Sir Francis Burdett
rose, pursuant to the notice, which in his opinion he had been called upon very unnecessarily to give upon this subject, to make his promised motion. But yet he had complied with the request of a notice, as the hon. gentlemen on the other side appeared to be so ignorant of the case. At this ignorance however, he confessed himself extremely surprized, because he thought it impossible for any man to see the land upon which colonel Gordon's house was preparing to be built, or to have any idea of its situation contiguous to Chelsea hospital, and particularly to the infirmary, without being convinced that such a building should not be permitted, and that the whole bargain which gave that officer possession of this ground, ought to be revoked. It was impossible for any man to give an accurate idea of the state of this land, as it depended so much upon locality. But, from the view which he, accompanied by a member of that house, had taken of it in the course of the morning, he was enabled to assert, that such a building ought not to be tolerated. The ground upon which this building was to be erected, was, he understood, originally crown land, a long lease of which was granted to sir R. Walpole, which lease became the property of lord Yarborough. Of this lease a certain number of years were unexpired, when government thought proper to purchase it, for the benefit, avowedly, of Chelsea Hospital. But what was done after the purchase? Why, that to which he objected, as well because the proceeding would tend to spoil a magnificent establishment, as because it was a scandalous job; the effect of which would be, to deprive the Hospital of twenty times more benefit than it could confer upon the individual for whose favour it was meant. To this individual was appropriated a fine piece of land adjoining the river, which ought to have been reserved for the use of the Hospital, particularly under existing circumstances, when the great increase of our military force was so likely to render necessary an extension of the Chelsea establishment. But the alienation of this property from the Hospital, was not more to be deprecated than the manner in which it was to be used. Colonel Gordon's house was, it appeared, to be built upon the banks of the Thames, between that and the infirmary; so that this useful institution, which was already too much hemmed in by buildings and plantations, was, by colonel Gordon, to be 35 completely shut out from the river, so indeed as to deprive the sick soldiers of the tree circulation of air. It appeared to him very extraordinary that the officers at Chelsea did not remonstrate against the matter of which he complained. The government surveyor, who was resident at Chelsea, seemed deficient in his duty in not reporting upon it. He must say also that the physician and surgeon of the infirmary ought to have pointed out the grievance to which he felt it his duty to call the attention of the house. Indeed he could hardly suppose that any member who would take the trouble of walking down and looking at the premisses, would entertain a different sense of duty. It must excite any man's complaint to see an attempt made, for the accommodation of an individual, to take away from the comfort, in old age, of a meritorious body of men who had spent the greater part of their life in a hard service. It was a pity that such men should be inconvenienced for the mere purpose of a job, or at least of that which had all the appearance of a job. He should be happy if ministers could explain the business, so as to remove the impression upon his mind, that it was deserving of this character. But if they could not, sure he was, that it would appear to any visitor, as it did to him, that an infirmary appropriated to oar sick soldiery, was cooped up, was deprived of the free air, so essential to their recovery, merely for the purpose of gratifying an individual. The course he meant to pursue was, first to move for a Copy of the Warrant of the Treasury, under which the grant of the land alluded to was made to col. Gordon; which warrant was, it appears, dated the 11th of March, 1809. When this Warrant should be laid before the house, he had it in contemplation to move, that the physician and surgeon of the Hospital should be called to the bar, in order to their examination as to the consequences likely to result to the sick from such a structure as that of col. Gordon, by whom it was designed to erect a wall eight feet high between his ground and the infirmary.—The motion being read,
§ Mr. Long
rose and said, that as one of the Commissioners for superintending the concerns of Chelsea Hospital, he felt it his duty to pay every possible attention to the comforts of the meritorious persons resident therein; and he was certain that such also was the feeling of all his col- 36 leagues. In consequence, therefore, of the representation of Dr. Moseley, the physician to the Hospital, that an infirmary was much wanted, it being inconvenient to have the sick placed at the top of the hospital, the lease of the ground alluded to was purchased. Of this ground, all that was deemed necessary by the architect, or the medical men, was set apart for an infirmary, which was accordingly erected; and if all the ground had been required it would have been so appropriated: for the ground which remained, col. Gordon, it appeared, presented a Memorial to the