The DUKE of WELLINGTON
rose, in pursuance of notice, to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House Copies or Extract of any Report made to the Master General of the Ordnance on the subject of the inventions of Mr. Warner.His Grace proceeded to say: I have to apologise to your Lordships and to my noble Friend and relation opposite (Earl Talbot), that I was absent from the House on the 14th instant, when he made his Motion that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Warner inventions, and the several reports connected therewith. By accident there was no House on the preceding Thursday, and I therefore was not aware of the Motion of my noble Friend until the day after he made it, and on that day, unfortunately, I could not attend. Had I been on that day in the House, my Lords, I should have represented to your Lordships that the subject into which my noble Friend desired that a Select Committee of your Lordships should be appointed to inquire, had been already under the consideration of the Crown in the office of the Master General of the Ordnance, in consequence, I believe, of an address from the House of Commons—at all events, I am certain, at the particular desire of the late Principal Minister of the Crown, Lord Melbourne—and, to my certain knowledge, under the Government of my late lamented Friend, Sir Robert Peel, and also, of Lord John Russell. Under these circumstances, my Lords, I confess it appeared to me that the subject of these inventions, having been submitted to inquiry in the office of the Master General of the Ordnance, and that, too, being a subject of an entirely scientific nature, it was not exactly a fit subject for inquiry in your Lordships' House; more particularly as that inquiry, if it should terminate successfully to the views of the projector, must lead to the expenditure of very large sums of money. My Lords, with this inquiry are connected a great many money speculations on the part of persons who have advanced large sums to this gentleman in the hope that he may receive a large reward from the 856 public for his inventions. If I had been in my place on the day on which my noble Friend made his Motion, I should have urged not only that this was not exactly a subject which the House of Lords ought to take under consideration, but also that your Lordships ought to have before you the proceedings on this subject which have already been taken under the direction of the Board of Ordnance; and it was my knowledge of those proceedings that induced me to give early notice of my intention to move that address to Her Majesty of which I have already given you the substance. I am well aware, my Lords, that Mr. Warner has undoubtedly objected to the competence of the officers appointed by the Master General of the Ordnance to make these inquiries, and particularly to the competence of my gallant Friend, Sir Howard Douglas. Indeed, I believe that my noble Friend and relation mentioned the objection of Mr. Warner to my gallant Friend when he made his Motion. Now, I beg leave to read to your Lordships a few words from a letter which Mr. Warner wrote to the Master General of the Ordnance, when he first heard that my gallant Friend was appointed a Member of the Commission. He says, "From what I have heard of Sir H. Douglas, I am highly gratified by the choice which the Government has made of this distinguished officer." My Lords, another officer appointed to act on that Commission, was Sir Edward Owen, an officer who had been oftentimes actively and successfully employed on the public service. That officer could not, however, act in that Commission, owing to some accidental services; but Sir Byam Martin did sit upon it, an officer well known to many of your Lordships, and than whom there was not a naval officer in the country more distinguished for his services, and more capable of coming to a just decision on this subject. I entreat you, my Lords, before you enter on this subject at all, and before you name this Committee, to see the reports made on it by the scientific officers of the Army and the Navy appointed by the Ordnance to consider whether it was expedient that these inventions, or alleged inventions, should be adopted for the service of Her Majesty.
§ The EARL of DERBY
My Lords, I am somewhat in the same position with the noble and gallant Duke who has made this Motion; for I also was absent from your Lordships' House upon the day that 857 the Motion was made for referring to a Select Committee the inventions, or presumed inventions, of Captain Warner. And if I had conceived that the case was as the noble and gallant Duke appears to suppose it to he, I should have come to the same conclusion to which he has arrived, namely, that it is not expedient that your Lord'ships should enter upon a discussion of the merits of these inventions. My Lords, if it had been that this Committee were moved for as an appeal against the decision of very competent officers appointed by the highest authority to examine into and to report upon the evidence laid before them, then I should have felt as strongly as the noble Duke can do, that nothing could be more inconvenient than—without meaning any disrespect to your Lordships—to appeal from a more competent to a less competent authority, for the purpose of investigating the same facts which have been referred and inquired into already on this subject. And, my Lords, if this were a question upon an appeal for the purpose of obtaining a Parliamentary contradiction of the opinion expressed by the gallant officers who have been examined as to these inventions, I should have objected to such an inquiry. But I apprehend that the noble and gallant Duke is somewhat misinformed with regard to the intentions with which this Committee was asked for, and I am certain he is somewhat misinformed with regard to the intentions with which it was granted by your Lordships, on the recommendation of my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury). My Lords, I believe that all the papers which are the subject of the address moved for by the noble and gallant Duke, have been already submitted to Parliament. There can, at all events, be no inconvenience in their production, if my noble and gallant Friend should think it is expedient to have them reprinted in the same form for presentation to this House, or to the Committee if it should be appointed.
