HC Deb 06 July 1877 vol 235 cc891-913

, in rising to call attention to the course of study pursued at the Naval University at Greenwich, said, that the education of naval officers, although a less sensational topic than other controversies connected with the Navy, was a question of the utmost importance. Some years ago he had invited the attention of the House to the Report of the Committee on the higher education of naval officers, and he had never ceased to watch the Naval University at Greenwich with the deepest interest. While admitting that the resources of that University had in the main been well applied, the recent Report of the Committee, appointed by the Admiralty to inquire into the organization of the College, suggested some doubts as to whether the studies of half-pay officers, who were voluntary students, had been in all cases judiciously chosen. There was reason to apprehend that the Naval University had failed to remove one most serious defect in naval education. He referred to that essentially important subject for naval officers, a knowledge of foreign languages. There was a twofold object in the establishment of the College—first, to increase the technical knowledge and skill of officers; and, secondly, to cultivate their general intelligence. Such being the objects, the question was whether there was not some reason to apprehend, from the Report of the Committee, that the study of mathematics had been too rigorously insisted upon. In the words of the Committee of Inquiry—"The back-bone of the instruction at the Naval College consists of mathematics." The Committee did not depreciate the importance of mathematics as the foundation of many branches of study essential to a naval officer, but they were of opinion that only a limited knowledge was necessary for the effective performance of the technical duties of a seaman, and for the practical application of those branches of physics and applied mechanics, which most immediately concerned his profession. Few books could be more useful to a naval officer than Arnott's Physics, and it was a work which could be mastered without mathematics. To the scientific artillerist and shipbuilder, or to understand the theory as distinguished from the practice of navigation, mathematics were essential, but they would do nothing to supply quickness of eye to the pilot, or fertility of resource to the seaman. He would like to refer to some remarks on this subject made by Professor Faraday in giving evidence before the Public Schools Commission— I should like," he said, "a profound scholar to indicate to me what he understands by the training of the mind in a literary sense, including mathematics? What does the mind learn by that training? Does it learn that which enables a man to give a reason in natural things for an effect which happens from certain causes, or why in any emergency or event he does or should do this, that, or the other? It does not suggest the least thing in these matters. He need not pursue the subject further. No doubt mathematics were of special value to naval officers and would form the groundwork of any complete course of naval education; but in the case of half-pay officers, the time at their disposal at Greenwich was not sufficient for a complete course of training, and if their limited time were too largely occupied with mathematics, there would be reason to fear that subjects of more practical importance would be neglected. The students at the College were not idle. Captain Curme informed the Committee that he studied 10 hours a-day. Yet, notwithstanding their assiduity, the officers had no time at their disposal for many valuable subjects. One lieutenant stated in evidence that— The lectures on physics were so few that he could not possibly have got his first-class certificate in them, or in winds and currents, if he had not availed himself of private tuition. For the last month there was an extra lecture on steam, from four to five o'clock, twice a-week. If he had had the same in physics it would have made a great deal of difference. Moreover, on winds and currents, there was no lecture during the last two months he was there. Experimental physics, practical mechanics, modern languages, and International Law were recommended by the Committee as alternative subjects of equal value with the higher mathematics. In making this recommendation the Committee had said— We wish to guard ourselves against approving a course of study which should he chosen simply because it was easier. Whatever the subject selected by the candidate, they recommended that the standard of examination should be such as implied in the student both diligence and aptitude. The reasons why so much importance—he might say undue importance—was given to the mathematical studies of the senior officers at Greenwich were not far to seek. Prior to the establishment of the Naval College, mathematics was the only subject, not strictly of a professional character, which was systematically taught in the Navy. The consequence was that the majority of the superior officers, who distinguished themselves by their scholastic attainments, were mathematicians, and they naturally attached special value to the subject in which they were themselves most proficient. There was a tendency generally, in educational matters, to get into a groove. This tendency was specially pointed out in the Report of the Public Schools Commission. As they justly observed, a master could only teach those branches of knowledge in which he had himself been instructed; and it was only natural that he should attach the highest importance to those studies, in which he was himself proficient. Following the opinion of the recent Greenwich Committee, he would urge that the course of study for commanders and captains should be varied, and that they should be allowed to make their own choice of studies from among the various subjects which were recognized at the College. They should be examined periodically, and as a further guarantee for their diligence and discipline they should be placed on full