Treasury, tendering terms for a lease of it. The Surveyor-General, as was usual in all cases with regard to Crown Lands, was ordered to make a Report as to the value of the ground bid for by col. Gordon, and when the Report was made according to the tenor of the act, the application of that officer was complied with, but upon terms different from those he had originally proposed. The hon. baronet was, no doubt, aware that it was open to any other person to bid for this land. According to the act introduced by Mr. Pitt in 1794, to regulate the disposal of Crown Lands, it was enacted, that it should be referred to the Surveyor General to inquire as to the value of any such land about to be let, and that two Surveyors should swear to that value, before the Treasury should dispose of it. All those enactments had been complied with in this transaction, and therefore, if the hon. baronet would complain, his complaint must apply to the act. So far from the contract with col. Gordon being objectionable, he really believed, that if the ground had been put up at public auction, better terms could not be obtained for it. This was so strongly his impression, and he also thought any complaint relative to the hospital so groundless, that he was fully inclined to think, that when all the papers connected with the business were laid before the house, the hon. baronet himself would feel the propriety of declining to take any further proceeding upon it. The fact was, that there was but a small piece of this ground fit for building upon, the remainder being made ground for gardens.—The right hon. gent. asssured the house that as much of this ground had been set apart for the purpose of the Infirmary as the Surveyor General and the medical gentlemen thought necessary. Every care was taken to guard that building against any inconvenience. To the 37 production of the papers moved for by the hon. baronet he could have no objection. But he would move for other papers, in order that the house should be enabled to understand the whole of the case. He would move for Copies of the Report of the Surveyor General, with that of the Surveyors who valued the land; and when these papers should be laid before the house, he was confident that it would clearly appear there was no foundation for denominating this transaction a job.
Sir Oswald Moseley
said, that having accompanied the hon. baronet to view the premisses to which the motion alluded, he was enabled to confirm his statement. The infirmary, which did not in fact occupy one-tenth of the ground purchased professedly for the use of the hospital, would, he must contend, be entirely precluded from the free air of the river by the projected buildings of col. Gordon, who occupied the remainder of this ground. In fact, col. Gordon's was by far the superior part of the ground, and that upon which the infirmary was built appeared quite clamp and cold, and it must be rendered more so, if col. Gordon should be suffered to proceed.
§ Mr. Huskisson
generally supported the argument and statement of Mr. Long, and stated further, that the plan of the infirmary had been transmitted to the Treasury by the governors, physician, and surveyor, and they had fixed on the spot as the most convenient and best situation. Whether they were as well able to judge and determine on that head, as the hon. hart, and the hon. seconder of the motion, he would not determine. The hon. baronet had mentioned the corner in which they were cooped up as not a twentieth part of the ground granted to col. Gordon. Now, the surveyors had on oath valued the land for the infirmary at 6,000l. and on the same oath the laud of col. Gordon was only valued at 52l. a year. Col. Gordon having been informed by sir David Dundas, perhaps, or some other officer of Chelsea Hospital, that the land in question was to be let for building on, had offered the terms of the valuation, and if the hon. baronet had applied and offered more than 38 any other, he would have had it. The Treasury had been cautious that no house should be built so as to annoy Chelsea Hospital, and a particular instruction had been given on that head to the surveyor-general. The provision papers, he said, would embrace all the particulars relating to this ground, from the time of the purchase to the period of the grant to col. Gordon; and when they were produced, the hon. baronet would have no occasion to make his motion, or to call the surveyor or surgeon to the bar of that house.
§ Sir John Newport
wished to be informed why it was, that, when a subsisting interest had been bought up with public money, that part, of the land, which was not deemed necessary for the use of Chelsea Hospital, had been transferred to the crown lands, and not to the funds of the hospital, in as much as the lands had been originally granted for ever by the crown to the trustees of that institution?
§ Mr. Huskisson
informed the hon. baronet, that the land in question, though part of the Chelsea estate, from which the grant had been made by the crown to the Chelsea Hospital, had never been granted to that institution. A lease had been granted by the crown of this land to sir Robert Walpole, and it was the residue of the term so granted that had been bought up with the public money. That part, however, of the land, which was thought necessary for the Infirmary for the hospital, had been purchased to be transferred to the use of the hospital.
