Page 174 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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according to Mr. Ismay's evidence, assuming you have a clear night and the other conditions which of course, he assumed, it would be right to go as fast as you possibly can in order to get out of the region in case you might be overtaken by fog. The Commissioner: I know, but we must judge about that. The Attorney-General: I know, but that is one of the things I want to deal with when I come to address your Lordship, and I shall submit that it is quite a wrong view to take. I shall also submit to your Lordship that it does not decide it to say that a number of competing lines have done the same thing for a number of years. It does not decide it; I do not say it is not an element. The Commissioner: I daresay Sir Robert Finlay is going to say what Mr. Bruce Ismay said, that it is the right thing still to do it. The Attorney-General: Yes. The Commissioner: That, in my opinion, is a very different thing from the question whether it was the right thing at the time. The Attorney-General: I know there are different considerations which would apply; I quite agree. Sir Robert Finlay: My Lord, with regard to what is to be done in the future, if any recommendation can be made which will render the passage across the Atlantic even safer and more completely immune from loss of life than it was previous to this great catastrophe, that will be a most beneficial result of the Enquiry. But I am concerned at present with the question whether the Captain was at fault. That is the question I am addressing myself to. I did not desire to enter, certainly not at the present time, into the question of the future, if your Lordship should make any recommendation on the subject; nor did I desire at the present time to deal with the question of whether any recommendation as to the future should be made. But what I am pressing most respectfully upon the Court with all the emphasis in my power is this, that it is perfectly impossible to find that Captain Smith was to blame when he did what everyone in the trade had done for years with such admirable results in the way of avoiding accident. The statistics do not rest there because you have a third set from Sir Norman Hill. They are framed on a different principle. His statistics are at page 663, and they show that there had been 32,000 voyages across the Atlantic in 20 years; that in that time there had been 25 accidents, defining as an accident anything that involved either the loss of life or the loss of the ship, and that in those 25 accidents 68 passengers and 80 crew were lost. That was the total loss on 32,000 voyages. Surely by the light of experience, by the light of these figures, the three sets of statistics from different quarters, one sees that it is under all normal circumstances possible to see an iceberg in time to avoid it, and that this accident must have been the result, as I hope to satisfy the Court beyond all reasonable doubt, of an extraordinary combination of circumstances, and that there was not any fault of any kind on the part of Captain Smith. I submit there was not even an error of judgment. Negligence, I submit, is out of the question, and cannot be found in face of the evidence which I am going to call attention to with regard to the uniform practice. Error of judgment, I submit, there was none, because a man does not commit an error of judgment because he does something which in the result is followed by unfortunate consequences. A man may do the rashest possible thing, and the consequences may be most beneficial, but he is rash all the same; a man may do the wisest possible thing and the results may be disastrous, but he was wise all the same. One cannot judge by the result which happened in the particular case as to the wisdom or unwisdom of the course taken. My very respectful submission is that negligence there certainly was none, and that there was not even an error of judgment, but that Captain Smith acted rightly in following the usual course. Now, my Lord, there is a very good reason indeed why they should not slow down when in the neighbourhood of icebergs, and it is this, that you are apt to have fog coming on when you are among icebergs, and if fog comes on when you are among icebergs it is a very dangerous thing
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