§ The EARL of DERBY
I am quite aware of the terms of the noble and gallant Duke's Motion; hut, my Lords, I take the liberty to say that the noble and gallant Duke is still under a misapprehension, as I stated, both with regard to the subject of that inquiry, and the terms upon which that inquiry was asked for, and the House granted it. The fact is this, that Captain Warner alleges that he has invented two 858 very important discoveries, one of which is known as the long range, and the other is the invention of an explosive substance, by which he professes to be enabled to produce very great effects. Now, my Lords, I do not pretend to express an opinion of the merits of either one or the other of these inventions. One of them—I mean that which is called the long range—has certainly had a fuller trial than the other, and has certainly been more unequivocally condemned by the parties who were employed to examine and report upon it. At the same time, there certainty were circumstances which Captain Warner alleges with regard to that trial, by which he was placed under difficulties and disadvantages that he could not control; but Captain Warner does not ask for another trial of a similar description of his new projectile. With regard to the other invention, there can he no doubt whatever that Captain Warner is possessed of the secret of a highly explosive power, which did produce very extraordinary effects upon the vessel to which it was applied. Now, the question as to how it was applied is totally separate from that of the existence of such an explosive power. How far it is capable of being applied to naval and military operations—how far it may be used for purposes of aggression or of defence—is a question wholly separate from the explosive power or substance itself, whatever it may be, which Captain Warner has invented. And there can be no doubt of this, because it was reported upon by all the officers to whom the invention was referred, that the destruction of a vessel which came in contact with this explosive substance, was more complete and more sudden than could have been produced by any explosive substance ordinarily made use of in warfare. But on all previous occasions, Captain Warner desired this: that an investigation should be made into the success of his operations, and that upon the report of the success of these operations, a large sum of money should be laid down, on the part of the public, without further explanation of the secret. Now, my Lords, this, I know, was the proposition which was made to the late Sir Robert Peel—and this proposition was rejected— and, as I think, most properly, by Her Majesty's then Government. Captain Warner now comes before your Lordships with a very different proposition. He has hitherto refused, except a large sum of money were previously paid down, to com- 859 municate either the secret of his composition, or the mode in which he proposed to apply it; but unless I am greatly misinformed with regard to the present proposition, the offer which is made upon Captain Warner's part, through the medium of the noble Earl behind me (Earl Talbot) is, that he is now prepared to go before a Committee without any promise or pledge, or even understanding held out upon the part of your Lordships with regard to any sum of money to be paid to him—that point was most distinctly, as I understand, insisted upon by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—to lay before them the secret of his invention. Captain Warner desires, for the sake of his own character, and his own happiness, to have an opportunity of appearing before a Committee of your Lordships' House, before whom he is prepared to lay, as I understand, the whole secret of his composition and of his invention, and of explaining it to them, trusting to their honour as Peers of Parliament that which he never would explain to any person before, namely, the objects to which he conceives that his invention may be applied, and the mode in which he proposes to apply it. Now, when a gentleman, professing to be in possession of a most valuable secret, is desirous of explaining, fully and entirely, the whole of that secret before a Committee of your Lordships' House, and that, too, after a distinct declaration that the House, by granting a Committee, neither pledges itself to accept his secret, nor to give him any remuneration whatever, whether that secret be in their judgment a successful invention or not—I think, my Lords, that it would be a hard case that a gentleman, offering to make these disclosures, should not be allowed an opportunity of so doing. I think that that would have been a course hardly justifiable upon the part of those who are charged with the management of the affairs of this country, if they had refused to a gentleman that opportunity of fully explaining the whole of his system, of giving to a Committee of the House of Lords the fullest explanation with regard to all those details which he has hitherto kept a profound secret. My Lords, further than this I do not understand that your Lordships are pledged by the appointment of the Committee moved for by my noble Friend to any course with regard to this subject. Without at all desiring to look upon this Committee as an appeal from the decision of those officers who have 860 examined into the experiments previously carried on, I think it is important to remark, that the Committee, as at present named, will consist of a large proportion of naval and military officers, of men who will be able to understand and appreciate those explanations which