee, whose decisions were arrived at by a majority of votes; so that the minority would probably not hold themselves responsible for what they might think the blunders of their colleagues. That Committee, moreover, had not acquired a very good name. They had been accused of becoming themselves inventors and manufacturers, and of having made an unfair use of inventions which had been submitted to their notice by manufacturers, and afterwards brought them out as their own; and they had been accused of unfair dealing in other respects. Though he would not offer any opinion as to whether these charges were well or ill founded, he must say that the course taken by the Government had given very great colour to them. On more than 1787 one occasion, when complaints had been made by inventors and manufacturers that the Ordnance Select Committee was an unfair tribunal, the Government had appointed special Commissioners in particular cases to do the work instead of them, and thus the Government themselves seemed to be of opinion that the Select Committee was not the proper tribunal to deal with the matters with which they had to deal. He was prepared to prove that the operations of the Select Committee, during the last ten years, had been most unsuccessful, most unfortunate, and most capricious, and the consequence had been a lavish and profuse expenditure beyond anything known before, and for which we had no corresponding or satisfactory results. The Committee, as he would proceed to show, had given us a field artillery which the most experienced officers in the service united in condemning, and which was, in many points, unfit for the service; they had given no satisfactory naval guns or ordnance for our coast defences, and they had recommended a system of breech-loading arms for the infantry which, in the shape presented to the Government, had proved a failure and had since been rejected by almost every other nation of Europe. He was prepared to prove these assertions by the most conclusive official testimony. With regard to the first point, our field artillery consisted almost exclusively of breech-loading Armstrong guns, rifled upon the poly-groove system, which, though no doubt a very ingenious invention at the time it was made, was a very complicated one, and, as a foreign critic had sarcastically remarked, even the projectile was a work of art. Now, great improvements had since been made. Sir William Armstrong had himself invented what he called a "shunt gun," which he declared to be infinitely superior to the original Armstrong; while the Committee had invented a gun which they described as infinitely superior to the shunt gun; and foreign nations had invented guns which they no doubt regarded as preferable to either of these. It was under these circumstances that the late Government appointed last year a Committee to report on the state of our field artillery. It was composed of thirteen of the most distinguished Artillery officers, and in proof of the importance to be attached to their Report he would read their names:—General Dacres, General St. George, General Warde, General Arm- 1788 strong, General Taylor, General Dickson, General Lefroy, Colonel Wilmot, Colonel Gambier, Colonel Daguilar, Colonel Adye, Colonel Smythe, and Colonel Philpotts. They made a Report, and it was resolved unanimously—that the balance of advantages is in favour of muzzle-loading field guns, and they recommended that they should be manufactured hereafter. They declared that muzzle-loading guns were superior, and should be substituted for those we have at present. Of course this resolution only referred to the system of breech-loading adopted by Sir William Armstrong. Would the Committee have come to such an important resolution, so inconvenient to the Government, had they not been aware that the field guns of other nations were superior to our own? These officers, however, had only had experience of our field guns upon home service—at Aldershot and at Woolwich—and it was desirable the House should know what experienced officers thought of them abroad. He would therefore quote from a Report upon the subject made by a distinguished Indian officer—Colonel Maxwell, superintendent of the Royal Gun Foundry at Cossipore. He states—That the Armstrong field gun is certainly not a safe gun. It is expensive, vastly complicated, requires skilled artificers in every battery armed with it, and cannot be re-produced or mended in India. That it has already undergone endless modifications and alterations; and if the Imperial Government were not so deeply committed to the Armstrong system of field artillery by the enormous amount of material in hand a more simple system would be undoubtedly introduced.And Colonel Maxwell went on to recommend in lieu for the Indian service that the old bronze 6-poundor guns should be re-cast and rifled. Was it possible for any officer to use stronger or more decided language in condemnation of our field guns? During the last ten years all the nations of Europe had been busily engaged in re-constructing their field artillery, but not one had thought proper to adopt the Armstrong gun. It had been offered to every one of them. It had been tried in America and had failed. It had been tried by the Government of Spain, and had failed there. It had been submitted to a committee of French officers, by whom it had been examined, tested, and unanimously rejected. What course had our Government taken with all these Reports in their possession? They had ordered very lately an additional 1789 number of these breech-loading Armstrong guns to be constructed. It would naturally be asked how it happened that a gun rejected by every foreign nation had found so much favour with the British Government? This required an explanation, which he was prepared to give. A very close intimacy had long prevailed between the Elswick Armstrong Ordnance Company, the War Office, and the Ordnance Select Committee. That intimacy commenced at a time when the late Sir Benjamin Hawes was the permanent Under Secretary for War. He took great interest in the Ordnance Department, and the history of the introduction of the gun into the service was curious and instructive. The Ordnance Select Committee of 1859 was composed of two eminent civil engineers, the heads of departments, and some other influential officers. That Committee expressed great doubts whether the Armstrong gun was a fit gun for the service. The War Office thereupon appointed a sub-committee of five officers; Captain Noble was selected as the secretary; and the sub-committee decided that the gun ought to be admitted into the service. The Government confirmed that decision. The next step, in order to establish a complete monopoly in favour of the gun in both branches of the service, was to get rid of all the heads of the departments who had expressed doubts as to the fitness of the gun. Colonel Wilmot, the Chief Superintendent of Gun Factories at Woolwich, was removed, the staff was broken up, and Sir William Armstrong was appointed Chief Superintendent in his place. The House will see, therefore, that Sir William Armstrong was appointed to test and inspect the work of his own partners. That state of things could not last; and in 1860 a Committee of that House, called the Army Organization Committee, was appointed. Sir James Graham was the Chairman, and drew up the Report, and his sarcastic remarks upon the transaction compelled Sir William Armstrong to retire. But his influence had ever since remained unimpaired. He did not wish to be understood as objecting to the original introduction of the gun. It was a great and novel invention which his right hon. Friend (General Peel) was quite right to try—what he complained of was the complete monopoly which was established in both branches of the service. The House had little idea of the expense of the monopoly which the Elswick 1790 Company had obtained. Little short of £3,000,000 sterling had been expended upon the Armstrong artillery, a great portion of which had been poured into the coffers of the