pay so long as they were permitted to reside at the College. The Committee on higher education were of opinion that the study of French was of particular importance, and they further recommended that opportunities should be afforded for learning German. The attention of the Committee had been specially directed to this subject by several most competent witnesses. They examined Colonel Williams, who had been for five years Instructor in Fortification at the Royal Naval College, and who told them that ignorance of French and German was the thing from which our naval service suffered more than anything else. Commander Wharton, who had obtained the Beaufort testimonial, went so far to say that French was a far more useful subject for the average naval officer to study than mechanics. Passing to the evidence collected by the recent Committee on the Naval College, he might refer to the evidence of Captain Curme, an officer who had passed successfully through a course at Greenwich, and who expressed himself as follows:— There is no one thing in which most of us feel our deficiency more than in the fact that so few of us are linguists. I am sorry to say that frequently a foreign officer comes on board one of our ships and it is rare to find anybody that can talk to him. If he were allowed to refer to information obtained from private sources, the House would be surprised to know how deficient naval officers were in the knowledge of languages. In time of war the knowledge of languages was, as a matter of course, still more essential. The advantages of a knowledge of languages to a naval officer in a high command were never more conspicuously illustrated than in the operations of the combined fleets off Carthagena. The consultations with the Admirals in command of the combined squadron, and the negotiations with the leaders of the Intransigentes required the constant use of many languages. The success achieved by Sir Hastings Yelverton in sustaining the honour and authority of England, without resorting to open hostilities, was due not only to the tact, which he displayed, but to his rare facilities for carrying on a personal intercourse in many languages. Was it not reasonable to infer that many little wars might have been prevented by a timely explanation in the language understood by the enemy? In short, the study of languages was obviously so essential to the efficiency of the Navy that the sole question was as to how it could be most effectually encouraged. The only direct step which had hitherto been taken by the Admiralty had been to issue a Circular, in July, 1874, inviting candidates to offer themselves for examination in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese. The names of successful candidates were to be noted for employment in flag and senior officer's ships, as Interpreters of the First or Second Class. When so appointed, those of the First Class were to receive an allowance of 2s. 6d. a-day, and those of the Second Class an allowance of 1s. 6d., in addition to their pay. A reference to the Navy List showed that only three commanders and 10 lieutenants had passed the examination. This was a number obviously too small for the requirements of the Navy, and the inference might reasonably be drawn that further inducements were necessary. Admiral Shadwell's Committee had reported that it would be advantageous to the public service if, under suitable regulations, officers could be permitted to visit foreign countries for the purpose of studying the languages. They were to be placed on full pay and allowed harbour-service time if on their return they could pass the prescribed examination. As a further inducement to officers to qualify as interpreters, the Committee recommended that all officers who had successfully passed the required examinations should receive the extra allowance whenever they were placed on full pay. The Committee concluded their recommendations on the subject of foreign languages with a reference to the suggestions of Admiral Milne, who advised that on foreign stations, when in harbour, captains should be directed to obtain the services of French and drawing masters; and that some pecuniary aid should be given by the Admiralty to young officers in difficulty to pay such masters. He (Mr. Brassey) most earnestly recommended to the pre- sent Admiralty the adoption of these suggestions. The English Navy was behind the Navies of all the other European Powers, except, perhaps, the French, in this most valuable attainment; and while the French were improving very much in this respect, and specially in their knowledge of English, he was assured that among the younger officers of our own Service there was even less disposition than formerly existed to apply themselves to this study. In the opinion of the responsible authorities at Greenwich, it was impossible to impart the requisite knowledge at the Naval University. It was in foreign countries that it could be most effectually acquired. Every naval officer ought to spend a portion of his half-pay abroad, until he had mastered at least one foreign language thoroughly. The strongest recommendations on this behalf had been made by the Committee on Naval Education, and by individual officers of the highest distinction. He ventured, therefore, to hope that the Admiralty would no longer hesitate to adopt the remedial measures required to supply the most serious educational deficiency of our Naval Service. In urging the subject of the revision of the course of study at Greenwich on the attention of the Admiralty, he wished to guard himself against being misunderstood. He was not an opponent, but, on the contrary, an advocate of a special mathematical training for the Navy. His remarks applied exclusively to the case of senior officers of the rank of captain or commander, who went to Greenwich for short periods as voluntary students, and who, he ventured to maintain, should be allowed a reasonable discretion in the choice of any branches of study, recognized and taught at the College, which they might desire to follow.