Captain Warner now volunteers to afford to the Committee, The evidence and the facts to be brought before them are such as never were brought before those gallant officers who have reported upon the experiment, and who, most properly, as I think, refused to recommend the Crown to grant a large sum of money upon the faith of experiments which had partially failed, but to a certain extent were successful, but the application of which to any practical purpose, military or naval, was never explained, nor agreed to be explained, upon the part of the inventor. My Lords, I hope I have succeeded in showing that there is a broad distinction between the proposition which is now made by Captain Warner and his former proposition; and I confess I think your Lordships will deal hardly upon this person, whatever may be the merits or demerits of his invention, if you refuse him an opportunity of giving that explanation which he is desirous of giving, and which your Lordships have undertaken to hear, without expressing any opinion in reference to the inventions.
The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My noble Friend is mistaken entirely as to the nature of the Committee or Commission appointed by the Ordnance to inquire into these inventions. But the first point of inquiry is this — Is there an invention at all? My Lords, I say it is not an invention; and I found myself on the opinion of the Commission. Next, I ask, is it efficient for service? Is it of such a nature as can be applied in the service? Can it be concocted and formed in our laboratories? Can it be carried with safety in our magazines afloat, or in our fourgons on land? These were all questions that were considered by the Committee under the Master General of the Ordnance. These, my Lords, are nice questions for the decision I think, of a committee of naval and military officers, and not of a Committee of your Lordships' House. I say that where a case of this description has been placed in the hands of the Executive Government, and has been under a committee of officers, under these circumstances your Lordships should refrain from interfering in it, and your Lordships would do 861 well to consider the matter before you appoint the Committee. At all events, my Lords, I desire that this Committee should have all the reports which the Executive can give before it enters on the consideration of these inventions, if inventions they be.
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
perfectly concurred with the noble and gallant Duke as to the objects which ought to be contemplated in any inquiry of this kind— namely, the real nature of the various machines and substances suggested by the inventor, and, a point even more material, whether they were likely to become available for the purposes of war. It was for that very reason that the Select Committee had been appointed. In all the former efforts made to investigate the facts, and in every inquiry prosecuted by the military authorities of this country, they had been completely debarred from any chance of knowing anything about the machinery employed in the operations, or the chemical compounds. Mr. Warner was allowed an opportunity of exhibiting his novel experiments, and he said that if successful he should expect to be paid by a sum of money; but the question as to what the materials and the instruments were was completely withdrawn from every one of the Committees. The experiments instituted were successful in some cases, and unsuccessful in others. He was himself one of those sent down by the Government to witness the experiments, and would tell their Lordships what he saw and what he did not see. He did not see the machinery itself and the elements of the composition employed; but he had seen upon a sheet of water a boat built of oak, very strongly constructed, bound together by longitudinal and cross bulks of timber, put in motion and suddenly blown into atoms, so that not a particle of it was left. How was this done? Could any officer or other person who had witnessed the experiment declare? We had no evidence as to the mechanism or the compound; but Mr. Warner was now ready to come forward and state before the Committee how his machinery was contrived, and how his projectiles were filled. He could not help thinking that it would be both practicable and reasonable to supply from that House a Committee of naval and military authorities, on which the Master General of the Ordnance himself might sit, so that all the features of the case might be made intelligible to a Committee competent to form their own 862 opinion upon it. And such a Committee might, moreover, when they had inventions before them, call scientific officers of the Army and Navy, and ask them whether such compounds were fit for application in war. He apprehended there would be nothing inconsistent in that House appointing such a Committee, which might have useful results, as Mr. Warner now consented to make revelations.