Elswick Company. The cost of this artillery was enormous. The 13-inch guns cost £4,000 each when constructed at Elswick, yet they seemed to burst as fast as they were made. There were, he believed, only two now fit for service, the rest having been disabled. With respect to these two guns an incident occurred which showed the state of preparation of this country, as far as heavy artillery was concerned. When, a few weeks ago, there appeared to be a danger of war with Spain, it was thought desirable to send some heavy artillery to Gibraltar. These two 13-inch guns, familiarly known as 600-pounders, were sought out and ordered to be sent to Gibraltar. It was found that they were improperly rifled, and they were then sent to the factories to have the shunt rifling—which was at present disapproved of—bored out and the Woolwich rifling substituted. That operation was still going on, or was at all events proceeding ten days ago. Another circumstance that deserved to be known was that all orders given to the Elswick Company were irrespective of price, the manufacturers charging what they thought proper. He could give the House an example of this system. A short time ago a number of gun-carriages were ordered for heavy guns. It was a novel invention. He did not know their cost, because no price was stipulated for; but he was told that they would cost about £600 each. There were thirty or forty ordered. A good number of them had been made, but they had not been tested; and no one knew at this time whether those gun-carriages would sustain the weight of the guns for which they were intended. Instead of ordering one to be made in the first instance and testing it properly, and then ordering the others afterwards, they had ordered the whole to be made at once. So much for the field guns. He now came to the question of naval guns. They had always been told that the First Lord of the Admiralty was responsible for the armament of the navy. Well, he had objected to that on a former occasion, because he did not understand how the First Lord of the Admiralty could be responsible for guns which he did not make, over which he had no control, and which he was obliged to accept from the Minister 1791 for War. However, as the tradition was that the First Lord of the Admiralty was responsible, he would assume that he was so, and also that the present First Lord knew what the armament of the navy was at the present time; and he would venture to ask his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) whether he thought the armament of the navy was in a satisfactory state, and whether he would feel comfortable in the event of our being suddenly engaged in a war. He would proceed to describe what that armament was, and he would commence with the wooden ships. By way of illustration, he would take as an example one of the finest frigates in Her Majesty's service, the Liverpool, nominally a fifty-gun frigate, and now in the Channel squadron. Her armament at present consisted of three descriptions of guns. First of all, she had a certain number of breech-loading Armstrong guns—guns which had been condemned as unfit for the naval service, and which, upon the only occasions on which they had been used, had absolutely failed. The Reports of all those failures had been laid on the table of the House; but such Reports, when the officers making them knew they would be disagreeable, were always softened down; and the private reports were much stronger than those which were sent to the Government. [The hon. Member here read an extract from the private report of an officer who commanded a ship at Kagosima, which was to the effect that in spite of all the pains and care taken with the 110-pounder Armstrong gun, it would not go off, and that but for the fact that there were a few smooth-bore guns on board, the ship must have been lost.] That gun which so absolutely failed formed part of the armament of the Liverpool. The next portion of her armament consisted of Armstrong shunt-guns—guns which the Ordnance Select Committee were now boring out the rifling from, because it was so defective, and which were altogether useless for battering purposes. The third portion of the Liverpool's armament consisted of 8-inch smooth-bore guns, which were now quite out of date, and also entirely useless for battering purposes. That, then, was the armament of one of the finest frigates in Her Majesty's navy; and it might be taken as a very fair type of that of all other wooden ships in the service. None of them were better armed; perhaps some were not armed so well. 1792 There might be one or two which had lately been armed with heavy guns, but they were exceptions to the general rule. That was the state of preparation in which we were at the time when we knew that the Americans were arming their wooden ships with the heaviest description of modern artillery. He knew it was the fashion with our authorities to sneer at the American guns; but the Americans had produced the best work we possessed on artillery, and which was now the textbook in all our public Establishments; and they also had guns that had been tried in actual warfare, which had not been the case with ours. The American guns had made very short work with the Alabama, armed though she was with English guns. So much for our wooden ships. He would next turn to our ironclad fleet. It was rather difficult to say what the armament of that fleet was at the present time, because it was in a state of transition; but guns were being prepared for it. They had been lately manufactured at Woolwich. The largest of those guns was of twelve tons weight; it had a calibre of only nine inches, which was a small calibre; it was rifled on what was called the Woolwich principle, and it was said that under certain conditions—that was, at very close ranges, and with the target placed directly before it — it could perforate eight inches of solid iron. That would appear to be a satisfactory result. But, unfortunately, there was another side to the picture, and that was that those guns would not stand the test of continuous firing. He believed that they had never been tested at all by rapid firing; but with the slow and deliberate practice they had at Shoeburyness they very speedily gave way. That they had on the highest official authority. The Chief Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory, in a letter to the War Office, referred to the opinion previously expressed by him—That it would be advisable to make further trial of coiled tubes for heavy guns, as he believed that steel tubes could not be expected to last with heavy charges more than 300 or 400 rounds. The failure of the 9-inch 12-ton gun of cheap construction with steel tube after 386 rounds, and the move recent failure of a 13-inch muzzle-loading gun of 23 tons with steel tube of Elswick manufacture after 50 rounds, bear out this opinion.Now, the guns which were there described as incapable of lasting more than 300 or 400 rounds were the very guns which 1793 were now being prepared for Her Majesty's iron-plated ships. The Ordnance Select Committee, in their Report, stated that they thought, as a measure of precaution—The service of the 9-inch guns should be restricted for the present to 400 rounds, of which not more than 150 should be with the battering charges, and that a circular should be issued to this effect.So that they proposed to confine the fighting power of Her Majesty's ships to 150 rounds. It would therefore be desirable that the House should be informed whether the First Lord of the Admiralty thought that was a satisfactory gun for the navy, and what orders or instructions he had given to those captains who were going out for a four years' cruise with regard to the exercise of those guns? Now, the Chief Superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory stated that the rapid failure of the gun arose from the mode of rifling adopted at Woolwich—that was to say, the cutting of deep grooves in a steel tube. That might be easily made intelligible to the House. Steel was in some