§ MR. O'REILLY
, in rising to call attention to the Paper relative to the resignation of Colonel Boxer of the office he held in the Royal Laboratory, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into and report on all the circumstances which led to that result, said, he should I make no apology for bringing the subject before the House. The interest displayed throughout the country, as expressed in the public prints, when it first became known that Colonel Boxer had been called on to resign the position he hold in the public service, and the fact that the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary of State for War (Sir John Pakington), very soon after the assembling of the House, had thought it his duty to move that the Papers connected with the subject should be laid on the Table, expressing at the same time his opinion that it was desirable, and even necessary, that all the circumstances connected with the event should be known and apppeciated by the public, and, if he rightly remembered, that they should be discussed in that House, would be a sufficient apology for his proposing that the facts should receive a mature and complete investigation. He should have much preferred that the subject had been taken up by some Gentleman connected with the service, and therefore more capable of doing it justire; but he hoped his deficiencies in knowledge would be supplied by others who were more capable than he could be of doing entire justice to the question. What he proposed was, not that the House should now express an opinion on the whole subject, but that it should be carefully inquired into not only as regarded the individual, but as regarded the rule of the public service in relation to inventions and patents taken out by j public servants. He would begin with a brief historical sketch. Hon. Members would recollect that, when it was first announced that Colonel Boxer had been called on to resign his position, two theories were suggested—first, that he had been obliged to resign because one Secretary for War took a different view from another of the rule as to officers in the public service with regard to patents; and, secondly, it was assiduously circulated that Colonel Boxer had taken ad- 2063 vantage of his official position to get patents adapted to the public service, and received pecuniary advantages from those into whose hands the supply of articles required had been thrown. Now, he should be able to show that there was no truth in the latter of these statements. Who and what was Colonel Boxer? In 1854, when we were engaged in the Crimean War, we undertook the siege of Sebastopol with a siege train little different from that with which the Duke of Wellington undertook sieges in the Peninsula. It was soon found how inadequate the public Departments were to supply the required artillery and ammunition. The strain on the public Departments was immense. They failed under it; and if we finally took Sebastopol it was, as a Russian officer expressed it, by covering it with a fire resembling that of hell. In 1854 Colonel Boxer was taken into the Royal Laboratory, where he soon distinguished himself by his ability, fertility of invention, and energy in carrying out the improvements suggested. Not long afterwards he was placed at the head of that department, and every authority connected with it spoke in the highest terms of the valuable services he had rendered to the country. A memorandum of the Clerk of the Ordnance stated the exertions of Colonel Boxer to adapt the machinery of the laboratory to the supply of any amount of shell that might be required. In six months his expectations had been realized, while the saving effected in the department had been £40,000. Lord Panmure and Mr. Sidney Herbert fully and entirely recognized his great services, for which the sum of £5,000 was voted to Colonel Boxer. In 1857, during the Indian Mutiny, his exertions had been equally successful. The Enfield rifles, from the difficulty of loading them, were found almost useless, and officers declared that they would infinitely prefer the old smooth-bore. Colonel Boxer, then in the Royal Laboratory, devoted his attention to the subject, and was able effectually to remove the defects complained of. It was found that the space left between the bullets and the sides of the barrel was so small that the material, tallow, used as a lubricator, speedily clogged the rifle, and the bullets could not be got down. Colonel Boxer employed a different material, bees'-wax, as a lubricator, which 2064 was distinctly a new invention, and subsequently he reduced somewhat the size of the bullet. In 1859 he asked, not unnaturally, for some recognition of his services; but the authorities of that day seemed to consider that the small official salary which he received ought to cover not merely his official labour, but his inventions, and everything. Feeling that if he was not to receive from the public service any recognition of his inventions, he was at least entitled to a reward at the hands of private persons who might use them, he determined to protect those inventions by a patent; and whatever inconvenience such a proceeding might occasion—and he would not attempt to deny that inconvenience afterwards resulted from it—there was no rule of the service at that time in existence to prevent an officer from taking out a patent. It was in 1863 that the idea of taking out a patent first occurred to him. He considered that he was bound to give his services in the ordinary manner at the War Office; but as regarded any investigations or inquiries that he might pursue out-of-doors, he stood in the same position as a private inventor. Colonel Boxer, however, determined to inform the War Office of his intention, and accordingly wrote to the Solicitor of the Department, pointing out that inventing formed no part of the duty of the Superintendent of the Laboratory Department, all that he was called upon to do being to manufacture in accordance with certain patterns and specifications. As, however, the fuses which he proposed to patent had been manufactured some time before, and the trials to test the construction as applied to the Armstrong system of ordnance had been made at the public expense, he considered it his duty to communicate with the War Office in the first instance, pointing out that in securing his right by patent he had no intention of preventing the English Government from making use of the fuses, if they thought proper to do so. In answer to that letter, Sir Edward Lugard, by desire of Earl De Grey and Ripon, wrote to say that—Without admitting your right to inventions arising out of experiments prosecuted in the Royal Arsenal, Earl De Grey sees no objection in the present instance to your obtaining a patent for the fuzes in question, upon the distinct understanding, on your part, that the fuzes are to be made for the public service free from all claim to royalty or patent-right, either from yourself or 2065 other the owner of the patent for the time being, and that the supply of fuzes for foreign Powers shall be such only as the Secretary of State for the time being may approve.He had read the whole of the correspondence—he might say that he had examined it microscopically—to discover of what meanings the expressions employed were capable. It was certainly possible that an acute casuist after the event might interpret the meaning of Sir Edward Lugard's letter to be that fuses made for the public service, even outside the Royal Laboratory, and by strangers holding the patent for the time being, should also be made free from royalty or patent-right; but the plain and obvious meaning of the passage had reference simply to the fuses manufactured for the public service in the Royal Laboratory itself. Colonel Boxer's reply clearly showed the meaning to be attached to the correspondence, for he stated that he was prepared, if it were considered necessary, to grant the Government a free licence to manufacture these fuses for the British service; but that he should