rose to express his dissent from the observations of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) on the study of mathematics, though he was quite at one with his hon. Friend as to the importance of a knowledge of modern languages. The hon. Gentleman had distinctly stated that only a limited knowledge of mathematics was necessary. He (Mr. Reed) was sorry to see that the study of that branch of science was openly discouraged in that House.


said, the remarks to which reference was made were quoted from the Report of the Greenwich Committee.


said, that it was chiefly on account of that Report that he had risen to address the House. He advised the Admiralty to receive with great care the Report of that Committee. The connection which he himself had had with the Public Service had afforded him opportunities of observing, first, the great advantage enjoyed by naval officers who possessed a competent knowledge of mathematics; and, next, the great disadvantage which naval officers laboured under who had not that knowledge. It was not too much to say that throughout the whole Naval Service there was a want of extensive acquaintance with mathematics and nautical science, and that it suffered in consequence. For instance, the movements of ships under the helm were not at all thoroughly understood by many naval officers from want of mathematical knowledge. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the late Professor Faraday in support of his view. But it unfortunately happened that men generally undervalued that with which they were least acquainted, and those persons who were conversant with the works of Professor Faraday know that one of the greatest drawbacks to their value was Faraday's ignorance of mathematics, even in their elementary principles, and his inability to appreciate them. There were, no doubt, naval officers in every grade who were well acquainted with mathematics and with scientific principles; but they formed only a limited number, and we were entering upon a period when it was indispensable that naval officers should have mathematical knowledge at their fingers' ends. Every officer undertaking not only the command of a ship, but any responsible duties in connection with the ship, ought to be thoroughly acquainted with the mathematical principles on which the ship was regulated and in conformity with which he must handle her in times of danger. He was sorry to have to differ from the hon. Member who had rendered such good service to the Navy on different occasions; and he asked the Admiralty not lightly to yield to the pressure put upon them to discourage the study of mathematics. We recently had an example of the great necessity that existed for mathematical knowledge in naval matters. The Se- cretary of the Admiralty invited hon. Members the other day to go to see a model of the Inflexible. Hon. Members went to see a model of the Inflexible, but they saw no such thing; they saw a shell, but there was not in it a single element which would determine the question at issue as to the distribution of the weights. Any naval officer trained in mathematics must know that that model differed in almost every particular from the ship itself, and that it threw no light on the solemn question at issue as regarded her stability, and that when such a model was placed before him, his ignorance, and not his knowledge, was presumed upon. All he could say was that the thing was adjusted according to what the Admiralty thought right and proper to look at. No doubt persons unacquainted with mathematics would be unable to see in what that model failed. As a further illustration he might mention that the Inflexible and many other ships depended for the way in which they should be managed on the manner in which water was let into certain compartments to balance other compartments, and mathematical knowledge was essential as a basis for all such proceedings.


said, he agreed with the view of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) with regard to mathematics rather than that of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), who seemed to set an undue value on theoretical, as distinguished from practical knowledge in the officers of the Navy. The latter was possessed in a greater degree by the officers in the Merchant Service in consequence of the actual knowledge and experience they acquired while being at sea. He maintained that though there were many good sailors and engineers in the Navy, there were far too many who at the pains of much study had acquired some share of book learning, but who yet failed in a knowledge of that which was absolutely necessary to those whose success in the Merchant Service depended upon the safe navigation of their vessels.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) had stated that, in his opinion, there was too much study of mathematics at the Naval University, and too little study of modern languages and Inter- national Law. For his own part, he was more inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), that mathematics were really the foundation of Naval science, and that it was desirable that all Naval officers should have a competent knowledge of mathematics. There were only a limited number of hours in the day, and of days in the term, and it would be quite impossible within the time for many Naval officers to study modem languages with any effect. Many of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hastings, however, should receive attention; and if anything could be done to increase the time that could be devoted to the study of modern languages and International Law, he, individually, would be very much gratified. The hon. Gentleman had also recommended that the Naval officers with half-pay who attended the College should get a further inducement to pursue their studies by receiving full pay. Here, however, the financial objection arose. It was not without difficulty that they could make both ends meet, and he could hold out no hope that those officers should at present receive full pay. The matter, however, was deserving of attention, and he should endeavour to see whether further inducements of any kind could be held out with the view of increasing the number of officers who would qualify under the Admiralty Circular of 1874. Under it, only a few officers had qualified as interpreter; but he would be very glad to see whether something more could not be done to induce them to do so. The hon. Member for Pembroke had made a very grave imputation on the Constructive Department of the Admiralty, for his remarks meant that that department, in common with the Lords of the Admiralty, had exhibited a model of a ship which did not in the slightest degree represent it. Now, he had not the scientific reputation of the hon. Member; but he was speaking on the authority of the department, and he gave that statement of the hon. Gentleman the most distinct and unqualified contradiction.