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that he was induced to rise as having been cognisant of what occurred between the Government of Lord Melbourne and Captain, or rather Mr. Warner (for he had no military rank), on the subject of his marvellous invisible shell, and as to his still more marvellous long range. Mr. Warner had at that period applied to himself, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the subject of his inventions; and, as he (Lord Monteagle) was not a military man, and knew but little of military affairs, he had referred him to his friend the late Sir H. Vivian, who was then Master General of the Ordnance. On seeing Sir H. Vivian a day or two afterwards, he asked him what he thought of Mr. Warner's invention? Sir H. Vivian intimated that Mr. Warner must be either an absurd enthusiast or insane, for on his asking Mr. Warner whether he could by his invention destroy the fortifications of Gibraltar, he replied that it would not only blow up the works of Gibraltar, but could blow up also the rock itself. Sir Hussey Vivian regarded the pretensions of Mr. Warner as absolute insanity, and said he could not give any encouragement to them. He had seen with astonishment on their Lordships' Minutes the entry showing the appointment of a Select Committee on this subject. So little had he anticipated the possibility of such a result, that he had not attended in his place when it came on for discussion: so destitute of sense did the proposal appear to him to be that he took for granted that Her Majesty's Government would stand between the public and a Motion so unjustifiable. A Select Committee of that House would not stand much comparison, as a tribunal for such purpose, with a scientific commission composed of such officers as Sir Howard Douglas, Sir Byam Martin, Captain Chads, and Sir E. Owen. Yet it was from such a scientific and professional commission that it was proposed to appeal. Besides, there was no case made out sufficient to take the decision on this question out of the responsibility of the Executive 863 Government, and to cast it upon a Parliamentary Committee moved for by a private Peer. He utterly denied that this question had been disposed of by the Select Committee of the House of Commons, merely on the money question; that House had decided that the alleged invention was either an absurdity or an impracticability. He held at that moment in his hand a letter from the late Sir Robert Peel on this subject, which showed that the matter was not disposed of on the ground of the money claims of Mr. Warner. It ran thus:—Dear Sir Howard—I have read the speech you were good enough to send me. It is quite conclusive. I did not require such a demonstration of the charlatanerie of Mr. Warner. I deeply regret that so much valuable time has been thrown away on this man and his projects. Lord John Russell will, I trust, read your speech before the Committee himself.—Truly yours,R. PEEL.Now this expression of opinion from Sir Robert Peel clearly showed that the objection made at that time was not on the question of the money reward Mr. Warner prayed for, but was based upon a conviction of the charlatanerie of Mr. Warner. He (Lord Monteagle) would also earnestly warn their Lordships against establishing by the appointment of this Committee what could not but prove a mischievous precedent. His official experience warned him that even the apparent countenance of the Government—the supposed establishment of a Parliamentary case, was regarded by many speculative persons as a valuable marketable commodity—as a sort of bill of exchange regularly negotiable in the City. The mere fact that a claimant had found favour and countenance in Parliament was sufficient to ensure him friends and support; he trafficked on his expectations, and claims of compensation for experiments made, and supposed loss of capital, were the result. Were their Lordships going to facilitate such purposes— to give Mr. Warner an undeserved locus standi —and to put it in his power, as the noble and gallant Duke (the Duke of Wellington) had said, to raise money upon the presumptions in his favour created by the concession of this Parliamentary inquiry? Mr. Warner professed to keep in view most disinterestedly the military defence and benefit of his own country; but was it not notorious that Mr. Warner had trafficked with foreign Sovereigns in order to induce them to purchase unconditionally his inventions? Had he not done so with Por- 864 tugal, and with Austria? Were not his inventions tried at the siege of Venice, and did they not fail altogether? Mr, Warner had constantly abused those tribunals, to the decision of which he had originally respectfully submitted. The result in this case would be, should the report of the Committee be unfavourable to him, that he would go about the country reviling and attacking those of their Lordships who might have served on that Committee. In this instance their Lordships found all the authorities on one side. They had that evening heard the noble and gallant Duke (the Duke of Wellington), His authority on all subjects was powerful; but upon a subject relating to the military service it ought to be conclusive. He (Lord Monteagle) therefore trusted that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) would reconsider his opinion. He had, in point of fact, that evening, referred to the Committee proposed to be appointed by their Lordships as a court of appeal—as a tribunal superior to the professional tribunal which had already pronounced an emphatic opinion upon Mr. Warner's pretensions; and in taking that view, while consenting to the appointment of a Committee, the noble Earl was setting a most mischievous precedent for the future, weakening the authority and decreasing the responsibility of the Executive. Neither the Government nor their Lordships' House would be justified in acceding to the demand made unless they were satisfied on two points— first, that the matter deserved inquiry; and next, that a Committee of either House of Parliament was the fittest tribunal for such a reference. He ventured to doubt whether either of these questions would be affirmed.