expect a royalty when "repayment" was made, as in the ease of supplies for India. The point, however, was made clear by a legal decision in 1865, in the case of "The Queen v. Fellowes," to the effect that no claim for royalty could be set up by a subject against the Queen for the manufacture in the Royal establishments of any patented article. The War Office must be presumed to have had full knowledge of all the correspondence that had passed, though he did not extend that remark to the individual Secretaries of State; for one, at least, had used language that, if not contradictory, was certainly ambiguous, and declared that he not only was ignorant of what his predecessor had written, but that he did not understand it, which was probably true. In 1863, however, the War Office, as he had shown, was fully aware that Colonel Boxer had taken out a patent. In June, 1866, and in October, 1866, he took out other patents. On the 29th of March he was asked in a letter from the War Office why he had acted without informing the Department, and replied that under a recent decision the rights of the Crown could not be interfered with, and notice to the Department, therefore, became unnecessary; but that if it was desired he would give notice of such matters for the future, on the under- 2066 standing that such a step would not militate against his private rights as an inventor. To that distinct claim on his part no answer whatever was given. When it transpired that the War Office were not only manufacturing these articles for themselves, but for other Departments and for the Colonies, and even, as it appeared in a later instance, for a foreign State, from whom they received payment, Colonel Boxer boldly claimed his royalty. There was a peculiar sharpness in the way that he was met. The Secretary of State for War informed him that he did not consider that a royalty ought to be charged for supplies issued to the troops in India; but that if he had a claim to make, he should address it to the Secretary of State for India. By that Department a very ingenious distinction was drawn. Colonel Boxer was informed that no infringement of his patent had been made by the India Department, and that was perfectly true, for it was the War Office that had manufactured the articles and supplied them to the India Department. Similar proceedings and similar correspondence occurred with regard to supplies which were issued to the self-governing Colonies. Colonel Boxer had also patented certain improvements in Lake's life-saving rockets, with which, as the Department concerned in the destruction, not the saving of human life, the War Office obviously had little to do. Some of these rockets, however, were furnished by the War Department to the Turkish Government, and a payment made for them through the Board of Trade. Colonel Boxer was referred upon the subject to the Board of Trade, but again failed to obtain payment. Throughout the whole of the correspondence it was evident that the War Office had been aware of the patents which Colonel Boxer had taken out, and of the assignments which he had made of them. In refusing Colonel Boxer any reward from the public money on account of his inventions, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), in a letter dated January 4, 1868, observed with regard to the fuses, breech-loading ammunition, and shrapnel shell for rifled ordnance—You must look for reward from the royalties or other remuneration you may receive as a patentee from private manufacturers.That was the summing up of the whole 2067 case by the War Office, and on this, as the House would see, no restriction whatever was placed. He would at once admit that this was, to a certain extent, inconsistent with that written from the same Department on the 17th of August, 1867, in which the then Under Secretary of State for War (the Earl of Longford) said—I am directed to inform you that Sir John Pakington, having given the subject his fullest consideration, regrets that he cannot consider your explanation of the circumstances satisfactory. The circumstance of the possession of a patent by a Government officer, for articles with which he is specially concerned, has been the subject of unfavourable comment in Parliament and elsewhere; and the assignment of a patent taken out by an officer in the very responsible position which you hold, to a firm which does, or may possibly at any future period, hold a contract for the supply of the articles, or any parts of them, specified in such patent, cannot fail to be a source of embarrassment, and may lead to imputations highly injurious to the public service. It is not the desire of Sir John Pakington that I should enter into all the reasons which you have assigned for the course which you have thought proper to pursue, but I am to inform you that the possession of your patents by Messrs. Eley, instead of, as stated by you, tending to reduce the cost, would be calculated to give that firm a practical monopoly of the production. In conclusion, I am desired to inform you that Sir John Pakington much regrets your proceedings in this matter, and to express his desire that you shall not for the future undertake any personal agreement with Government contractors or others with whom you may possibly be brought into communication in your official capacity.But the proper time to have made the objection to an officer having patents was in 1863, and not in 1867. Even that communication, however, recognized what was past, and simply requested him not to enter into personal agreements for the future, while in 1868 he was informed that he was to look for his reward to the royalties which he might receive as a patentee from private manufacturers. And it was essential to remark that from that date no assignment of his patent had been made to any manufacturer by Colonel Boxer. All the assignments he had made had been made before that date, and were known to the War Office. With full knowledge of all these matters, however, the War Office appeared occasionally to have relapsed into ignorance. In 1863 the officials of the Department had been informed that Colonel Boxer had taken out patents, and that though he did not intend to claim royalty, which at that time it was supposed he 2068 intended to do, from manufactures engaged in by the Royal Departments, he should do so in case his patents were employed by private firms. Yet suddenly, on the 20th of May, 1867, the Assistant Director of the Ordnance wrote to Colonel Boxer, asking him—Will you be good enough to say whether Messrs. Eley and Co. have purchased your interest in your patent for small arm cartridges, or whether you receive any royalty or other consideration from them?To this communication Colonel Boxer replied on the 23rd of May—An absolute assignment of my patents for cartridges has been made to Messrs. Eley Brothers. These patents are, therefore, the property of this firm. The assignment was made upon the distinct understanding that it was not to interfere with the manufacture or use of my cartridges by the English Government.That was followed by an inquiry. Evidently the theory had been suggested that Colonel Boxer, having taken out patents, was able to get the articles he had patented adopted into the service, and the manufacture of them placed in the hands of those who had purchased his patents. But as everyone in the Department knew very well, although it was not so generally known by the public at large, these articles were adopted by the Ordnance Committee, a body of which Colonel Boxer was not a member. Therefore, the charge against Colonel Boxer of securing the adoption of these articles by his recommendation fell to the ground. Now, on the 31st of May, 1867, the Director of Ordnance directed the following letter to Colonel Boxer:—With reference to the Superintendent's Minute, dated the 23rd inst., in which he states that he has made an absolute assignment of his patents for cartridges to Messrs. Eley Brothers, it is requested that he will state, for the information of Sir John Pakington, whether at the time he recommended the late Secretary of State to give a contract for the supply of cartridges and cases to that firm, he had entered into arrangements for the sale of his patents to Messrs. Eley, and, if so, whether he informed General Peel of the circumstance.And in answer to this Colonel Boxer made the following reply:—1st. That the assignment of my patents for cartridges to Messrs. Eley Brothers was not made or contemplated when I recommended that a supply of portions of my cartridges should be obtained from that firm. 2nd. That the portions of the cartridges recommended to be supplied, and for which the contract was made, are not covered by my patent, as may be seen by referring to my specification and claims. 