asked the hon. Gentleman, whether he was prepared to state on his own responsibility that the model in question was a model of the Inflexible


said, most decidedly and emphatically it was. He had seen Mr. Barnaby, and asked him whether the model of the Inflexible represented the ship, first intact, and then in certain conditions, and Mr. Barnaby said it did. He had no reason to doubt that statement. The model had not been prepared for this special occasion. It had been prepared long ago for the Admiralty, and submitted to the Admiralty as a model of the ship. He thought the hon. Gentleman might trust to the honour of the Constructors' Department that they would not present as a model what was not 'a model of the ship. It was almost incredible that persons in their position, with their eyes open, should endeavour to mislead their masters, the Lords of the Admiralty, and that was what the hon. Member said they had done. He affirmed that the model was a model of the Inflexible as she floated in dock, and nothing else. Of course, she had not got her engines in, and they were not distributed as they would be. But that was represented by a weight put into the ship for the purpose of representing her engines. That weight was placed so as to stand where the centre of gravity would be. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda) would corroborate him. If the House believed the hon. Member for Pembroke, they must believe not only that the Constructor's Department, but that the Lords of the Admiralty, had set themselves to deceive the House. That was an accusation which was not true, and which never ought to have been made. The hon. Gentleman forced him to speak of his (Mr. Reed's) authority. He had the highest respect for the authority of the hon. Gentleman, but had the hon. Gentleman never made mistakes? Mistakes made by the hon. Gentleman had been pointed out again and again. The hon. Gentleman was no more infallible than any other Constructor; and when he (Mr. Egerton) was forced to contrast the authority of the hon. Gentleman with that of his own Department, he must say he preferred the authority of his own. He was sorry he had been forced prematurely into this discussion in the absence of Papers which would shortly be on the Table of the House, and to which nothing had been added to make out a case. He thanked the House for having given him an opportunity for standing up for his own Department.


said, the case was simply this—certain officials had made their own calculations, and the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Egerton) rose in his place with the view of influencing the minds of hon. Gentlemen as to the question at issue—


said, that the hon. Member was totally out of Order in the observations he was now making.


said, what he wished to state was that there was a question of calculation and a practical issue between the Admiralty and himself. He said that the model was no model. There was not a plate which represented anything in the ship. It was merely a model weighted with lead, and weighted in accordance with the calculations of the Admiralty Department.


said, the model had been made in 1876 for the information of the Admiralty before the ship was commenced, and had not been altered in the slightest respect from the time it had been made to the present.


said, that if he had been out of Order in having made any improper reflections on the Admiralty Department, he hoped the House would, extend to the Admiralty a little of the same lesson when the Admiralty cast imputations upon him.


said, the view of his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke appeared to be that the model in question, although not made for the purpose of influencing the House in the controversy as between the hon. Member and the Admiralty, was nevertheless exhibited for that purpose, and, though made years ago, it must have a certain effect on the minds of those who saw it. As he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) understood his hon. Friend, the model was weighted according to calculations which he disputed. The question between the hon. Member for Pembroke and the Admiralty was so grave, and it was so undesirable that it should be raised at any future time, that he hoped a Committee would be appointed to consider it.


regarded the question between the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed) and the Admiralty as a question of mathematics. It seemed to him that the model could not prove mathematically the stability of the ship—that could be proved only by an exact model of the ship, with the weight distributed as on board the ship. It was admitted that this was not the case with the model, which was made many years ago, and not for the purpose of testing the stability of the ship. The engines were represented by a lump of lead, and every mathematician knew that that could not produce the same effect on the stability of the model as the engines and other weights that were distributed over the various parts of a ship. The question was very important, and it ought to be discussed as a scientific and mathematical one, without any imputation of motives one way or another. He did not understand the hon. Member for Pembroke to impute any motives to the Admiralty.


desired to explain that the stability of a ship depended upon the centre of gravity, and the lead purported to show the centre of gravity. It did not follow because the engines were not there, that the centre of gravity was not indicated.


said, a piece of lead might accurately represent the result of all the weights in the ship, if the effect of all the weights in the ship, when taken collectively, resulted in the same effect on the ship as the piece of lead referred to in the position it was placed; and that was what was intended to be done, the simple question being whether it was done rightly. No doubt, it was intended that the model should be correct, and, if it were, the result was correct as far as the model was concerned.