respects like glass. If they made a line or groove with a diamond on a plate of glass, when force was applied it gave way precisely in the line of the groove; and the same thing occurred in the steel tube. Therefore, the Chief Superintendent at Woolwich had suggested to the Ordnance Select Committee that they should adopt a different mode of rifling; but they had peremptorily rejected that proposition, and had declared that they meant to adhere to the Woolwich system of rifling. Now, that system of rifling had been adopted by them after a trial of the 7-inch guns. Two years ago there was a trial of the 7-inch guns. He heard at the time that the trial was not fairly conducted, and he had therefore moved in that House for the Report of the Committee on that trial. Well, the Report was presented; but it was presented without the programme. Why was the programme not given? Simply because the trials had not been conducted in accordance with it. That of itself was unfair; but on inspecting the Report he found that the figures were incorrectly given. Whether it arose from accident or design he could not say; but the figures, as given in the Report, would give a superiority to the Woolwich gun, whereas the real figures would not give a superiority to that gun. The House must form its own conclusion, whether these were subjects 1794 that ought to be inquired into. We had been ten years puzzling over these matters, and spending enormous sums of money with what results he had already stated. Such was the present state of the question so far as great guns were concerned, and, passing from it, he would, in the next place, trouble the House with a few remarks on the subject of small arms. On that subject his right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary for War had made a very plain and straightforward statement in moving the Army Estimates. He informed the House that for three years the Ordnance Select Committee had been urged by the War Office to provide our troops with a good breech-loading gun, but that they had neglected, or were unable, to comply with the request. Now, that was a fact which was, he thought, not a little discreditable to this country. The truth was, however, he believed, that our gunmakers refused to submit their inventions to the Ordnance Select Committee because they were afraid they would be pirated, and they would be deprived of the just remuneration for their talent. Indeed, one of the largest gunmakers in. Birmingham had told him, some two years ago that he could furnish the Committee with an excellent breech-loading arm, but that he objected to do so for the reason which he had just mentioned. The great superiority of the needle-gun, as demonstrated in the war between Prussia and Austria last year, compelled the Government to take immediate action in the matter, and a pressure having been put upon the Committee they produced the Snider rifle, the sealed patent of which invention the late Secretary for War had, he understood, found in his office when he became the head of the Department. The Snider rifles when made were, it appeared, sent to Aldershot, where it was soon perceived that the cartridge was liable to burst the chamber of the gun and to go out at the breech. So that the gun, as presented to the War Department by the Committee, absolutely failed. For that state of things Colonel Boxer was requested by the Secretary for War to provide a remedy. He increased the strength of the metal-tube; but the cartridge would not then fit the chamber of the gun, which consequently had to be re-bored; and then the shooting of the gun failed, so that a third cartridge had to be made with a ball of diminished size, by which the shooting was restored. The rifle, after many alterations, had been 1795 adopted; but it was still defective, and it had in some degree lost its power of penetration. The ammunition was moreover heavy, so that the soldier would be compelled to carry 9oz. more in his pouch than he was accustomed to do with the old ammunition. They were told that this was a cheap invention; but the ammunition was very dear, and it was of more importance to have cheap ammunition than to have a cheap rifle, because the former had constantly to be renewed and would consequently become a constant source of increased expenditure. Having stated those facts he would leave it to the House to say whether the subject was one which ought to be inquired into by a Select Committee. This was not the first time he had brought the subject under the notice of the House. Two years ago he had moved for a similar inquiry, and the occupants of the front Benches on both sides of the House united in opposing the Motion. Were they now, he would ask, prepared to take the same course? He hoped not. He trusted that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, at all events, having since regained their independence, would bear in mind that the present was no party question, and that if they desired to have the Estimates reduced, that object could be effected only by means of a thorough re-organization of our great military and naval establishments. It had been clearly shown in the late war in Germany that the supremacy of Prussia had been secured by the superiority of her military organization and the great efficiency of the needle-gun; and we might depend upon it that in the next naval war the power of that country would be in the ascendant which was able to produce the best ordnance, so that this was a question upon which the power, the greatness, and even the safety of the country must depend. These were the considerations which had induced him to bring the subject under the consideration of the House. It was a most important matter, and he felt he was only doing his duty to the country in moving that a Select Committee be appointed in terms of his Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee he appointed to consider the present state and condition of the Ordnance Department,"—(Mr. Henry Baillie,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR JOHN HAY
said, that as the important question of the armament of the Navy had in some measure been intrusted to him since he had the honour of holding his present office, and as a considerable portion of the interesting speech of his right hon. Friend, in which he had endeavoured to show that the navy was inefficiently armed, might be regarded in the light of an attack upon the naval administration of the country, he felt called upon to make a reply to some of the statements to which the House had just listened. He thought it, in the first place, but fair to remind his right hon. Friend that in seeking to lead the House to suppose that the class of guns with which the Liverpool was now armed was the class selected by the Admiralty for adoption in the general armament of our ships he was unconsciously creating a false impression. The guns for that purpose, which had been determined on, not only by the present but by the late Administration, in concert with their scientific advisers, were those of the 9-inch, 8-inch, and 7-inch calibre, weighing 12, 9, 6½ tons, and the 64-pounder, all muzzle-loading rifled guns. Those were the four classes of guns with which, as soon as completed—and he was happy to say they were in a state of forward preparation—it was proposed that our ships should be armed, and not with such armament as that of the Liverpool, which was an obsolete vessel, now performing duties for which she was, no doubt, well adapted, but hardly a vessel we should expect to cope with the ironclad ships of other nations. In addition, almost all the frigates intended for distant service had received a proportion of Woolwich guns. He had yet to learn that the opinion of naval officers, and of those who advised the Admiralty, was adverse to this class of gun. As a matter of fact, all the countries of Europe, with the exception of three, were satisfied to adopt the Armstrong guns with the rifling, interposing a soft metal between the gun and the shot. The French, it was true, had adopted the breech-loading