§ EARL TALBOT
could not pretend to any readiness of language such as that possessed by the noble Lord who had just sat down; and his remarks would be very brief. He would not bandy words with the noble Lord whether the individual in question was entitled to be called "Captain" or simply "Mr." Warner, neither would he dispute with the noble Lord whether the appointment of a Committee by their Lordships to investigate the subject would act as a bill of exchange on the eastern side of the metropolis. He would in the first place remove a misapprehension under which the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) and other of their Lordships seemed to labour, that Mr. Warner had refused to make known his secret to the Government, 865 or to their officers, without receiving a previous pledge or promise of a considerable sum of money. He (Earl Talbot) might have expressed himself badly, when acting as the organ communicating with the Government for Mr. Warner; but it was a fact, that that gentleman was willing to throw himself entirely upon the discretion of the Government of the day as to the reward he was to receive, if, indeed, he should receive any. With regard to what had fallen on this occasion from the noble and gallant Duke (the Duke of Wellington), he would only say, that there was no man in this country who entertained a higher respect and reverence for the character and opinions of the noble Duke than he did, and he certainly had not intended any discourtesy to him in not giving him special notice of the Motion, having placed it on the paper in the usual way. He differed from the noble Duke with the deepest pain; but he could not on this matter agree with the noble Duke, because he felt convinced that he was acting under a misapprehension of a great portion of the case in dispute. He (Earl Talbot) was not aware that he had used, the other evening, a syllable disparaging to Sir Howard Douglas; he knew that that gallant officer was entitled to every respect; but he also knew that this question had never been fairly put before Sir Howard Douglas, and that Sir Howard Douglas, in reality, never went into the case at all. There had been mistakes and misunderstandings between Sir Howard Douglas and Mr. Warner; and the result had been unsatisfactory. Sir Howard Douglas told Mr. Warner that he wanted to know something about the "long range," and that he did not want to inquire about; the "invisible shell" in the first instance. Mr. Warner attached to the latter even greater importance than to the former; and when informed about the "invisible shell" by Mr. Warner, the shell being in fact a submarine explosion, Sir Howard Douglas replied, "Oh, we know that is nothing new; we do not want to inquire about that." So the matter dropped, as far as Sir Howard Douglas was concerned; and no report was made by that gallant officer further than a general opinion that the inventions were not worth looking any further into. It was now part of his (Earl Talbot's) case that these inventions had never yet been fairly sifted. As he had said on a former occasion, he had been the witness of three experiments with the in- 866 visible shells, and the first moment he saw the character of the explosion he felt that the power used was of an extraordinary kind. He alluded particularly to the explosion which had taken place in the presence of many of their Lordships, and certainly in the presence of a great number of competent judges of the experiment, at Brighton. In that case the proposal was made that the ship to be operated upon should be placed in the hands of officers of the Government, in order that that guarantee at least should be given by Mr. Warner against any unfair play; and there could therefore be no doubt of the integrity of the experiment. In order, further, that all ideas of collusion or trick should be forbidden, it was agreed that the explosion should be caused by Mr. Warner, on his (Earl Talbot's) raising the flag signal handed to him, and which he was left to raise at whatever moment he liked, and without any notice to Mr. Warner. The result was beyond all question. The ship came in contact with the explosive substance, and she was immediately destroyed. Of course, he might be mistaken; but he did, judging from that and from analogous experiments, most firmly believe that these invisible shells, or submarine shells, would prove of the greatest