said, there was an important question of fact, about which the two highest authorities were in conflict, and they ought to be brought face to face, because the construction of our future fighting ships was involved. The Ajax and the Agamemnon were being built on the same principle, and a second Agamemnon was in view. When a controversy of this kind had arisen, and had been fomented by correspondence in the newspapers, it was due to the public who paid for the ships and themselves, and it would strengthen the hands of the Government itself, if some further mode was devised for ascertaining the rights and wrongs of this question. Suppose it should turn out afterwards that the Admiralty were in error; the Government which refused inquiry would be placed in a very awkward position.


said, the question was, whether the Admiralty was to he regarded as infallible; and it had made too many mistakes in the past for that conclusion to be accepted. Wooden line-of-battle ships were added to the Navy, and millions expended upon them, after their uselessness had been established.


was reminded by this controversy of the discussion as to the construction of the Captain; and he thought it important that the disputed calculations should be cleared up to the satisfaction of the House and the country.


said, that, in common with many other hon. Members, he had seen the model of the Inflexible exhibited in London, and while he acquitted the Admiralty of any intention to mislead, he contended that that model was utterly useless for the purpose for which it had been intended, inasmuch as it gave the uninitiated no clear idea of the principle on which the ship was constructed. In one of Her Majesty's Dockyards he had seen another model, much more carefully and elaborately worked out, and showing the principle on which the vessel was defended. From that model it appeared that the head and stern—in other words, the un-armoured parts of the ship—could not be struck by a shot in a vital place unless the shot struck the ship six feet under water. [Mr. REED intimated dissent.] If that was a mistake, then the model had been constructed under a total misapprehension of the facts of the case. It was desirable that an early opportunity should be given for a discussion of the question. Whether a Committee should be appointed, or some other course should be taken, he did not pretend to say, but certainly not one moment should be lost in enabling the House and the country to come to a distinct conclusion as to whether the doubts raised by the hon. Member for the Pembroke Boroughs with regard to the stability of the vessel's powers of defence were or were not well founded.


supported the proposal for a Committee, and was of opinion that there were hon. Members of the House competent to examine witnesses and to report on the subject. The primary difference of opinion had reference not so much to the stability of the vessel itself, as to the stability of the citadel, in the event of the wooden portions of the ship being shot away.


, in rising to move— That it is inexpedient to build any more vessels of the 'Agamemnon' class until that type has been tried, and that the money proposed to be voted for such purpose be expended in building a vessel of war, with full sail power, capable of cruising and blockading under sail alone, but able to steam when necessary 300 miles in 24 hours, with a coal supply for seven days, and with an armament consisting of one armour piercing gun of the longest range, as well as Shrapnel and Gatling guns and torpedo apparatus, said, that, if in Order, he wished to add the following words to his Resolution:—"and that a Select Committee be appointed to enquire into the whole question."


informed the hon. and gallant Member that the Motion for a Select Committee could not be put, as Notice had not been given of it, and the other part of the Motion affirmed a distinct proposition.