gun, and had succeeded in firing shot from it; but it must be borne in mind that the French powder was one-fifth weaker than the English, for a 20-pound shot, with two degrees of elevation and 2½ pounds of French powder, would 1797 be thrown only 829 yards; whereas, under the same conditions, the distance would be 1,034 yards if English powder were used. It was in some degree attributable to the weakness of their powder that the French were unable to avail themselves of the breech-loading system. He must at the same time observe, that at some trials which recently took place at Vincennes, for the purpose of testing a target for the construction of a ship, the French were unable to penetrate the targets with their guns, and were obliged to have recourse to the 9 and 7-inch English guns to complete the experiment. Such things were kept very close in France; but he had his information from a source on which he placed the utmost reliance. Prussia, he might add, was not as yet making many heavy guns, and had not decided on the description of gun which she should use for field service, and certainly not for her navy; much doubt being entertained as to the security of Krupp's steel, as several field-pieces had burst during the late war, and created considerable destruction among the Prussian troops themselves. Russia was still uncertain as to the course to pursue. The Government of that country commenced arming with Krupp's steel muzzle-loader, then changed to a breech-loader, and after a great number of guns were altered to breech-loaders, the system was found to be unsatisfactory, and if he were not mistaken, the Russian Government had been making inquiries in the North, not for a supply of guns from Elswick, but as to whether the Elswick Company would be prepared to set up a manufactory in Russia, with the view of munufacturing guns for the Russian Government. With the exception of these three nations—which for reasons not difficult to be understood, desired that the manufacture of artillery should be conducted on their own soil—almost all the other countries in Europe, and indeed, in the world, were customers, or in treaty to become customers, of the Elswick Company for guns made on the Armstrong principle, and rifled on the Woolwich system, or an analogous system. Austria was adopting the Woolwich system, and her officers were in this country making inquiries with regard to it; it had likewise been adopted by Italy and Spain. Egypt, which had one of the most accomplished officers at the head of its Ordnance Department, had adopted the Woolwich system exclusively for land and sea service. The same system had been adopted by 1798 Turkey, by Denmark since 1864, by Holland, Norway, Chili, and Peru. Brazil, it was true, had not adopted it, but he understood that a Committee of Inquiry had lately been formed in Brazil to ascertain, whether the class of guns adopted there was the most satisfactory that could be selected for the country. It was likewise true that the United States had adopted another system, the guns of that country being generally cast-iron guns. All the ships in the fleet of the United States were generally armed with smooth-bored guns; but he believed that this arose not from any desire on the part of the United States to use them in all cases, but rather from the fact of a great stock being in hand, and from the temporary pressure of circumstances, which rendered that country unprepared at the time to make the class of guns it would rather have desired. His right hon. Friend had been misinformed on the subject of the carriages for these heavy guns. [Mr HENRY BAILLIE: I spoke of gun-carriages for coast defences.] Well, he dared say that the Secretary of State for War would be able to give his right hon. Friend some information on that subject; but he suspected that the same course was taken in testing the strength of the gun-carriages for coast defences as for the navy. The course pursued was to have all parts of the carnages duly considered by competent authorities composing a committee of investigation. The strength of the various portions of the carriages was properly examined into, as well as the capability of the carriages for running the guns in and out well, and he believed that the gun carriages of the navy would be found by experience to be satisfactory and durable—though, of course, he would not say that no improvement could ever be made in them. His right hon. Friend had alluded to the Ordnance Select Committee, and had—doubtless unintentionally—left the impression on the minds of many Members that that Committee was a body of inventors, and was not therefore an impartial tribunal for deciding on the inventions of others. The fact was the Members of the Committee were not inventors, and not one of them had ever held, or had ever attempted to hold, a patent. General Lefroy, the President of the Ordnance Select Committee, had expressed in strong terms his opinion that nothing could be so unsatisfactory to the country as the notion that the gentlemen acting upon the 1799 Ordnance Select Committee, and who were paid by the country to be judges of the inventions of others, should themselves be inventors of the very arms on which they were called upon to judge. It was therefore too hard on the members of the Ordnance Select Committee to suggest that they acted in the double capacity of inventors and judges, and he wished the House to understand that that body assembled with clean hands to judge of any subject brought before them. His right hon. Friend had acknowledged that ten years ago the Government were right in adopting the Armstrong gun, as it was the best rifled gun then obtainable. No doubt rapid improvements had since taken place, and whenever they were satisfactorily established, the Government, doubtless, would adopt them; but it would be absurd to spend large sums of money in reversing a system already adopted until the superiority of some other system was satisfactory proved. Though certain manufacturers had produced guns almost equal to the gun now in the navy and field artillery of this country, yet the Woolwich system as it now existed was acknowledged on all hands to be superior on almost all points, and where it was not superior it still had such advantages that the country might be satisfied with the arms adopted.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the right hon. Member for Inverness-shire had done good service in bringing this question under the consideration of the House, and asking for the appointment of a Select Committee. When the Army Estimates were under discussion last week, he (Lord Elcho) had ventured to make some statements with respect to the small-bore rifles and the Lancaster large-bore system of rifles which were questioned at the time, and he therefore wished to refer to them now; but first of all he would observe, in reference to what had been said about the Ordnance Select Committee, that the House must not look so much to that Committee as to those who had the control and command of it. If the Secretary for War judiciously exercised his authority in controlling the Committee — if the War Minister would always look carefully into the Reports of the Committee, and accept them when they were sound and right, he believed there would have been a better state of things than had hitherto existed with regard to the manufacture of guns. The statement which he made the other night, to the effect that the Ordnance Com- 1800 mittee on Small Arms had reported very strongly in favour of one description of rifling and against the other two used in the service, and that the Secretary for War did not act on the Report, but allowed for two years an arm not reported on as being the most efficient to be manufactured, was questioned. However, on referring to the debate which took place in 1864–5, he found that he had then stated that from the time of the Report in 1862 between 100,000 and 120,000 stand of the inferior arms had been made. That statement was not denied at the time by the noble Lord the then