possible value as a means of defence to this country. The object which he had in view, in obtaining the appointment of this Committee, was not at all to cast discredit on, or to contravene the reports of, the officers who had been appointed to go into the matter. These officers were gallant men, and were proper persons to conduct such an inquiry. He had the honour of knowing all of them; and it would be impossible to speak otherwise than most respectfully of them. Colonel Chalmers, of the Engineers, and Captain Chads, who had commanded the Excellent with such valuable results to the service, had reported on the "long range" that that invention was a failure. But it could be made clear that Mr. Warner had been placed under very disadvantageous circumstances; and he (Earl Talbot) would show the Committee, if an opportunity were afforded him, that letters had been written at the time by those officers, in which they stated that the experiment waited for had been too long delayed, offering the explanation that a particular wind was necessary. They had made a demand of Mr. Warner to remove the whole apparatus, which at that stage was an impossibility; and Mr. Warner now desired to show that 867 the whole apparatus could be carried in a steamer, and that the difficulty which had occurred in the course of the first experiment could not possibly occur in actual service. He (Earl Talbot) certainly had taken great interest in this matter, and he had moved so prominently in the business because he felt that, without pretending to any science, he had more actual knowledge of the facts than any other individual after the inventor himself. It was a subject which was not very agreeable to thrust on their Lordships' attention, seeing as he did that he excited in many minds merely ridicule or distrust; but he was acting in the manner he believed duty compelled him to act, and he should be ashamed if he should be found wanting in moral courage in demanding that justice should be done. In a communication which he had had with the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) in reference to the course he had taken on this occasion, he (Earl Talbot) had assured him such was his confidence in these inventions, that he was quite willing that the committee of inquiry should consist of the Commander-in-Chief, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Master General of the Ordnance, and the other heads of the military and naval departments. Captain Warner was not now asking for a single shilling—he threw himself entirely on the honour and justice of their Lordships. Captain Warner was entitled to an investigation, if only to clear his own character. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Monteagle) had used the phrase charlatanerie; and the only answer that could now be given to that charge was in the expression of his (Earl Talbot's) opinion; and one opinion could only be set against another opinion, that what was in question was a set of very valuable inventions; and he did live in the hope that some day or other he should obtain the acknowledgment of their Lordships that he was not, after all, so very visionary and wronghcaded in bringing this question so incessantly before Parliament and the country. He proposed that the following should be the Members of the Committee:—the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Northumberland, the Viscount Hardinge, the Marquess of Anglesea, the Earl of Combermere, the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Seaton, the Earl of Wicklow, the Marquess of Normanby, the Earl of Ellesmere, the Duke of Buc-cleuch, and himself (Earl Talbot). For 868 all the various reasons he had stated, and which had been far more ably stated by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), he trusted that no further objections would be offered to the Committee. The noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) had said that it was a question whether their Lordships would establish a bad precedent. But this was not the question. The question was, whether their Lordships would lose the chance of now obtaining a good and cheap defence for this country.
The DUKE of WELLINGTON
explained that he had not intended to impute any discourtesy to his noble Friend, but he had not seen the notice on the paper. It was impossible that he should serve on the Committee, and he hoped he should be excused.