said, in that case, he would confine his remarks to the Motion before the House. A great deal had lately been said in the public Press about the Inflexible and her class of vessels, and hon. Members had been invited to inspect the model of the Inflexible at the Admiralty. He, for one, went to have a look at her and would tell the House what he saw. The official in charge offered to fill both ends to show her buoyancy; but he said that that was unnecessary, as the chances were that only one end would be riddled at a time. The fore part only was then filled at his request; but when he (Captain Pim) proposed to touch the model, the official interposed, and said that if he did so the model would capsize. That proved to be the case, for the moment he touched her she turned turtle, and was only saved from going to the bottom by the quickness of the man in charge; and he was confident that if the Inflexible was at all like the model she would go to the bottom in a similar manner. He thought it would be a monstrous thing to send a crew to sea in such a craft. He would just give the House a description of the Inflexible. The Agamemnon and Ajax were vessels of the same type, only smaller, being only 280 feet in length, by 66 feet beam, with a displacement of 8,492 tons, at an estimated cost of £350,000 each; while the Inflexible would cost about £500,000, her length 320 feet by 75 feet beam, with a displacement of 11,406 tons. Her sides at the midship section or citadel were 42 inches thick, including 24 inches of armour, the bottom was flat, the outer skin plating from the armour shelf to the keel was composed of ordinary ship plates ⅝ths of an inch thick, doubled over 30 feet of the bow. This skin plating was rivetted to the frames which were formed of ¼-inch plates, 3 feet 6 inches deep at the keel. They tapered gradually as they rose. The angle irons securing these frames to the skin were weak. The inner bottom rivetted on to the inner edge of these frames was composed of 7–16ths of an inch plates amidships and ⅜-inch plates at bow and stern. This thin, weak bottom had to support 3,150 tons of armour, the heavy boilers, machinery, guns, anchors, cables, and stores carried by the ship, and how any naval architect could call such a contrivance a ship he was at a loss to conceive. He did not wish to press his opinion alone upon the House, but would quote that of Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds, at present the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, whose great experience no one could doubt. In answer to Question 1,158, before the Committee of Designs of Ships of War, he said— I should be afraid to go at any great speed at sea with them (the devastation class); I think they are too low. I am afraid of the low, free-boarded ships. I have seen very heavy seas and know no limit to their power." Question 1,159—"If steaming you are obliged to go at a certain speed, or you drown yourself." Question 1,161—"I think it depends upon the ship herself being of a proper height, whether she is smothered or not by the sea." Question 1,163—"All I know is that so far as I am myself concerned, I should be very sorry to be in one of those vessels." Question 1,167—"I have no affection for those low, free-boarded vessels. I am positively afraid of them. He thought he had said enough to show that it was inexpedient to build any more vessels of such a useless type as the Inflexible or Devastation, or any of the class. They were worthless as coast defenders, and for distant service out of the question. With respect to the other part of his Motion, he could only say that two gunboats such as described in that Motion, properly handled, would destroy any iron-clad in the world. Why the Admiralty persisted in building these large, costly, unwieldy, and easily destructible vessels he was at a loss to understand, especially when some 20 gunboats such as described could be built for the price of one Inflexible. Every sailor knew what small craft could do; their value was traditional in the Service from the earliest times. What did our small, light, nimble ships do against the Spanish Armada, and every reader of naval history must remember the action of the Fan-Fan and Spy gunboats against De Witt's large flag-ship. In fact, he did not believe that there could be the smallest difficulty in finding plenty of officers in the Navy who, with a couple of gunboats would make short work with Her Majesty's ship Inflexible and any of her class. He would not press his Motion to a division; but he did trust the Admiralty would take to heart the facts he had mentioned.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to build any more vessels of the 'Agamemnon' class until that type has been tried, and that the money proposed to he voted for such purpose be expended in building a vessel of war with full sail power, capable of cruising and blockading under sail alone, but able to steam when necessary 300 miles in 24 hours, with a coal supply for 7 days, and with an armament consisting of one armour piercing gun of the longest range, as well as Shrapnel and Gatling guns and torpedo apparatus,"—(Captain Pim,) —instead thereof.

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


said, he was glad the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend could not move for a Select Committee, because, from the moment the Government undertook to produce the Papers showing the grounds on which they were led to place reliance on the Inflexible, it was, in his opinion, desirable that no further steps in the matter should be taken until those Papers should have been duly considered and the facts of the case were fully before the House. He was glad the hon. and gallant Member had brought the question before the House. Personally, he (Mr. Peed) had painful experience of the penalties one had to undergo for bringing ques- tions of this kind before the attention of Parliament. In this case, it was clear, after what had fallen from the Secretary to the Admiralty, that he (Mr. Reed) was about to be exposed to the penalty of having his professional character placed in jeopardy because of the statements he had made as to the stability of the Inflexible. He could not help, at the same time, observing that it was very easy in those cases to cherish and act upon a false confidence. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had taunted him (Mr. Reed) with the mistakes he had committed when in office; and in connection with the point, he would ask the permission of the House to advert to a single fact—he did so in no spirit of retaliation—and that was, that during recent times we had a ship which had capsized from want of stability, and that one, at any rate, of the officers who were responsible for the Inflexible, and who were said to be superior in authority to himself, had prepared a Report on the stability of the Captain, in which it was stated that she would be safe, even when her ends had been fully penetrated; yet a few days after that the Captain capsized, and 600 men were lost. That was his reason for speaking of the Inflexible, and, notwithstanding these attacks, he should still press for inquiry, for he had no personal object to serve. All he wanted was that the truth might be known, and he would withdraw all he had said, if the Admiralty Papers did not bear out his assertions. As for the Amendment, he could not feel that they were in a satisfactory position, because they had had no opportunity of discussing the proper kind of ship to be built, and had passed a Vote which involved the construction of another large ship of a kind the safety and utility of which had been called in question. The Government, he thought, had been rather high-handed in the matter, and they should have given more attention to the whole question. He much deplored the attitude they had taken, and was sure that the construction of small ships instead of large ones would be publicly urged. They had better reconsider that question, and not put the House of Commons in such a position that they would be debarred from discussing the question for another year. At any rate, a Select Committee might have been appointed; for, though he did not doubt the competence of the Admiralty Board, its members were all at the head of departments, and could not give up their time to the matter. The Government, in his opinion, ought to reconsider the subject, or the House would next year take it into its own hands.