3rd. That Messrs. Eley 2069 Brothers were recommended by me because they are by far the largest and most reliable firm in the kingdom for the supply of cartridges.That was followed by another inquiry—… It is requested that he will state, for Sir John Pakington's information, whether it is to be understood that he admits that neither the whole nor any part of the cartridge cases which that firm have contracted to supply are covered by his patent, and whether Messrs. Eley would be justified in increasing the price charged for these cases to the department, in consideration of any expenses incurred by them in purchasing the Superintendent's patent rights, whether by way of royalty for the use of the same or otherwise.He might point out, for the benefit of those hon. Members who had not read this correspondence, that only three supplies of cartridge cases had been obtained on the certificate of Colonel Boxer, one for 20,000,000 from Messrs. Eley, on the 17th of July, 1866; another for 15,000,000 on the 1st of July, 1867, also from Messrs. Eley; and a third for 4,000,000 from Mr. Ludlow. To this inquiry Colonel Boxer replied on the 2nd of July, 1867:—1st. That the cartridge cases which Messrs. Eley Brothers contracted for in July, 1868, are not covered by either of my patents. 2nd. That the cartridge cases for which tenders have been lately received from certain firms are covered by my patent, No. 2,658, dated 13th October, 1866. 3rd. That when my patents for cartridges were assigned to Messrs. Eley Brothers, it was not anticipated either by me or by them, that any further supply of my cartridge would be ever required by the English Government from the private trade, and no provision was therefore made for such a contingency; and, 4th, that the assignment of my patents to Messrs. Eley Brothers, so far from being calculated to increase the cost of the cartridges obtained from that firm, would tend, on the contrary, to reduce the cost, as the possession of the patents warranted them in making the necessary outlay to manufacture these cartridges cheaply, rapidly, and of the proper standard of quality.In spite of the letter written on the 17th of August, 1867, by the Earl of Longford, in answer to this, in which Colonel Boxer was told that such conduct could not fail to be a source of embarrassment, and was calculated to lead to imputations highly injurious to the public service, he (Mr. O'Reilly) could easily conceive that the possession of a patent of this kind could, by permitting its possessor to erect sufficient machinery, enable him to supply the article at a much cheaper rate than he otherwise could do. It was evident that the War Office, represented by Lord Longford, were of opinion that the possession of the patent 2070 would enhance the cost; but they were able to test the truth of that conclusion; for it appeared that when Mr. Daw, one of the largest manufacturers, was desirous of getting a contract from the War Office, his tender—and he was a most competent judge of the cost—was very considerably higher than that of Messrs. Eley, who had paid for the patent. The practical test, therefore, whatever Lord Longford's opinion might have been, did show that the possession of the patent had not the effect of enhancing the cost. In 1869 the question was again raised when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) was Secretary of State for War. The War Office had again apparently relapsed into ignorance, and, forgetting the information received in 1866 and 1867, the Secretary of State directed a letter to be written by Sir Henry Storks, asking Colonel Boxer whether he had received any royalty or other pecuniary consideration on account of the manufacture of Boxer cartridges by Messrs. Eley subsequently to the assignment of the patent made to them on the 10th of April, 1867. To that Colonel Boxer replied, refusing to answer the question, on the ground that it arose out of a statement made on the subject of his patents, which he regarded, and had always regarded, as his private affair. The Secretary of State, through Sir Henry Storks, said he considered it absolutely necessary that an officer in the position of Colonel Boxer should not be personally interested in the contracts made by the Department; and, therefore, he insisted on an answer to the question, and proposed the alternative of Colonel Boxer's resignation. Colonel Boxer refused to answer. Now, he would express his own opinion that Colonel Boxer was not justified in refusing; he should have answered and taken the consequences. So far he was not there to justify Colonel Boxer, and he thought his right hon. Friend justified in accepting his resignation, because here there was a question of insubordination. But whether his right hon. Friend was justified in putting the question to Colonel Boxer with regard to his patents was an entirely different thing, or in blaming him for doing that which the War Office knew he had done, and did not object to. The substantial question was, whether Colonel Boxer could or did 2071 throw into the hands of Messrs. Eley a profitable manufacture in which he had himself a special interest, and whether he could do that without the knowledge of the War Office. He found only three instances bearing on the point in question. In 1866, 20,000,000 of cartridges were ordered with which no patent was connected; in 1867, 19,000,000 were ordered in which Colonel Boxer had an interest, and as to which, as he had shown, the tender of Messrs, Eley, who had the patent and paid Colonel Boxer a royalty, was less than that of Mr. Daw, who had no patent, and that tender was made with the full knowledge of the War Office. There was only one other supply of 2,500,000 cases, which was ordered on the 11th of September, 1867, and the War Office was well acquainted with the matter. If Colonel Boxer's advice had been taken the Royal Laboratory would have been in a position to manufacture all those cartridge cases, and none would have been manufactured by Messrs. Eley, and on none would Colonel Boxer have received a royalty. The whole correspondence on the subject with the War Office, he maintained, showed that Colonel Boxer had pressed for the establishment of machinery in the Royal factory for the purpose of manufacturing their cartridges, whereby he would have obtained no profit in the shape of royalty. Could it, then, be said that he had delayed the establishment of the factory in order to throw the supplying of cartridges into the hands of Messrs. Eley, and thus himself derive a pecuniary advantage? Colonel Boxer had acted openly throughout; and he asked whether it could be shown that there was any rule or regulation of the service forbidding his having a pecuniary interest in the patents that he had been told he might take out, and for his reward for which he was to look to the royalties he might receive from private manufacturers without any limitation? The possession of that pecuniary interest, he further alleged, had been "fully recognized by Mr. Secretary Cardwell's predecessor as to his patent for a breech-loading cartridge and other inventions." The result of the official correspondence had led to the resignation of Colonel Boxer—a very distinguished officer, who had served the country well and faithfully for many 2072 years. That officer had been called upon by the Secretary of State to answer certain questions or resign, and he had refused to answer; and so far he was technically guilty of insubordination. He accepted the alternative of resignation, and his resignation was accepted. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington), who himself had been Secretary of State for War, and was thus officially acquainted with the distinctions of the service, had, to his surprise, said in that House that Colonel Boxer had been dismissed the service. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: Hear, hear!] Having been in the House at the time himself, he thought the right hon. Baronet must have made a slip of the tongue; but the word "dismissal" was repeated in the right hon. Baronet's Notice of Motion for the production of the Papers on the subject. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would distinctly state whether Colonel Boxer was dismissed or not. For himself, he maintained that he was not, and every line of the Papers showed that he was not. The distinction was not unimportant. When a man held views of his own lights that were inconsistent with those of his superiors, he was called on to yield or to resign, and, rather than yield in his views, he might choose to resign. In the Army a man was given the option of either doing a certain thing or of resigning. He might choose to resign, and his resignation might be accepted. That was one case. Another case was, that where an officer was given no option and was called upon to resign. That was compulsory resignation. An officer was ordered to sell out without any option; that was going yet a step further. Again, an officer was dismissed the service; that was still a further and a very different step. And it was the last of these distinctions that the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) applied to the present case. Well, Colonel Boxer—a man of energy, talent, and inventive genius, who had long faithfully discharged his duty—had left the public service without any reward except the opinion expressed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) upon his services. The War Office had, indeed, previously increased his salary by £300 a year for other inventions, and as he still had 2073 three years to serve lie had foregone £900 by resigning his office. It was important for the future that it should be distinctly known whether there was or was not a rule of the service against an officer patenting any invention he might make, and they ought to be clearly told what were the position and the duty of an officer in respect to his inventions. The opinion which had been expressed on that point by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich was that an officer in the position of Colonel Boxer was not bound to produce inventions for the benefit of the public. To his (Mr O'Reilly's) idea there was a broad distinction to be drawn between an invention and an improvement in a manufacture. An intelligent officer at the head of a manufacturing department might make improvements, and for such improvements he would have a claim, not as an inventor, but as a skilful and diligent officer; but if he made distinct inventions, beyond the scope of his manufacture, he was decidedly entitled to additional remuneration from the public. Could it be said that when the Government employed an officer they bought his whole brains? He would put the thing in the concrete. Sir William Armstrong had been employed to direct the manufacture of the old ordnance. While so employed, if he had invented the coil principle, would such an invention have been considered part of his duty? Colonel Palliser had been employed in connection with the manufacture of cast-iron projectiles. Had he invented the chilled shot while he was so employed would that have been a part of his duty? Colonel Boxer had made several distinct inventions of great value. The first and greatest invention was the total change in the lubricator and in the ammunition, which redeemed the Enfield rifle from the charge of being worse than useless in India, and had made it an effectual arm up to this day; the second was the change in the fuses; then there was the improvement in shrapnel shells, replacing of the segment shell, at first used in the Armstrong ordnance; and lastly, there were the improvements in the life-saving rockets. All these were valuable inventions, of which the public had received the benefit, and the only reward of Colonel Boxer was barren praise from one Secretary of State and enforced retirement from the public ser- 2074 vice, owing to unfounded charges having been made against him of having unjustly used his inventions for his own advantage, and because he had a mistaken idea of his duty with regard to the answering of questions. It was under these circumstances he (Mr. O'Reilly) now begged to move for a Select Committee to inquire into and report on all the circumstances which led to that result. He asked for an inquiry in order that the question might be set at rest whether Colonel Boxer had done anything unworthy of his position, or whether, having long and faithfully served the public, and given it the benefit of his inventive genius, he was not entitled, not merely to reward, but to substantial emolument
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on all the circumstances which led to the resignation of Colonel Boxer of the office he held in the Royal Laboratory,"—(Mr. O'Reilly,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he made no complaint of the manner in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Mr. O'Reilly) had brought this subject forward. On the contrary, he willingly admitted that the hon. and gallant Member had made the best of what he was sorry to say was, in his opinion, a very bad case. But the hon. and gallant Member throughout his speech had fallen into one error from which he had not for a moment deviated. He had spoken again and again of the patents known to have been held by Colonel Boxer; but he had never said a word about the royalties received by Colonel Boxer from those to whom he had sold the patents, and which he received on a private understanding which was entirely incompatible with his duty as a servant of the Crown. He would not follow the hon. and gallant Member through the early part of his speech, in which he referred to the valuable inventions of Colonel Boxer, and the benefit the country derived from those inven- 2075 tions. He fully admitted, and no one could fairly deny, that Colonel Boxer had made many valuable inventions, and that the country had derived great advantage from them. Nor would he enter into that part of the hon. and gallant Member's speech in which he alluded to his refusal to recommend a grant of public money to Colonel Boxer in consideration of those inventions. That was not the question on which the House was now asked for its opinion. His reason for the refusal was on the Table of the House. He had nothing to recall. He continued to think he was right in the course he had adopted; and as the Papers on this subject were in the hands of Members, he would not allude to it further. His object now was to make a short statement in answer to the imputations of Colonel Boxer, which involved a charge that would be discreditable to him as a servant of the Crown. Among other inventions of Colonel Boxer was a cartridge which went by his name for breech-loading ammunition. He took out a patent for it, and sold it to the manufacturing house of Eley Brothers. Mr. Daw was a rival manufacturer; and in a letter written to his right hon. Friend opposite (the Secretary of State for War), in September last, he used these words—Now, Sir, I have a proposition to make, but I most respectfully protest against Colonel Boxer's opinion being called for upon it, inasmuch as it is well known that Colonel Boxer is an interested person in the central-fire cartridges that bear his name, and which are now adopted in Her Majesty's service, millions