Secretary for War (Earl de Grey and Ripon), who gave as his reason for not acting upon the Report that a description of arms was in the course of invention which might possibly turn out better. That he (Lord Elcho) held was no sufficient reason whatever; and he certainly thought that with respect to small arms the country would have been in a better position if the noble Lord had exercised his discretion in a different way. One might state other cases where, by a judicious exercise of power on the part of the Secretary of State, good results would come, as well as cases where, by an injudicious exercise of that power, bad results had followed. Take, for instance, the premiums offered as inducements to gunmakers. In former years these premiums were so small that there was the greatest difficulty in getting them to come forward; but now, owing to the constitution of the Committee now sitting, and the change in the premiums offered, instead of there being any difficulty as to competitors there were something like ninety, and the difficulty was to sift them. Then, again, officers in departments had been allowed to patent inventions, and the result was that inventors were shy in producing inventions which they feared might be pirated. He referred to this subject last week, and he was afraid some misunderstanding had gone abroad, which had rather hurt Members of the Ordnance Select Committee; for it was supposed he had said that Members of that Committee patented inventions. He did not say that; but he said that officers in departments of the Government had done so. What he said about the Select Committee was that the Woolwich gun was a hybrid, or composite gun—as regards its grooving it was French; as regards its construction it was, he believed, a simplification of Armstrong's gun; and it 1801 combined with that the coating of the gun taken from the patent of Lancaster and Humes, and for which they received from the Blakeley Company an allowance of something like £1 per ton. Another thing was injudicious with reference to the gun manufacturers. It was stated by the Secretary of State for War that there would be no objection to the renewal of the oval-bore patent; but objection was raised subsequently and in the most direct terms; indeed, the Solicitor General resisted the renewal of the patent on the part of the Government at a cost to the inventor of something like £800, and this after a declaration made by the Secretary of State for War that there would be no opposition to the renewal of the patent. Then, as to the power exercised by the Secretary of State over the Committee, it should be remembered that in 1859 we had no rifled gun—nothing but smoothbores. The Italian war took place; the French had a rifled gun which, it was supposed, was very destructive in its effects; the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (General Peel) felt the necessity of our possessing a similar gun, and he adopted the Armstrong into the service. No doubt there had been defects in the Armstrong, but it was the only rifled gun almost in existence then; and his right hon. Friend was not only justified in adopting it, but would have been very wrong if he had not taken on himself the responsibility of ordering the manufacturing of that gun. His right hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire had spoken of rifled artillery; but he did not propose to touch on that subject. He had also alluded to the armament of the navy, which he considered defective. His hon. and gallant Friend the Lord of the Admiralty had, on the part of the Government, replied to the argument with reference to the armament of the navy; but his reply consisted in pointing out what had been done by other nations, and showing that, as regards rifled guns, England was, on the whole, as far advanced as any nation on the Continent. The House must, however, have remarked that his hon. and gallant Friend touched very lightly on what seemed a strong point in the speech of his right hon. Friend—namely, that relating to American ordnance. His right hon. Friend pointed out that the Americans had much larger guns; the answer was that they were cast-iron guns. They had a lot of the material, it was said, they 1802 wanted to make it up, and they made it up in this shape.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he had spoken with reference to the number of guns, and they would be in no hurry to make more.
§ LORD ELCHO
understood his hon. and gallant Friend to add that they would very soon adopt the European system, or the Woolwich gun, or something of that kind. The Americans had in their possession 1,500 15-inch guns; 200 22-inch guns throwing a 1,000 lbs. shot, and carrying a charge carying from 150 lbs. to 200 lbs. We had nothing to compete with that. We had 7-inch guns rifled and 9-inch guns rifled, throwing a shot of 280 lbs.; but we had no large bore guns at all. On the 27th of April, 1866, he had moved for a Return [Parl. Paper No. 220], showing the number of rifled guns we possessed, and the injuries they had sustained in trial—a Return which he recommended to the attention of every one who wished to obtain full information on the subject. But he had here a statement, on what he considered high authority, or he would not give it to the House, of what we really possessed in the shape of large artillery. We had five 13-inch guns, of which two had burst—that is, they became so fissured as to be unserviceable. The third burst at the seventh round; the fourth had also burst; and the fifth had not been tried. There was a 12-inch gun at Paris which people admired very much; but it had not yet been tried. A number of guns had been ordered to be rifled on the British system. It would be in the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had given orders for the manufacture of an oval-bore gun on the recommendation of Captain Campbell, who regarded that system as the only rifling likely to succeed with large guns. What he was anxious to point out to the House was that if the American system was right, that of this country was wrong. It seemed to him that we had fallen between two stools. The Americans had enormous guns of a superior quality of iron-cast in a peculiar manner, the interior of the gun during the process of casting being cooled by a hollow tube through which water flowed. These guns could be manufactured for £800 each, whereas those made by us of wrought-iron cost £4,000 each. Knowing that the Americans had these guns, we thought we would try to obtain a rifled weapon of greater penetrative power. The result of 1803 our endeavours to improve upon the American system, however, was that we had nothing to equal the large 20-inch American guns. In 1862, too, a striking instance occurred in this country of the destructive effects of powerful guns propelling heavy shot with enormous charges of powder. In the first case, one of Whitworth's guns sent a shell through an iron target, and in the second the large gun known as the Horsfall gun, smoothbore, a 600-pounder, manufactured by the Mersey Steam and Iron Works Company, sent a spherical shot through the Warrior target as if it had been a piece of brown paper, making a hole as large as a porthole, the shot passing through with such force as to make it certain it would have penetrated a second target of equal resisting power. The principle adopted by the Americans was to make enormous guns, capable of propelling shot of crushing weight by tremendous charges of powder, to be used at short ranges of 200 or 400 yards. The battle of Lissa was a hand-to-hand fight, the guns being fired at close quarters: and in such a case the American 15 or 20-inch guns would have an overwhelming superiority over our 9-inch guns. He understood that either the Ordnance Select Committee or the Government had recently sent over for one of these large American guns for the purpose of conducting experiments with it; but the fact remained, that while the Americans possessed 1,500 15-inch guns and 200 20-inch guns, this country did not possess a single gun of