§ EARL GREY
said, if he had had any doubt as to the impropriety of granting this Committee, it would have been removed by the speech of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), and he was completely satisfied that in acceding to its appointment Government and the House had taken a very hasty step, and one which, for reasons so ably stated by the noble Duke, he thought they should recall. On a former evening he had left the House in the full expectation that the Motion of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Talbot) would be negatived, and nothing could excite the surprise with which, on the following morning, he found that a Committee, which appeared to him so entirely out of the question, had been granted. Even if he were as convinced of the merits of this alleged invention as the noble Earl himself, he should certainly say that the appointment of a Committee of the House on the subject, would be a dangerous and improper step. They all knew the public departments were besieged by projectors, whose main object was to obtain large grants of money for themselves. Now, if those projectors were to get their claims discussed by Parliamentary Committees, which were completely incompetent to the inquiry, with a view to use the report of the Committee to extort grants of money from Government and Parliament, and obtain loans from sanguine persons out of doors—for there was hardly a scheme so absurd that speculators would not be found to advance money on it—then practices of very dangerous tendency would be permitted. The regular course was to leave projects of this kind to the consideration of the responsible advisers of the Crown. The main 869 reason alleged for the inquiry had been thrown over by the noble Earl who moved it, who told them that Captain Warner had made no conditions about money. He could not but express his deep regret that the Committee had not been refused in the first instance; and whatever damage to reputation might be incurred by reversing a decision already taken, it would be far better, instead of obstinately persevering in a gross blunder, to get out of it the best way they could. He would only suggest that, instead of deferring the nomination of the Committee until the papers were produced, as proposed by his noble Friend near him (Lord Monteagle), the nomination should be postponed sine die. Further inquiry, if any were necessary, should be conducted by the Government, and not by either House of Parliament.
The EARL of WICKLOW
allowed readily that there was an essential distinction between the Committee to whom this question was now to be referred, and the former referees. What was now proposed to be disclosed was the secret; that which had hitherto been withheld; and the withholding of which no doubt impaired in some sense the value of the opinions which had been given by professional authorities. But because of that very description he altogether objected to the present proposal. For what was the object in view? Mr. Warner professed that he desired his own country to become possessed of his secret, and that the mystery should be hidden from other countries, who might at some future day he at war with us. But was a Parliamentary Committee a fit recipient for such a secret? It was absurd. What passed before an ordinary Parliamentary Committee was immediately made known to the whole world. In the Committee appointed, any of their Lordships would have the right to be present and to put questions to witnesses, although only the nominated Members of the Committee would have the right to vote. The result would be, then, that our neighbours would get the secret just as soon as we would get it ourselves; and thus, instead of providing a new means for our own defence, we would be putting new weapons in the hands of our enemies. An inquiry of this nature ought essentially to be conducted by scientific and professional men; and if their Lordships did name Members to the Committee, he hoped that no more than three or four would be appointed—that these would be scientific Peers—and that 870 instead of being a Select it should be called and be regarded as a Secret Committee. There would then, at any rate, be some chance of keeping the secret—if secret there was. As far as he was concerned, he must decline to serve on the Committee.
The EARL of WINCHILSEA
believed the entire affair to be humbug from beginning to end. It would be establishing a very inconvenient precedent if experiments of this kind, the main object of which was to extort from the public a certain sum of money, were brought under their Lordships' consideration. If the opinion prevailed that Captain Warner had really made an important discovery, the simplest plan would be to let Captain Warner communicate again with those gentlemen appointed by the Ordnance who were not satisfied with his experiments on a former occasion, and let him lay before them the composition of his shells and the means by which he proposed to carry out his invention.
§ The EARL of ALBEMARLE
did not think that Captain Warner's conduct had been such as to entitle him to any great consideration from the British Legislature, because it was a mistake to suppose that this grand invention was intended to be confined to this country. When he (the Earl of Albemarle) was private secretary to Lord John Russell, this subject had come before him; and he remembered that Captain Warner then very significantly hinted that if his extraordinary demand were not satisfied, this secret of his might fall into the hands of those who might be the enemies of this country. In some of his pamphlets, too, Captain Warner had stated that "England, when in a crippled state, might lament the day when she refused this experiment," and also that he then considered himself a free agent to go wherever he pleased and sell his discoveries to any foreign nation that he thought proper. It was said that this grand experiment was to supersede the necessity of a Militia Bill, and in one way perhaps it might. If Captain Warner would sell his secret to our enemies, and they should use it at the time of invading us, like the elephants at the battle of the Hydaspes, it would probably prove more terrible to friends than to foes.