said, that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) had already asked for a Select Committee; but he did not know to what decision the Government had come. He considered the matter one of very great importance, and now that it had been brought to the attention of the House, the House was bound to have it thoroughly investigated.


, while he approved of a full inquiry into the subject, was yet of opinion that the Motion was one the House could not adopt, as it dictated to the Admiralty not only what it should not do, but what it should do. By so doing they would be taking the responsibility from the Admiralty, and doing a very unwise thing. The question really was one of fact, which ought to admit of easy settlement, and he hoped that, considering the very general alarm as to the stability of the ship, there would be an inquiry into the state of the case. Instead of referring the matter to a Committee of the House, he would refer it to a Committee of scientific men.


fully agreed with the observations of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), that no Parliamentary action could be taken till the promised Papers were on the Table. Those Papers, he was sure, would not satisfy the country, unless they contained, an independent Report approving the design of the ship. The situation was unprecedented in the history of naval construction, that an issue should be raised between two equally eminent naval architects, so that, on their disagreement, nothing but independent authority would satisfy the outside world. The country would probably insist on having independent opinion, and the organization of the Admiralty could not be perfect if the eminent men who designed ships were also the sole judges of their merits. He very much wished that the duty of initiating designs and their final approval were not altogether in the same hands. He was very grateful to the hon. Member for Pembroke for urging upon the Government the necessity for re-considering the dimensions of our ships of war. The torpedo and the ram being now acknowledged to be the most destructive weapons of naval warfare, it seemed most absurd to put all our eggs into one basket.


said, he could not help feeling that the House was discussing the question under a double disadvantage. In the first place, his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty was unfortunately absent; and, in the second place, the Papers which had been ordered, prepared, and which were nearly, if not quite, ready, had not yet been distributed amongst hon. Members. However, there were one or two observations which it was possible for himself to make, although he was really ignorant of the details of this question. He would state at once that he could not adopt the suggestion thrown out by his hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Pim), and which he would have embodied in his Amendment if it had been within the Rules of the House to do so without Notice—namely, to refer this question to a Select Committee. The Government would have a strong and decided objection to take that course; and he thought that, on reflection, the House would itself feel that that was not the way in which such matters should be dealt with. In point of fact, they proceeded on the principle of entrusting to a Department of the Government the duty of constructing vessels, and if the House appointed a Select Committee, however distinguished its Members might be, to examine and report on, and either confirm or overthrow, the decisions of that Department, they would weaken and destroy the responsibility which at present attached to the Admiralty on the part of the Government, and take on themselves a responsibility for which the House were hardly prepared. On these matters they had a right to call the Government to account if anything went wrong; and they would deprive themselves of that right by putting their imprimatur on the action of a Committee. On the other hand, they would subject the Public Service to great inconvenience by an inquiry conducted by persons who, however distinguished, would not possess the advan- tage which a Government Department would have in conducting it. Now, it was undoubtedly the function of the House to criticize the proceedings of the Government, and when a Gentleman of the great experience and high professional standing of the hon. Member for Pembroke called attention to such a subject as this, it was obviously the duty of the Government carefully to consider the observations he made. He could say, on the part of the Government, that while, on the one hand, he thought it absolutely impossible to agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, it would, on the other, be quite right that they should consider among themselves the observations that had been made. The matter should receive the careful consideration of the Government. What steps they might think it right to take after they had fully considered it, he could hardly venture at the present moment to foretell; but they were fully sensible of the great responsibility that rested on them, and, whatever was done, there would be no deficiency on their part as regarded an earnest desire to take the right course.