those calibres—although it was of the first importance that the naval force of this country should be at least equal to that of America, whose ordnance was certainly superior to that of any other country. He could not help thinking that we should take America as our standard in this matter. He had been told by practical mechanics that the best course for the Government to adopt was to ascertain the mode of rifling that was suitable for large guns; because although a system of rifling that answered efficiently for a small calibre, often failed when applied to a large calibre, yet a system that would answer with large guns was sure to answer with guns of an inferior calibre. The maximum calibre that could be rifled with safety having been ascertained, it would become necessary to have smooth-bore guns of still larger calibre. While supporting the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he thought that 1804 much more might be done by energetic action on the part of those in high places than by the appointment of a Select Committee. His excuse for having occupied the attention of the House for so long was his anxiety that this country should possess the best gun that could be obtained. England was supposed to be the greatest manufacturing country in the world, and yet, somehow or another—for some unexplained reason—it was always lagging behind in such matters as these; and the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary for War were continually endeavouring to show, not that this country was far in advance of the rest of the world with regard to materials of war, but that we were rather in advance of our neighbours in that respect than otherwise. In many matters other countries were showing us the way. Thus, we had neglected to try the half-moon batteries on board ship because it involved an expense of £60,000 to carry out the necessary experiments; we had rejected the Palliser system, by which a cast-iron gun was tubed with wrought-iron; and we had declined to adopt the Parsons gun, of which the Emperor of the French had directed a number to be manufactured. He hoped that public attention would be directed to the subject, and that whatever might be done the result would enable this country to occupy the position to which she was entitled, and which it could scarcely be said that she at present held.
I rise, Sir, to reply to that portion of the speech of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Henry Baillie) which refers to the introduction of the Armstrong gun, for which I am more immediately responsible. After the manner in which that gun was reported upon by the Committee that sat in 1863, I should have thought it unnecessary to say a word upon the subject; but my right hon. Friend has insinuated—if he has not made a direct charge to that effect—that some undue preference was shown towards Sir William Armstrong. I think it therefore right to state the circumstances attending the introduction of the Armstrong gun into the service. When I was appointed Secretary of War in 1858 the Ordnance Select Committee consisted of the Director General of Ordnance and several heads of departments. I found that although the Armstrong gun had been submitted to that Committee as far back as 1854, together with several other systems of rifling, and 1805 although there was in existence a Minute made by my predecessor in office (Lord Dalhousie) stating that, in consequence of the satisfactory results of the Armstrong gun, he had ordered an additional battery for trial, still we had no rifle guns in the service. I asked the Director General how long it would take to determine which was the best rifled gun. The reply was that it would take several years; and that reply was no doubt correct. But still I could not wait that time, and, moreover, I had no intention of waiting, because by so doing we should have been behind every other country in this matter. I therefore determined on the immediate appointment of a Select Committee, and the question is, whether the Members of that Committee were fairly chosen or not. I applied to the Commander-in-Chief to recommend me the most scientific officers in the artillery and engineers; and I made a similar application to the Admiralty for the names of naval officers best known for their scientific attainments. The gentlemen so returned were appointed by me; and in the course of a short time they reported that the Armstrong guns were as superior to other patterns as the latter were to the guns then in use; but the investigations extended only to field guns. They recommended that no larger pattern of the Armstrong gun should be made without further test; 180 guns were therefore ordered, and on the recommendation of Lord Derby further experiments were instituted. I think we have had a strong example this evening how careful Members ought to be before making personal accusations. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Henry Baillie) has stated that the late Sir Benjamin Hawes was personally interested in the Elswick Foundry, and that Sir Benjamin had two relatives connected with that firm. My right hon. Friend ought to be more cautious in his statements, because Sir Benjamin had no relative or any person connected with him in the firm, nor did he interfere in the matter in any way. I am enabled to state this on the authority of a member of the Elswick firm. I was, I believe, perfectly justified in adopting the Armstrong gun in the first instance, seeing that it was at the time the best gun known in any service in the world. So far therefore for the introduction of the gun. In consequence, however, of what occurred, I directed a change in the constitution of the Ordnance Committee, and I recommended that its members should be 1806 selected entirely on account of their scientific attainments, and that none of them should be inventors or holders of patents; and that rule has, I believe, been strictly adhered to up to the present moment. My right hon. Friend is wrong in what he has stated with reference to the conversion of small arms. He said that the change in our small arms had been adopted in consequence of the late events on the Continent. That is, however, a mistake. The fact is that its adoption had been determined on before, and provision was made in the Estimates for converting 40,000 in the last financial year. I simply carried out the recommendations of the Committee by ordering the conversion of a sufficient number of weapons for the supply of the whole of the army. The converted rifle shoots better than the present Enfield, and is, I believe, superior to any other rifled small arm. When we wished to get a new small arm we offered great prizes to induce people to come forward and submit their inventions for our examination, and if you are not satisfied with the selection we have made the remedy is not the one now suggested. I hope that the House will place confidence in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. If you are not satisfied you can move a Vote of Want of Confidence; but the House will not, I hope, interfere in the manner proposed and appoint a Committee, which will in any case bear no responsibility whatever.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that having been in America last year, he could bear testimony to the fact that of the guns of which the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) said 200 had been manufactured only two had then been made. A third was in course of construction, and he was told that a contract existed for the construction of fifteen in all; but that that contract would never have been entered into but for the war. It was also extremely doubtful whether guns of such a size could be carried by any existing vessels. His noble Friend had recommended our following the example of the Americans; but the experience of the American war was, he thought, rather in favour of our system. The power of the 15-inch guns had been over-estimated, and no greater proof of that fact could be found than the engagement which took place between the Confederate iron-clad the Tennessee on the one side and four Monitors in Mobile Bay. In that engagement the vessels fought at a 1807 distance of ten to fifteen yards. The Tennessee was repeatedly struck, her adversaries carrying 15-inch guns, but no shots penetrated. One of her plates—of 6-inch railway iron, by no means so strong as those used by ourselves—was broken, but no shot entered her hull. The Tennessee ultimately surrendered, not because she was disabled by shot, but simply because she was so shaken that her crew were unable to continue the engagement. He had seen the vessel itself after the engagement, and found her unhurt. He mentioned this fact as an illustration of the inferiority of the American guns, and he trusted that the Government would exercise great caution before adopting their system.