§ Sir John Newport
observed, that any mistake he might have fallen into had arisen from the imperfect statement of the hon. gent. himself.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
maintained, that the hon. baronet had no ground for the observation, that it was in consequence of the ignorance of his friends, relative to this transaction, that the hon. baronet was called upon yesterday to give notice of this motion. For although his noble friend (lord Castlereagh) was unacquainted with it, as he must be naturally supposed, having no connection with it, still nearly the same explanation had been given to the hon. baronet yesterday, which the house had heard to-day. But yet he was happy that the notice was called for. He esteemed that rule of proceeding, because it guarded the house, or, at least, those who might be particularly interested, against being taken by surprize; but it did more; by apprizing persons of an in- 39 tended motion, those likely to be affected by it, and particularly ministers, means might be taken to counteract statements, which would otherwise go forward uncontradicted, to produce inflammatory impressions—the only object possible, in some cases, of bringing them forward. The hon. baronet was constantly jealous of persons in office. Perhaps it was a very laudable jealousy, and he did not mean to quarrel with it. But he could not help observing, that the hon. baronet looked at every thing proceeding from administration with a very prejudiced, jaundiced eye. If not, how could the lion, baronet designate the transaction under discussion as a scandalous job? How could he think of inflaming the public mind by such an assertion, without having, as it appeared, taken any trouble to enquire into the circumstances? Why, without such enquiry, endeavour to produce the impression out of doors, that in order to gratify some favoured individual, the poor sick pensioners were exposed to inconvenience, as if there was no feeling for the fate of these men but in the breast of the hon. baronet? But, let gentlemen consider the plain state of this case. It appeared, that a lot of ground was purchased for the use of the Infirmary, at Chelsea. Upon this ground the Infirmary was built, and a certain proportion of the ground remaining was unappropriated. This was the proportion disposed of to col. Gordon. If such a disposition had not been made; if the remainder of this ground had been left useless and unproductive, how probable was it that, with the jaundiced eye of the hon. baronet directed towards all ministerial measures, he would have come down to that house to complain, that ministers, that those who, in his opinion, forfeited all public confidence, by endeavouring to serve the public in office, were such improvident stewards of the public property, that they had left a certain portion of land utterly useless and unoccupied, which might have been let on good terms? But in all future dispositions of crown lands, the hon. baronet, he supposed, would rather that ministers should consult him than the surveyors appointed by law. To this idea, however, with all respect for the hon. baronet's judgment in such matters, he could not accede. The right hon. gent, concluded with expressing his confidence, that when the papers moved for were produced, they would serve to refute all the aspersions which the hon. baronet 40 had thought proper to fling out against his majesty's ministers.
§ General Tarleton
thought the hon. baronet entitled to the highest thanks for calling the attention of the house to this subject. Any attempt to diminish the convenience, or even to interfere with the beauty, of Chelsea Hospital, he should most strenuously deprecate. That building he considered as a splendid monument of the benevolence, and a gratification to the pride, of the country. It furnished accommodation to the old, and encouragement to the young soldier; and therefore every friend to the army must be anxious to preserve it unimpaired. Certainly, nothing that could tend in the remotest degree to reduce its comforts, ought to be even risked for such a sum as 52l. a year. But he hoped the evil complained of would be removed. Neither the receipt of rent, however considerable, nor the merit of any officer however distinguished, should reconcile him to any grant likely to interfere with the comforts of the meritorious body who occupied Chelsea Hospital. The hon. officer concluded with stating, that he should be happy to find that the papers did justify the confident ianguage of the right hon. gent, who spoke last; but if not, he declared his intention to support the hon. baronet in his motion for bringing the Surveyors and the Medical Gentlemen of the Hospital to the bar, to be examined upon this subject.
observed, that one would suppose from the arguments of the hon. general, that something had been taken from Chelsea Hospital to be given to a favoured officer; whereas the fact was, that when this ground was bought by government, it was left to the physician of the Hospital, the trustees, and the surveyors, to cut and carve out of it what they thought necessary for the use of the Hospital. Before the 34th of the king, the disposal of crown lands was a source of influence to ministers; but since the passing of that act, the crown lands had been let with as much attention to the interests of the public, and as accurate regard to their actual value, as the lands of any bishop, or corporate body in the kingdom.