of which have been manufactured for Government, and for which a royalty has been paid to that officer.On receiving the letter containing that statement, his right hon. Friend took what he thought was the only proper course. He directed a letter to be written to Colonel Boxer, in which this sentence from Mr. Daw's letter was quoted to him, and he was asked for an explanation. Colonel Boxer refused to make any statement. He said he considered the whole question of these patents to be entirely of a private nature; and further, that he was justified in what he had done by a letter which he had received from him (Sir John Pakington) in January, 1868, and which contained this statement—While the other inventions you have enumerated—viz., your fuzes, breech-loading ammunition, and Shrapnel shell for rifled ordnance, 2076 having been patented by you, you must, he considers, look for reward from the royalties or other remuneration you may receive as a patentee from private manufacturers.In the first place, he denied that he ever gave those instructions to Colonel Boxer; and, secondly, he denied that, if he ever had given those instructions, they would have afforded Colonel Boxer the slightest justification for the course he had adopted with regard to his inventions. He at once raised those two issues. After some correspondence his right hon. Friend opposite very properly called on Colonel Boxer to resign his appointment. He did resign it, and in the very same letter in which he resigned he distinctly confessed that he had done what Mr. Daw charged him with doing. In that letter he gave what he called his explanation, of which these statements were a portion—2nd. That when these patents were assigned and became the property of Messrs. Eley Brothers, a private agreement was entered into between myself and that firm, which gave me a pecuniary interest in the working of the patents.3rd. That the private agreement which gives me a pecuniary interest in my patents for cartridges is still in force.He must now ask the attention of the House to the facts as they related to himself. In July, 1866, shortly after the late Government took Office, and when General Peel was Secretary of State for War, it was found that the War Office required cartridges of the kind which Colonel Boxer had invented, and Colonel Boxer recommended to General Peel that Messrs. Eley should be applied to for them. An application was made to them for 20,000,000 cartridges, which were supplied. In the spring of 1867, he (Sir John Pakington) succeeded to the office of Secretary of State for War, and very soon afterwards, early in May, it was found that a further supply of those cartridges was required. He called for tenders. Four were sent in; but Colonel Boxer, who was employed to inspect all such goods when they were sent in, and on whose advice the Secretary of State for War always acted, stated that of the four persons who tendered two could not be trusted, and he recommended that the Messrs. Eley and Mr. Ludlow should be employed.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, he believed that one tender, that of Messrs. Kynoch and Co., was rejected as being inadequate, 2077 and another because it was higher in price than the other two.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he spoke from Colonel Boxer's words which were before him. They were these—Messrs. Eley Brothers and Mr. Ludlow are the only firms which have the necessary means and experience to make these cartridge cases.He hoped the hon. Member was satisfied. [Mr. O'REILLY said, he was.] In consequence of that recommendation, Colonel Boxer was intrusted to employ those parties and he did so, but in what proportions? He employed Messrs. Eley to make 15,000,000 more cartridges; but for some reason, which he (Sir John Pakington) did not know, Mr. Ludlow received an order for only 4,000,000. The third large transaction was in September, 1867, when, on the recommendation of Colonel Boxer, and without competition, Messrs. Eley were employed to make 2,500,000 more cartridges, so that between July, 1866, and September, 1867, that firm was, on the recommendation of Colonel Boxer, employed to make 37,500,000 cartridges, which cost the country upwards of £75,000. They had now had the confession of Colonel Boxer that he had a pecuniary interest in that large amount of money, though to what extent he (Sir John Pakington) did not know, and probably never should, though it was clear that Colonel Boxer must have made a very large sum of money by his employment of Messrs. Eley, with whom he had a secret understanding, which was not known either to General Peel, to himself (Sir John Pakington), or to his right hon. Friend opposite (the Secretary of State for War). The hon. and gallant Member had stated that when General Peel ordered the 20,000,000 of cartridges the patents had not been assigned to Messrs. Eley. That was quite true; but he ventured to refer the House to Colonel Boxer's confession. In his letter of the 22nd of November, resigning his office, Colonel Boxer made this explanation—An absolute assignment of my patents for cartridges was made to Messrs. Eley Brothers, with the sole purpose of enabling that firm (which had by previous agreement the exclusive licence from me) to work the patents.So that, although it was clear that, at the time General Peel gave the order, the patents had not been sold to Messrs. Eley, there could not be much doubt in any dispassionate mind that there was 2078 then, as afterwards, a pecuniary arrangement between Colonel Boxer and the firm. April, 1867, was the date at which the patents were sold to Messrs. Eley, and in the beginning of May of that year he (Sir John Pakington) received a letter from Mr. Daw, who said—An order for 1,000 cartridges, value £2 15s., apparently for experimental purposes only, has been given to me, whilst it would now appear, from the refusal of the Director of Contracts to furnish information, that a contract of a private nature has been executed with Colonel Boxer's agents to supply some millions of cartridges or cases.In May, 1867, therefore, he (Sir John Pakington) found himself in exactly the same position as that in which his right hon. Friend was placed last autumn, and he then took precisely the same course as that which had been adopted by his right hon. Friend. He immediately ordered that Colonel Boxer should be asked whether the charge made against him was true, that he had a money interest in the orders which had been given; because neither General Peel nor he had suspected that any underhand arrangement existed. He, therefore, addressed the following letter to Colonel Boxer:—Will you be good enough to say whether Messrs. Eley and Co. have purchased your interest in your patent for small arm cartridges, or whether you receive any royalty or other consideration from them?He begged the attention of the House to this, which was the most painful part of the matter—a part so painful that he could not help expressing some surprise that the hon. and gallant Member had thought it to the interest of Colonel Boxer to compel him (Sir John Pakington) to make this statement. What was the answer he received? It was in these words—May 23, 1867.Director of Ordnance,—An absolute assignment of my patents for cartridges has been made to Messrs. Eley Brothers. These patents are, therefore, the property of this firm. The assignment was made upon the distinct understanding that it was not to interfere with the manufacture or use of my cartridges by the English Government.He was dealing with a Colonel of the Royal Artillery, with one who was classed as an officer and a gentleman, who held a high position in a Government Department; and he could not suppose it possible that such a man would attempt to practise upon him what he could only describe as a gross 2079 deception—for if it was not the suggestio falsi it was the suppressio veri. He was not ashamed to state to the House that he was deceived. Considering the man with whom he was dealing he accepted the