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I entirely concur with my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) in the opinion that my right hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire deserves great credit for the ability and perseverance with which he has brought this question before the House. I cannot, however, avoid expressing a hope that my right hon. Friend will be content with the discussion he has elicited, and will not press his Motion to a division. In fact, no better argument in favour of such a course can be adduced than those which are to be found in the speeches of my right hon. Friend himself and my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire. My noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire devoted a considerable portion of his speech to finding fault with the Ordnance Select Committee.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he had said nothing about the Ordnance Select Committee. He had simply said that the responsibility of their proceedings rested with the Secretary of State for War.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
My noble Friend admitted at the close of his speech that we were at least adopting a sound course, and that I think may be taken as a reason for not pressing the Motion before the House, the adoption of which might be inconvenient to the public service. The present state of this question, I can assure my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Baillie), is clearly not such as to require the intervention of a Committee—indeed, a Committee would only paralyze the exertions now being made, for it would be impossible to conclude the desired inquiry this Session, and the question would then remain unsolved until some time after 1808 Parliament had again assembled. With reference to the question of responsibility, I quite assent to the principle that the responsibility should not rest on Committees or Commissions, and the Minister alone should be responsible to Parliament and the country for any decision finally come to, and I have no hesitation in stating that I am this moment, to the best of my ability, considering changes which I think may tend to the public advantage; I may also assure my right hon. Friend that experiments are being continued at this moment; and as I, from the short time I have held the office more particularly concerned, can claim no credit for the fact, I may say that the conduct of the Ordnance Department shows that, it is most anxious to perform its duties with respect to this important question. My noble Friend spoke of a number of 13-inch guns which he said had burst on trial; but he was quoting from a paper which only gave the experiments which had been made, and did not give the successful results. The same remark applies to what he said of the 9-inch guns, and I think the House should infer from the whole of his remarks upon this subject that great difficulty and many failures have been experienced in the endeavour to provide the country with an effective 9-inch gun. And, although many such guns have burst on trial, we have other 9-inch guns from which upwards of 1,000 rounds have been fired; and we have now a very large and rapidly increasing supply of 12-ton 9-inch guns well fitted for the service of the country either on land or sea. My noble Friend suggested that we should test guns one against the other. My answer to that is that a comparison was made a long time ago between, I believe, a 7-inch rifled and a 9-inch smooth-bore gun, and the result of that comparison has beeen the acceptance of the 7-inch rifled gun as that best adapted for the navy.
§ LORD ELCHO
I suggested a comparison with respect to the 15 and 13-inch guns, which, I believe, has never been made.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
My noble Friend, however, must admit that the Department has shown that it has no objection to any fair competition. Some surprise was expressed upon a former occasion that the recommendation of the Committee with respect to the Lancaster gun had not been acted on; but the delay in this respect has arisen from the illness 1809 of Mr. Lancaster himself. The Department was disposed to act on the recommendation referred to; but Mr. Lancaster wished to make some alteration in the system of rifling, and the Committee acceded to the request to delay operations. Mr. Lancaster, however, has been too ill to suggest the alterations he desired, and after corresponding with an agent of his, we have been carrying out the experiment by following the system of rifling originally adopted by him. Simultaneously with that experiment three other guns are being tried in comparison with the Woolwich gun. Here I may say, with respect, to my noble Friend's assertion that the Woolwich gun is a composite affair, parts being borrowed from one invention and parts from another, that the incident shows, if it shows anything, how anxious the Ordnance Department is to procure a good gun, no matter from what quarter it may come. My noble Friend I am sure would be the last to blame the Department for excess of zeal. [Lord ELCHO: I do not blame it for excess of zeal.] I feel under some difficulty in answering my right hon. Friend, inasmuch as the notice he put upon the Paper did not exactly indicate the nature of the speech he intended to make. The Motion is for a Committee "to consider the present state and condition of the Ordnance Department," which I think points rather to the present constitution of the Department than to the results of its labours; and in the early part of his speech he seemed to entertain the opinion that the amalgamation made at the time of the Crimean war between the War Office and the Ordnance Department was an error. My right hon. Friend does not stand alone in having that opinion; but the question raised by the expression of that opinion is a very large one; it cannot be hastily disposed of, and, although I am far from saying I am in favour of returning to the state of things existing before the amalgamation, I would add that the subject is a fair one for consideration when the various recommendations of Lord Strathnairn's Committee come under consideration. The Ordnance Committee has been objected to upon the ground that some of its members are inventors; but, as I had something to do with the Committee when holding office in the Naval Department, I may be deemed competent to form a judgment of the gentlemen upon it, and I must say that I think the Ordnance Select Committee are 1810 entitled to the confidence of the country; I believe its members are most competent men and entirely disinterested, devoting their knowledge and experience to the public service. My right hon. Friend must excuse me if I do not follow him in his remarks upon the connection of Sir Benjamin Hawes with the Ordnance Committee. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend should have made remarks which have the character of a severe censure upon one who is now dead, and cannot answer any charges which may be brought against him. My right hon. Friend made it a subject of complaint against the Ordnance Committee that they are not to be trusted to make trials, and he touched upon a case in which I myself was concerned; I refer to the appointment of another Committee for the trial of small arms. But by assenting to that course I did not intend to throw any doubt upon the honour or competence of the Ordnance Select Committee. My right hon. Friend must know how very numerous inventors are, and consequently how prone they are to doubt both the wisdom and fairness of any decision come to. Accordingly, when I found that some of the inventors who were coming forward with small arms to be tried were persons whose inventions on a former occasion had not been accepted by the Ordnance Select Committee, and who in consequence strongly doubted the wisdom of that Committee, I thought it better, wishing to afford no possible room for any questioning of the fairness of the tribunal, that the task of deciding upon the merits of these numerous small arms should be intrusted to a newly appointed body. And I have every reason to rejoice at what I did. For, in the first place, it is impossible for any inventor, however much he may be disappointed, to question the perfect fairness and impartiality of the tribunal; and, secondly, the Committee, of which Colonel Fletcher is at the head, has conducted its inquiries in the most admirable manner, and in a mode which is above suspicion from any quarter. My right hon. Friend threw a great deal of blame on our present field artillery, and in support of his arguments referred to the Report of Colonel Maxwell, an officer now in India, of considerable experience with regard to those arms. If my right hon. Friend does not already know the fact it will be satisfactory to him to learn that the opinions of Colonel Maxwell have been by no means 1811 disregarded or treated with contempt. Communications have passed between the Government of India and the Ordnance Department here; and at this moment, in consequence of those representations, the whole subject of altering the character of our field artillery is under serious consideration. My right hon. Friend also made it matter of accusation that when some time since there appeared to be danger of a rupture between Spain and this country we had only two 13-inch guns ready to send out, and that these required re-rifling. My right hon. Friend must know that if we are to have our artillery defences efficient there cannot be one kind of ammunition for one gun and another for another. It certainly was in contemplation to alter the rifling of these 13-inch guns; but it was not to those the Government trusted for strengthening the defences of Gibraltar: on the contrary, there were fourteen 9-inch 12-ton guns quite fit for the service and ready to be sent out; and their departure was only delayed through the necessity of waiting for the gun-carriages, which were being supplied as rapidly as possible; and the necessity for this delay turned entirely on the recent adoption of a carriage, which is made of iron instead of wood. My right hon. Friend also committed an unintentional mistake as to the cost of these new carriages, which he placed as high as £600 apiece.
§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
I said I did not know what they would cost, but I thought they might cost that sum.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Then I am sure he will be very glad to learn that they will not cost anything like that sum. Between thirty and forty of them are being made by contract at a cost of £470 apiece, which is a good deal less than my hon. Friend supposed. These carriages are being made by the Elswick Company; at the same time a large number are being made in the Arsenal at Woolwich as rapidly as the strength of that establishment admits. I have now, I think, touched on all the material points in the statement of my right hon. Friend into which it is desirable that I should follow him; and I have only to express my earnest hope that he will not think it necessary to press this Motion to a division, but will be satisfied with the good effect which I quite admit that a discussion of this nature always produces. Another reason why I submit my right hon. Friend should not press his Motion at the present 1812 moment, is that in consequence of the suggestion made to me by the noble Lord opposite the Member for North Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), I thought it my duty to lay on the table the full correspondence which has passed with Mr. Whitworth. Of Mr. Whitworth's abilities I wish to speak with every respect; but a great deal of controversy has taken place between him and the War Department. Some days have now elapsed since I laid upon the table the Reports and correspondence fully and fairly showing what had passed on the subject; those papers will very shortly be in the hands of hon. Members, and of course additional and not uninteresting information must be afforded by their contents. Under these circumstances my right hon. Friend, I hope, will not think it necessary to press his Motion to a division.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he thought his right hon. Friend had rendered great service by originating this discussion. There had been two great instances of success in arming the country at short notice—one in 1854, when an admirable Ordnance Committee existed, it consisted of the late Lord Hardinge and the Duke of Wellington. Another had existed with almost equal success quite recently. It consisted of his right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) alone, and he was successful in providing a rapid supply of small arms. In both cases the secret of success lay in the fact that those in authority were content to provide the country with the best arm then invented, instead of incurring needless vexation and constant expenditure in attempting to arrive at an impossible perfection. The heads of Departments were so apprehensive of the imputation of having spent money wastefully, that the country was left without proper arms. He thought the Government would do well if they increased the quantity of Snider rifles, for it was the best arm that was now made, and he looked with apprehension to five or six years of insufficient supply whilst something better was invented. He trusted the days were past when Ordnance Committees would be held responsible. None could be properly responsible but the heads of Departments. He (Mr. Newdegate) was confident that the appointment of the Trial Committee would put an end to the dissatisfaction existing in various quarters among persons who believed that their inventions had been 1813 pirated by the members of the Ordnance Committee to which they were submitted, since these Trial Committees consisted of officers of the army, who had nothing to do with the making or altering of any arm, but were employed simply to test its usefulness in the hands of the ordinary soldier. Could any person doubt that inventions had been pirated? He himself had shot with four patterns of the Enfield rifle before it ever was christened by that name, the weapon having been invented and the patterns made by Mr. Westley Richards. The Woolwich cannon again was said to be a combination of several inventions. Why should not the authors of these gain the credit, they deserved? Under the arrangements made by the right hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon, inventors would not only hereafter be compensated for their ability in the first instance, but would get the credit of their own work. The real significance and satisfaction attendant on the appointment of the new committee, however, was that the tribunal consisted, not of persons having a knowledge of mechanics, but of military men who judged of the merits of a weapon by its performance in the hands of soldiers. The War Department, he trusted, would not slacken its exertions, or begin afresh the system of waiting for other patterns than that of the Snider rifle, which had been proved efficient, seeing that this country only possessed one-half the quantity of breach-loaders which ought to be forthcoming.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.