§ General Tarleton
said, he had not stated that any thing was granted from Chelsea Hospital to a favoured officer. He had only said, that he would not consent to a grant to any officer living or dead, which would be injurious to that Hospital.
§ Mr. Biddulph
was glad that the atten- 41 tion of the house had been called to this subject, because it must be productive of one good effect; that it would induce gentlemen to look into the provisions of the act of the 34th of the king, under which the disposition alluded to took place. In his opinion, a much more beneficial arrangement than that act prescribed might be provided to regulate the disposal of crown lands. That act was originally introduced upon the alledged ground of guarding against the influence of the crown; but it appeared to him, that there was still left quite scope enough for that influence to operate. The land was never advertised, and the bargains were close. Now, instead of such a mode of proceeding, he would have the land advertised, take the surveyor's report, and then sell the land by public auction. This struck his mind as a much more beneficial plan for managing the crown lands than that which was now pursued.
Sir Francis Burdett
expressed a hope that he should experience the indulgence of the house whilst he look some notice of the allusions which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought proper to make to his general conduct. Those allusions were so foreign to the question before the house, and so irregular in other points of view, that he really should have hoped that the eye of the chairman would have caught that of the right hon. gent. and checked him in his high career, when imputing improper motives to the conduct of any member. This observation he made, he could assure the right hon. gent. without any feeling of that indignant warmth which appeared to actuate him. Arrogance might be imputed to him for pronouncing any opinion upon the subject of the building referred to, without inquiring about the reports of the architects and surveyors. But if he had incurred such an imputation before, he feared that still mere arrogance would be imputed to him when he declared, that after hearing all that had been said explanatory of the reports, so much relied upon by the gentlemen on the other side, he continued to retain the same opinion. The right hon. gent. became, he perceived, quite angry when he talked about attaching a feeling of suspicion to the whole conduct of ministers. For himself, he was ready to say, that he should be sorry for the existence of such a feeling if undeserved; but from experience he must say, that he was highly glad to see that such a feeling prevailed, because he thought 42 that it rested upon good grounds, and that the public mind had been too long deceived.—One right hon. defender of the transaction to which his motion referred, had stated, that the ground sold to colonel Gordon was unfit to build upon. Now, he would ask that right hon. gent. how it came that if this ground was fit for the building of col. Gordon, it was not for that of Chelsea hospital? As to the report of the physicians, it was impossible, he thought, that they could consider an Infirmary, occupying in the whole not more than a quarter of an acre of ground, as benefitted, or rather as uninjured, by a wall 8 feet high, built in such a position as to interrupt the free circulation of air. Sure he was, that no man of common sense could subscribe to the opinion. But, that such an institution should be subjected to such an inconvenience for the paltry consideration of 52l. a year, the idea was intolerable! He would rather pay that sum out of his own pocket, than suffer such a grievance, than allow it to exist, if it were only to prevent a magnificent public edifice from being deformed, much less to preserve the comforts of a meritorious body of veterans. Among those who attempted to argue against him he could not help noticing the hyperbole of the hon. gent. (Mr. Huskisson) in his allusion to slave ships. Now, having said nothing whatever to warrant such an allusion, it was therefore quite misrepresentation; and such misrepresentation of an opponent's argument always furnished a presumption that the person using it was wrong.—After describing the situation of the ground upon which colonel Gordon was preparing to build, the hon. baronet said, that he knew many gentlemen who would, he had no doubt, be ready to give 10,000l. for it. With regard to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he looked at the whole conduct of ministers with a jaundiced eye, he assured the right hon. gent. that, on the contrary, he had no wish whatever to hamper or to supersede them. He had said often elsewhere what he would then repeat, that he thought them even as good ministers, under the present system, as any other set of gentlemen he knew were likely to make. But still he looked at them with jealousy, as he would at any ministers, and that jealousy was the natural result of the conviction upon his mind, that the public interests had not, for many years back, been attended to as they ought. When the right hon. gent. expressed his apprehension that 43 