statement and believed it; and he could not help thinking that every Gentleman on either side of the House would agree with him, that if, after having received such an answer, he had written to Colonel Boxer and said—"You have not given a specific reply to my question—Do you receive a royalty, or any other consideration?" he should have been offering to that officer a decided insult. That was the view he took, and he asked the House whether they could have believed it possible, after such a reply, that Colonel Boxer had made a private agreement, which was in force and gave him a direct pecuniary interest in the working of the patent? He accepted, and he could not do otherwise than accept, the assurance of an officer of the Royal Artillery that he had absolutely assigned his patents to the Messrs. Eley; but there was this unpleasant circumstance, that it was admitted the patent had been sold for a considerable sum of money to a firm which was then supplying the Government with the materiel of war; and he confessed he had fear whether there was not danger of public scandal, and whether there was not considerable public inconvenience in allowing such a relation to exist between an officer in the confidence of the Government and a manufacturing firm. Some further correspondence consequently took place, and on the 17th of August he wrote the letter to which the hon. and gallant Member had referred, and to which he must beg leave to refer again. That letter was founded upon dissatisfaction with the nature of the relation which, upon Colonel Boxer's admission, still existed between him and the Messrs. Eley; and there were two sentences in the letter he wished to read. The first was—The circumstance of the possession of a patent by a Government officer, for articles with which he is specially concerned, has been the subject of unfavourable comment in Parliament and elsewhere; and the assignment of a patent taken out by an officer in the very responsible position which you hold, to a firm which does, or may possible at any future period, hold a contract for the supply of the articles, or any parts of them, specified in such patent, cannot fail to be a source of embarrass 2080 ment, and may lead to imputations highly injurious to the public service.The last paragraph of the letter was as follows:—In conclusion, I am desired to inform you that Sir John Pakington much regrets your proceedings in this matter, and to express his desire that you shall not for the future undertake any personal agreement with Government contractors or others with whom you may possibly be brought into communication in your official capacity.He intended this to be a distinct prohibition of any such relation as that which, without his knowledge, existed between Colonel Boxer and the Messrs. Eley. The hon. and gallant Member said there was no concealment. Why, there was the most profound concealment, the most absolute secresy from beginning to end of this somewhat scandalous transaction. This passage of the letter, which he intended to be, and which, in his opinion, was an absolute prohibition against this transaction, had been spoken of by the hon. and gallant Member as a direction for the future and a recognition of the past. Recognition of the past! What was the past? It consisted of Colonel Boxer having, from time to time, recommended this house for these large transactions, and then giving him an assurance upon which, as between gentlemen, he relied implicitly, that there was no improper communication between Colonel Boxer and the firm. After writing this letter, which he thought was conclusive, he spared no means to place the matter upon a proper footing; for, notwithstanding the assurance he had received, and the letter to which he had just adverted, he thought it right and prudent to direct inquiries to be made at the Patent Office whether there was any record of the assignment to the Messrs. Eley. It was found there was a statement showing that £2,000 had been paid for the patent; but there was not a single word to be found in the Patent Office with regard to any reservation of royalty or any other consideration. This reference to the Patent Office therefore strengthened his erroneous impression that he knew the whole truth. He confessed, nevertheless, that he thought the relation between the parties of so doubtful a complexion that he hesitated very much at the time whether he ought to permit Colonel Boxer to continue in the office he then held; and he had no hesitation in saying if he had been aware then of that which he knew now he 2081 should have held it to be his duty to dismiss Colonel Boxer; and, further, he very much doubted whether he should not also have thought it his duty to bring the whole subject under the consideration of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, with a view to ascertaining whether the conduct of Colonel Boxer was consistent with his position as a Colonel in the Army. It was with feelings of doubt he permitted Colonel Boxer to remain in the office he held. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite had naturally referred, as Colonel Boxer had done over and over again, to a passage in a letter of his of January, 1868, as an alleged justification of the course Colonel Boxer took; and he begged the attention of the House to the circumstances connected with that letter. In the year 1867, Colonel Boxer applied to him to recommend Parliament to make him a large grant of money in consideration of his valuable invention. At that time he knew nothing against Colonel Boxer, was fully aware of the value of the invention, and he seriously considered whether Colonel Boxer was not entitled to a special reward in the shape of a Parliamentary Grant; but after giving the matter the most deliberate attention, in conjunction with his colleagues of the War Office, he determined that Colonel Boxer was not entitled to be recommended for a special reward in money. The letter of January, 1868, was written to inform Colonel Boxer of this decision not to recommend him for a special reward, and it was, therefore, a letter to which he attached considerable importance. In accordance with his custom in such cases he drew up the Minute upon which the letter was to be founded, and a copy of that Minute, in his own handwriting, might now be found in the War Office, and might be referred to by anyone to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State would allow it to be shown. In that Minute there was not a word relating to royalty or other remuneration, to patentee or private manufacturer; in short, there was in the Minute no portion of the passage upon which Colonel Boxer relied for his defence. That being so, it was obvious that the gentleman in the War Office who was intrusted with the writing of the letter must have introduced the words named without proper authority. He 2082 did not wish to speak in anger or asperity of the gentleman by whom the mistake was made; he was sure it was done without any bad intention; and he should be ungrateful if he were not to do the most ample justice to the zealous assistance which he always received from the War Office Staff. But the words inserted in the letter were never authorized by himself; and he hoped the reference to the Minute would convince the House that he did not give any such instructions. On the other hand, he was equally bound in candour to admit that Colonel Boxer received the letter with these words in it; that Colonel Boxer could have no knowledge that they were not duly authorized, and that he was, therefore, fully entitled to any benefit he could derive from the fact that the letter bore these words on the face of it. He now came to the second question—what were those words? Did they justify Colonel Boxer in receiving the royalty? He contended that they did not, and any Gentleman would see they did not who would consent to draw a distinction between a Government contractor and a private manufacturer. No doubt, Colonel Boxer, with a patent in his possession, was entitled to