HL Deb 19 April 1836 vol 32 cc1177-80
The Earl of Hardwicke

understood, that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to abolish the Naval Architectural College at Portsmouth; and he must express his great regret, that Government had found it necessary to take any steps of that sort. Young men of tender age were received in that institution; they were protected for two years and a-half; under the regulations of that college, they pursued their useful studies as naval architects; they then proceeded to sea and followed up their preceding instruction in a manner that was advantageous to themselves, and was likely to be most beneficial to the public service. So much for the education they received in that establishment. He much regretted, that the college should be abolished, nor could he see why the Government should wish to remove it. But if it were the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to adopt that course, he should be glad to know what they intended to do with the officers connected with the institution? There was amongst those officers one man (he admitted, that they were all individuals of high merit)—but there was amongst them a man of the most distinguished talent—he alluded to Dr. Inman, the principal—who never yet had scope for the display of his great abilities. His mathematical and practical knowledge as a ship-builder was of the very first order; and he conceived, from the career of that gentleman, that no proper opportunity had been afforded to him for displaying his abilities. The practical knowledge and great science which he possessed was admitted by all who had turned their attention to the subject. His object in rising was chiefly to ascertain, if it were the intention of Government to abolish the college, what they meant to do with Dr. Inman and others connected with it? To allow him to retire merely on a small pension would be uselessly to throw aside his talent. Why should he not be allowed to compete with that great shipbuilder of the Navy-yard, Captain Symonds? If the college were abolished, he did not know what course Ministers meant to pursue for the purpose of procuring shipwrights for the country, because those who had been educated at the institution had disappeared in a great measure; they certainly had not been encouraged as they ought to have been. Where, then, were they to look for future naval architects? He would say, if Dr. Inman's labours were no longer to be available at the college, he ought to be enabled to give lectures on naval architecture, as he had done before, and thus encourage the study of that important art. He knew there were builders in the yards who practically understood the building of ships, but they did not possess that scientific knowledge of the art which he conceived to be necessary.

The Earl of Minto

was anxious to give an answer to the noble Earl as far as he possibly could. In the first place, he could do no more than state that it was the intention of Government to suppress the establishment of the naval college at Portsmouth. As he felt, however, that the inconvenience of suddenly suppressing the college would be too great, he had included in the estimates for the present year the expense necessary for the support of the institution. But, after this year, the college would be suppressed. Some parts of the noble Earl's speech had reference rather to the respective merits of Captain Symonds and those of the master of the college than to the institution itself. He admitted the great merit and the very eminent talents of the latter gentleman, who perhaps possessed science to a degree beyond what was required for the situation. The noble Earl regretted, that no opportunity had been afforded to that individual of distinguishing himself before the public as he might have done. But when they came to consider that question, it must be decided, not on the particular merits of the individual, but on the actual services which he had rendered the country. As to the supply of shipbuilders that might be wanted for the country, means would be provided for imparting the necessary education. In his opinion, that species of education had not hitherto been sufficiently provided for, either in a practical or scientific point of view. It was necessary, therefore, that a more efficient and effectual mode should be adopted, in order to provide for the education of the younger branches of the naval profession in that respect. How that was to be done he was not at the present moment prepared to state to their Lordships. The subject was, however, under the consideration of Government. To say, that any one was unduly favoured in making nautical experiments was not correct. As far as his observation went, no person had been so favoured. Captain Symonds had built a ship which had performed extremely well, while that built by Dr. Inman had not answered in the way that had been expected. The latter had been employed in building a vessel to compete with Captain Symonds's best ship; and it had been preparing for the last six weeks, in order that it might go to sea, so that a fair trial should be made between it and Captain Symonds's ship. To show, that no undue favour was extended to Captain Symonds, it was agreed that Captain Hayes should have the command of the vessel.

Lord Colchester

begged to inquire in what way it was proposed hereafter, to impart that education which was now derived from the Naval College.

The Earl of Minto

answered, that he was not prepared to enter into details. He had already told the noble Earl who introduced the subject all that it was at present in his power to tell him.

Subject dropped.

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