if this ground had not been let, he (Sir F.) was such a captious person, that probably he would have brought forward a complaint against ministers for being so improvident, he would appeal to the house, whether he had manifested any disposition to warrant such an apprehension; whether, in fact, he had ever been in the habit of bringing forward such motions? He should feel much better pleased if he could consistently agree with the majority of any assembly in which he happened to sit, but while he could not do so, he would never shrink from his duty, however painful the task of performing it. As to official forms, which had been dwelt upon by the hon. secretary, the hon. baronet allowed that recent experience shewed that all those forms might be strictly complied with, while the grossest mal-practices were going forward.—After recapitulating and enforcing his arguments, the hon. baronet persisted in his intention to call the persons to the bar, who were most competent to inform the house upon this transaction, which he continued to consider a scandalous job; which, leaving the Infirmary entirely out of the question, ought hot to be disposed of in a way that would take from the beauty of the hospital. The hon. baronet approved of the idea thrown out by his hon. friend, of moving that a plan of the grounds alluded to should be laid before the house. But he would recommend gentlemen to go, as he had done, to look at the building under consideration, and their own observations would, he was confident, serve more to convince their minds than any argument that could be offered upon the subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
in explanation stated, that he did not mean to impute any improper motives to the hon. baronet. If he had done so, he was ready to apologise to the house and to him. At the same time, the hon. baronet must expect the language of irritation from him, when he characterized as a job a transaction in which he had been concerned.
§ Mr. Sturges Bourne
observed, that all that had been required for Chelsea hospital was granted. If those more particularly connected with the hospital had desired the whole of this ground, they would have had it. He could conceive no motive that could have induced them to ask less than was really wanted. The Treasury, he contended, had throughout strictly performed their duty, and had expressly restrained the lessee from building houses, or planting trees 44 in any situation where they might be in the slightest degree inconvenient to the purposes of the hospital.
§ Mr. G. Vansittart
wished to be informed what was the quantity of land transferred to the hospital, and what the quantity let to col. Gordon.
Sir F. Burdett
replied, that it consisted of four acres and a quarter, of which the quarter had been assigned to the hospital, and the four acres to col. Gordon. (Hear! hear!)
Mr. Stewart Worthy
observed, that the Treasury had acted with all the precautions required by the act of parliament. It was a serious thing to bring a charge against the Treasury of having been engaged in a scandalous job, and then to say that the hon. baronet had been unacquainted with the circumstances under which they had acted.
§ Mr. P. Moore
said, that all who were interested in Chelsea Hospital, were greatly obliged to the hon. baronet for having brought forward this business. Of all the things wanted for an Infirmary, fresh air was the most requisite, and he hoped the building on this ground would not be permitted to proceed until some further inquiry was made. He also expressed his wish that the terms on which the lease had been purchased by the Treasury from lord Yarborough, should be stated, because this appeared necessary for the purpose of comparison, and would contribute materially to the attaining of correct views on the subject. He even thought it might be advisable to move for the proper documents on that point.
§ The motion of sir Francis Burdett was then put and carried.
§ Mr. Huskisson
, in moving for the other papers, said, that he need not trouble the house with much farther observation. He denied, however, that the Infirmary would be cooped up in the manner described by the hon. baronet. He stated that the sum which had been paid to lord Yarborough, upon the report of the Surveyor, was 5,000l. but he saw no reason for calling for the documents. He concluded by moving for a Copy of the Letter of the Secretary of Chelsea Hospital to the Treasury, soliciting a grant of part of this ground for an Infirmary: for the Letter from col. Gordon for the lease, for the Warrant to the Surveyor to examine the ground; for 45 the report of the Surveyor, and other documents to shew the course of' the transaction.
§ Mr. P. Moore
remarked upon the extraordinary nature of the proceeding in this case, where 5,000l. was admitted to have been given of four acres and a quarter of land, of which the quarter only had been assigned to the hospital, while the four acres were given to col. Gordon at 52l. a year. (Hear! hear!) This he thought a matter for serious inquiry; for if the business was not a scandalous job, it had at least been conducted in a dark corner.
§ The motions were then agreed to.