The EARL of ROSSE
said, he did not speak at random when he expressed his conviction that there was no case for inquiry—he spoke from a perfect familiarity 871 with all these fire devices on a large scale; not, indeed, for the purpose of war, but for what was much better—for affording rational amusement to large numbers of people. He was satisfied Mr. Warner had done nothing that could not be accomplished without the least difficulty without any other agent than common gunpowder. He was not surprised that the noble Earl (Earl Talbot) should have been imposed on, as he (the Earl of Rosse) believed he had been, because gallant officers were not so accustomed to such attempts as those who were engaged in scientific pursuits. The fact was, that scientific men were continually persecuted with projects of all sorts and kinds—perpetual motion, and machinery of the most extraordinary description. But, of all the projects that had ever been brought before him in the way of explosions, the only one in which he thought there was any novelty or a suggestion not known to the scientific world, was a project that was mentioned to him by an Irish Ribbandman. The circumstances were these: On various occasions the banks of a canal in Ireland had been destroyed, and a great deal of mischief was done. Endeavours were made in vain to discover the means by which it was effected; at last a party turned approver, and divulged the secret; he was a Ribbandman, and was sent to him (the Earl of Rosse) for the purpose of testing him; he supplied him with gunpowder; he prepared a mine, but there was no fuse; instead of a fuse, he made a mixture of quicklime, oatmeal, and nitric acid. He (the Earl of Rosse) knew of nothing of the kind in any scientific work; however, the thing was tried, and the man said in about four hours the mine would go off. It went off in four hours and a half, and an explosion took place. He asked the Ribbandman where he got his knowledge of the secret, and at last he succeeded in tracing it to France. He thought the man had made a more important communication than Mr. Warner, and mentioned it to the Government; but the only reward the man received was a free passage to America. Being aware that this question had been thoroughly investigated by Sir Howard Douglas, one of the distinguished Fellows of the Royal Society, and an eminent writer on naval gunnery, he felt himself constrained to vote for the postponement of this Committee.
§ EARL TALBOT
said, that his object was to obtain a full and impartial inquiry, 872 he did not care before whom it took place. If the House thought there should be a postponement, he would at once agree to the Motion, at the same time reserving to himself the option of again proposing a Committee. He was willing that the same officers who had before inquired into it should again be appointed by the Government to look into the matter. He was entirely in the hands of their Lordships, as he only wished for a fair and impartial inquiry.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
thought that no conditions should be imposed on the noble Earl if he now withdrew his proposition. The House ought not to take upon themselves the responsibility that belonged to the Crown.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, he was only desirous of doing justice to Captain Warner; but neither himself nor his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Hardwicke) had, on the part of the Government, expressed any opinion in regard to the merits of the invention. He could not concur in the observation of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) opposite, that the House had committed a blunder in acceding to the proposition for the appointment of a Committee, nor did he think that the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Winchilsea) was justified in using the expression that Captain Warner's invention was all humbug. He expressed no opinion whatever on the subject. But he understood the noble Earl (Earl Talbot) to agree that the papers that had been moved for by the noble Duke should be laid on the table of the House, and that the Committee should be postponed until that were done, reserving to his own discretion, after the production of those papers, whether he should or should not again submit to their Lordships the proposal to appoint a Committee. He thought this would be perfectly satisfactory to their Lordships. The Committee would not be appointed without giving the House a full opportunity of discussing the matter. In the mean time, the fullest information that had yet been obtained would be laid before them. At the same time, he thought that the appointment of a Commission by the Government, to inquire into the merits of the invention would be much more in favour of it than a reference to a Committee of the House, as Captain Warner might there appear, and depose on oath as to the merits of the invention.
The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said, 873 there was no doubt that the Master of the Ordnance would cause such inquiries to be made as the noble Earl (Earl Talbot) opposite would think proper, and in a manner that would be perfectly satisfactory.
§ Afterwards, on the Motion of Lord MONTEAGLE, the naming of the Select Committee on the Warner Inventions (which stood appointed for this day) put off, sine die.