, while agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman, that it was impossible to discuss the question with advantage in the absence of the promised Papers, was strongly of opinion that it should be referred to a Select Committee. It was a most important matter from every point of view in which it might be regarded. The question had been raised in a most deliberate and direct manner, and the opinion of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), whether correct or not, could not be ignored. The House was not competent to pronounce an opinion without further information; but the allegations having been made deliberately, and without any reservation whatever, it was their bounden duty to ascertain the grounds on which the charge rested. He admitted that it would be difficult to find among the Members of the House a sufficient number of hon. Gentlemen possessed of scientific, or professional knowledge in respect to shipbuilding to form a Committee; but they could easily obtain a Committee by the addition of hon. Gentlemen of plain common sense who would be able to form a sound opinion upon the evidence which might be offered to them.


believed that all these doubts and discussions arose from the circumstance that neither the House nor the country had confidence in the Board of Admiralty. For himself, he regarded the present constitution of that Board as a practical absurdity. If they had any confidence in its construction, these doubts and discussions would not arise. He went further than the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) as to the absurdity of putting all our eggs in one basket. He maintained that a man-of-war which could not be handled and make her passage to any part of the world under canvas and independently of her machinery was not an available ship in time of war. His strong conviction was, looking to the aspect of European affairs and the present position of the British Navy, that, so far as they knew the intentions of the Government with the view of augmenting the strength of the Navy—they were not equal to the exigencies and requirements of the country.


said, he had great sympathy especially with the first part of the Motion now before the House for suspending the building of ships of the Inflexible type. When it was proposed originally to build the Inflexible he stated the opinion he then held—that it was altogether a retrograde movement and a very great mistake. To that opinion he still adhered, whether the question of stability was right or wrong. From the beginning, our object had been, in the construction of our ironclads to cover the whole water-line with armour. But the Committee of Design thought fit to propose to do away with side armour, and build up a central citadel; and when that design was accepted, by the Admiralty, a great step backward had been taken in the construction of our iron-clads. It was a radical mistake. He believed the best thing that could now be done with the Inflexible would be to get rid of the 900 tons of coal she was constructed to carry in her unarmoured ends and substitute 900 tons of armour, with which her two ends should be protected. He would strongly press on the Government the necessity of not committing themselves to the building of a new ship of the Inflexible class at present.


said, he was sorry to hear from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not intended to have a Commission to consider the condition of the Inflexible. In regard to the particular question raised by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Reed), he thought not only that it would be improper to build other vessels on the plan of the Inflexible, but that the construction of that ship herself should not be proceeded with until an inquiry had shown that she possessed sufficient stability and buoyancy. In his opinion a Committee of that House was the proper authority to examine into this question, as they had already voted £500,000 for this ship, and were now asked to vote sums for constructing other vessels of a similar character, and which might possess similar defects. It would, however, be unfair to the Admiralty for hon. Members to discuss this subject and to take a division without having before them those Papers which it was necessary to see before they came to a definite decision on the subject.


remarked that anyone who searched the records of the House for the last 30 or 40 years would find that most important questions relating to the administration of public Departments used formerly to be referred to Committees of the House. Questions of administration ought to be referred to Select Committees, in order that the House might keep its hold on the various important matters which from time to time came before it. Latterly, however, we had been drifting in a totally opposite direction, and many questions, instead of being referred to Select Committees of that House, were considered by Departmental Committees, in which permanent servants of the Crown occupied leading positions. If the House wished to control the expenditure of the country, it must not allow the inquiries to pass out of its hands into those of the servants of the Crown engaged in the great spending Departments. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give them two assurances—first, that no step should be taken with regard to the new Agamemnon until next year; and, secondly, that he would re-consider his decision concerning the Inflexible.


joined in the appeal which so many hon. Members had made to the Government to institute some inquiry into the Inflexible. He could not see any harm in such an inquiry. Indeed, he believed great good, generally speaking, would result from it, both as regarded the stability and rolling of their iron-clad fleet. They were now assured that the model of the Inflexible had not been made for the occasion; and it was desirable that it should be ascertained whether it was made as models usually are, and whether a perfect model ever was made for such purposes. The building of vessels like the Inflexible ought to be stopped until the matter had been investigated, and if the Amendment was pressed to a division he should vote for it.


said, they were asked to appoint a Committee, because the experts did not agree. In his experience as a magistrate he had never known two scientific experts to agree, and he always found that he was left to draw the best conclusions he could from the rival evidence. He did not think the House ought to be called upon to undo the work of years, simply because a difference of opinion between professional men occurred upon one particular point. The responsibility was with the Admiralty, and it ought to be allowed to remain there.


said, he could imagine no good coming from the appointment of the Committee; but as public interest had been so much aroused on this matter, he thought it would be an excellent thing when the Inflexible was completed that the hon. Member for Pembroke should have the opportunity of capsizing the ship if he could.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put.