go to the private trade; there was nothing to prevent his deriving whatever advantage he could from it in that way. But, on the 17th of August, he had written to Colonel Boxer—You shall not for the future undertake any personal agreement with Government contractors or others with whom you may possibly be brought into communication in your official capacity.And, on the 4th of January, he wrote to Colonel Boxer—You must, he considers, look for reward from the royalties or other remuneration, you may receive as patentee from private manufacturers.Bearing in mind the distinction between Government contractors and private manufacturers, these sentences removed every pretext from Colonel Boxer for supposing that he was authorized to do what he did. What was Colonel Boxer's own view at the time? In answer to that very letter, Colonel Boxer said—If, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, it was objectionable for an officer in my position to take out a patent, or if, in the event of my doing so, it was intended to refuse me a pecuniary reward, I ought, in common fairness, to have been at once informed accordingly; for, in the case of war matêriel, which is not used except in the Naval and Military Services, the advantage likely to be derived from the private trade is very small, 2083 as compared with what I had a right to expect from the Government.It was, therefore, clear that Colonel Boxer drew the distinction that from the nature of the articles much profit was not to be derived from the private trade. Colonel Boxer also referred to the instructions of Earl De Grey in 1863, that the fuses "are to be made for the public service free from all claim to royalty or patent-right." However, on his own showing, Colonel Boxer was receiving a royalty after Earl De Grey's prohibition, and after his (Sir John Pakington's) prohibition in May, 1867, and his strong letter in August following. Could he have been supposed by a man of the intelligence of Colonel Boxer to have been seriously desiring him to do in January, 1868 that which he had prohibited him from doing in the previous August? Such a supposition must appear to anyone considering the whole case perfectly ridiculous. He could only imagine that Colonel Boxer, having been found out, resorted to that supposed passage as the readiest excuse which he could find. It appeared from the following passage, in the last letter written by Sir Henry Storks to Colonel Boxer, that his right hon. Friend, now at the head of the War Department, took the same view of the case as he had done:—It did not appear to Mr. Cardwell that this letter, taken in connection with the previous correspondence, warranted him or his predecessor in supposing that Mr. Daw's statement as to your receiving payment on the supplies furnished to this department was correct. Indeed, his expectation, in communicating this statement to you, was that you would have been able to take the opportunity of contradicting it.Under these circumstances, he earnestly hoped that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would come to the conclusion that there was nothing in his conduct inconsistent with his duty to the Crown, or his character as a minister.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he was glad that the subject had been brought before the House, for it was one on which a distinct and emphatic opinion should be pronounced by the House, and no Ministers would be able to economize the expenditure of the country unless the conduct of the War Department in this instance received a decided approval. He spoke as a commercial man, and, according to his view, the letters commencing the correspondence, and which had not been read, made out a 2084 far stronger case even than that which had been presented by the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington). Colonel Boxer's letter to the Director of Ordnance, dated the 21st of July, 1866, was clearly intended to show that he resigned absolutely his entire right to the patents, without reservation of royalty or any ulterior consideration. In that letter Colonel Boxer stated—As far as I can judge at present we should be quite unable to supply ammunition for the extra 100,000 arms, as we have as yet little experience of the manufacture of the description of cartridge required. I will take immediate steps to ascertain whether a supply of ammunition can be obtained from the trade.Of course "from the trade" meant open competition; but on the 27th of July Colonel Boxer recommended that the offer of Messrs. Eley and Co. to supply 20,000,000 cases should be accepted, as it was fair and reasonable. Was not the recommendation of Eley and Co. really the recommendation of Eley, Boxer, and Co.? [Mr. O'REILLY: No!] Well, if Colonel Boxer was not a partner in the firm when the correspondence began, but afterwards became a sleeping partner, and carried on the same transaction, then the case was stronger. What would be thought if a person connected with the clothing department of the War Office became a sleeping partner in a Leeds establishment, and secretly took a profit on the goods supplied by that establishment to the War Department? Colonel Boxer seemed to have entertained the idea that he was entitled to extra remuneration; but it must be remembered that he had the whole use of the Laboratory, and all the advantages for information which his office afforded him. He believed that the conduct both of the late and of the present Secretary of State for War was just what it ought to have been under the circumstances.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, regarding the present Motion in the light of an attack on the Department over which my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington) presided, and over which I now have the honour to preside, I shall certainly offer it an uncompromising opposition; for I consider that our conduct has not been such as to be a fit subject for impeachment or inquiry, and I do not think that the House will fail to give its support to those who have endeavoured to discharge their duty to the 2085 public in a most efficient manner. With regard to myself, the part I took in the matter was a small one. As soon as I received the letter written to me by Mr. Daw—which called my attention to the fact—I should like to quote his own words—he said—It is well known that Colonel Boxer is an interested person in the central fire cartridges that bear his name, and which are now adopted in Her Majesty's service, millions of which have been manufactured for Government, and for which a royalty has been paid to that officer.As soon as that knowledge came to me, I felt there was but one course for me to pursue, and that course was to call on the gallant officer to state if it was the case, and to have his explanation upon it. The gallant officer elected to say—I beg most respectfully to express my objection to answer any questions which arise out of statements made by Mr. Daw upon the subject of my patents, which I regard, and shall always regard, as a private matter, and which is indeed distinctly admitted to be so by the Secretary of State for War in War Office Letter dated January 4, 1868.And he then quotes the letter my right hon. Friend has referred to as follows:—While the other inventions you have enumerated—viz., your fuzes, breech-loading rifle ammunition, and Shrapnel shell for rifle ordnance—having been patented by you, you must, he considers, look for reward from the royalties or other remuneration you may receive as a patentee from private manufacturers.Now, my right hon. Friend appeals to me to confirm the statement he made that these expressions were not contained in the memorandum as written by him at the War Office, and undoubtedly that is the case. I had no alternative, it appeared to me, but, in the first place, to insist on an answer; and, secondly, to lay down the principle I did lay down and adhere to it. I therefore consider that no charge is brought against the conduct of the Department so far as I am concerned, for my hon. Friend who brought forward the Motion admitted that, in point of discipline, I was called upon to require an answer, and that, in point of principle, the principle I laid down was the only one on which the public service can possibly be conducted. My right hon. Friend also appealed to me on another point, and that is whether I understood that he acted under the same impression as myself. Now, certainly, as I stated in my letter on Page 25, I gave the most careful attention to the whole of the 2086 correspondence, and I will acknowledge, with perfect frankness, that I was a good deal perplexed by the passage which I have just quoted about the royalties. It was not so clear to me as my right hon. Friend thinks it is clear what the meaning of that passage was. I thought it a perplexing passage; but I am bound to repeat, in the plainest terms, what I stated in my letter—that I had no doubt the impression of my predecessor in Office was the same as my own—namely, that the assignment of the patent—I believe in April, 1867, was made for a sum down, and did not involve the continuance of any royalties or subsisting engagements between the parties. And that is very important, because, as I stated also, the person who fills the office of Superintendent of the Royal Laboratory is one to whom the Secretary of State has a right to be able to have recourse in advising with regard to the patterns of articles manufactured in the Laboratory. My hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion thinks that is no part of his duty; but it is his duty to be an independent officer, capable of giving important and valuable advice to his superiors and the Secretary of State on that subject. It is his duty to report upon contracts and inspect supplies received from contractors; and I do hold that he should be free from any pecuniary interest connected therewith. I have not the least doubt that my right hon. Friend believed that the payment of the sum of money for the patent was a payment for past transactions, and that there were no continuing royalties. I did not, however, feel that the correspondence was so clear as I should wish it to have been. What I have to say is this—I feel no doubt as to the course I ought to pursue. It appears not the slightest blame rests on my right hon. Friend for the course he pursued. Therefore, speaking in the interest of the War Office, I shall not be prepared to consent to a Committee involving in the slightest degree any imputation on my predecessor any more than upon myself; but with regard to the case as it stands on the debate, I must appeal to my hon. Friend who made the Motion, and in whose hands is the honour of Colonel Boxer, to state to the House what is the view he now takes with regard to the appointment of a Committee on the subject.
§ MR. W. H. GREGORY
said, he wished, before the debate closed, to call attention to one point which had not been cleared up by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and which appeared to be one of the most extraordinary circumstances which had come under the notice of the House for a considerable time. He alluded to the precis of the letter which the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) had ordered to be written on the 4th of January, 1868. The right hon. Baronet said that he carefully prepared the memorandum; and what he (Mr. W. H. Gregory) wished to know was, whether the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had made an inquiry as to how the passage about royalties, which the right hon. Gentleman declared was never written by him, had crept into the letter? This was a most important point. It was the cardinal point on which Colonel Boxer's case turned, and he was not surprised, therefore, at the stress which the Mover had put on it. The interpolated passage was directly contradictory to the whole spirit of the memorandum, and he thought they should have some explanation from his right hon. Friend as to whether he had made inquiries how the passage had been interpolated. It was a distinct admission of a principle of the most dangerous kind. If his right hon. Friend had not made inquiries, he ought still to do so, and let the House have further explanation on the subject.
§ MAJOR ANSON
said, he would call attention to the long letter, dated January 11, 1868, which Colonel Boxer had written to the War Office relative to his patents, the complaints he made against the War Office, and the directions he had received from that office with regard to his patent rights and inventions. He said—I am informed by your letter that I 'must look for reward from the royalties or other remuneration I may receive as a patentee from private manufacturers.' As regards this point, I beg to draw the especial attention of the Secretary of State to the instructions I have received from the War Office relative to this matter.He went on to call attention to the War Office Letters of the 20th November, 1863, and August 17,1867, and he wound up by saying—These instructions practically amount to this—that I am to make no arrangements at all with the private manufacturers to work my patents. 2088 But I am now told that I must look for reward from the royalties or other remunerations I may receive as a patentee from private manufacturers.In a letter, dated March 5, 1868, the Director General of Ordnance acknowledged the receipt of this letter, and stated that he had laid it before the Secretary of State. Therefore, the right hon. Baronet having these words before him, and making no remark upon them, committed himself to the statement. He was sorry his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War declined to sanction the appointment of this Committee, for the whole manufacturing department was in an unsatisfactory state, as he had shown two years ago. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had taken a very different line that evening from what he did three years ago, when he was endeavouring to impress on the right hon. Baronet that the practice of giving large rewards to the heads of Departments was as objectionable as allowing them to take out patents. At that time the Secretary of State for War was most indignant with him for making serious charges against high officials, and insisted that he should move in the House of Commons for a Select Committee, before whom these charges would be investigated. The right hon. Baronet would not investigate these charges himself in the War Office, but insisted that a Committee should be moved for; and when this was done, did not rest until he had secured the presence upon the Committee of one of the ablest lawyers in the House to oppose the charges when brought forward. This, therefore, was a precedent for referring the matter now under discussion to a Committee of the House of Commons. As far as Colonel Boxer was concerned, he had nothing to say in his defence. Nobody had more strongly denounced than he himself had done the system of patents; but he thought the War Office at least as much to blame as Colonel Boxer, for, in one way or other, they knew of the existence of those patents, recognized the rights of persons in his position to take out patents, and therefore the question was one of degree. It would certainly be for the good of the service, as well as for the satisfaction of the public, that the matter, having been raised, should now be thoroughly investigated; accordingly, he hoped his hon. 2089 and gallant Friend (Mr. O'Reilly) would press his Motion to a Division.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, he adhered to the sense in which he had originally proposed his Motion; he thought the whole subject well worthy of inquiry.
said, his hon. and gallant Friend was the best interpreter of his own Motion; but if his object was to make of it a foundation for pursuing an inquiry generally into the principles upon which the War Office had acted and was acting, the Government could not consent to any such proposal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.