HC Deb 08 May 1815 vol 31 cc186-90

The House having resolved itself into a committee of supply.

Mr. Lushington

rose to propose an additional grant of 9,000l. to the trustees for the purchase of an estate for the family of the late lord Nelson. He stated that it had been the intention of his Majesty's ministers, when the original grant had been first proposed to the House, to have requested from Parliament the sum of 120,000l. for that purpose; but in the progress of that measure through the House, 30,000l. had been granted to the sisters of lord Nelson, and the sum which was finally granted for the purchase of the estate was 90,000l. During the time since the Act had passed no estate had offered itself to the commissioners which seemed desirable, and which at the game time was of that magnitude which their trust required, except the estate which they were then in treaty for. A sum of 9,000l. would, however, be requisite to conclude that treaty, principally on account of the timber on that estate. It was unnecessary for him to recite the claims of lord Nelson to the gratitude of the country, which were fresh in the recollection of the House; but he should move, "That a sum not exceeding 9,000l. he granted to his Majesty, to enable the trustees under an Act of the 40th year of his present Majesty, for settling an annuity on the earl Nelson and the heirs male of his body, and such other person on whom the title of earl Nelson shall descend, and for granting a sum of money to purchase an estate to accompany the said title, and for other purposes, to complete the purchase of an estate situate at Standlynch, in the county of Wills, and to enfranchise the copyhold part thereof, and to purchase a water-rent and some fee-farm rents issuing out of the said estate."

Mr. Whitbread

said, he was surprised, if it had been thought necessary by the Crown that the grant to lord Nelson's family should be increased, that a message had not been brought down to that effect. No such message had been brought down, and the only plea for augmenting the grant was, that no estate could be found which could be purchased for the sum which had been granted. It therefore came to this question of fact, whether any estate could have been procured for the sum which was in the hands of the commissioners? And the grant now proposed was not for the purpose of giving an additional recompence to the family of lord Nelson, but for purchasing the particular estate of Mr. Dawkins. In making these observations, he did not put himself in the invidious character of an opposer of a grant to the family of lord Nelson, but merely called on the Trustees to give an account why they had not concluded the purchase of an estate which had been offered them within the terms of their trust. The estate called Branches, in Suffolk, had been offered to the commissioners. The agents for the trust had surveyed, earl Nelson had approved of it, and the trustees had offered about 65,000l. for it, which Mr. Kemp, the proprietor, had, after some delay, stated that he would accept. The, trustees had then refused to complete the purchase, and without one reason assigned, and concluded a treaty for the purchase of the estate of Mr. Dawkins, of which great part was not enfranchised, although the trustees were forbid to purchase copyhold land; and although one of the objections to Mr. Kemp's estate was, that part was copyhold. That part of Branches was, however, small, and was now actually enfranchised. He did not, therefore, stand forth in the invidious light of wishing to cramp the public munificence to lord Nelson's family, but to require an account why, without any given reason, the commissioners had applied for an additional sum for the purchase of an estate, which, in point of revenue, would not be understood to be very beneficial.

Mr. Rose

stated, that since 1800, when the trustees, of whom he was one, were appointed, only two desirable estates had offered themselves to their attention before the estate of Branches and that of Mr. Dawkins, viz. one in Suffolk, in the sale of which they were outbid, and another in Hampshire, on which too high a price had been set, although all possible inquiries had been made. The estate which the trustees were in treaty for with Mr. Kemp, was in a bad country, and accessible only by roads which in winter were impassable; it was for that reason that the trustees had thought fit to prefer the estate in Wiltshire, which was in all respects much more desirable. It was plain, also, that the trustees were under no engagement to Mr. Kemp, for they had offered the sum of 65,825l. under three several modifications, which he had refused to accede to, until the treaty had been suspended, and on the supposition that the whole was freehold. Earl Nelson so far preferred the estate in Wiltshire, that he had offered, if the trustees were not able to obtain the additional grant, to pay the difference himself.

Mr. Western

saw no good grounds for the additional grant. He thought there could be a very good estate purchased for 90,000l. There was no urgent necessity for making the purchase at present; and as the commissioners had waited so long, they might have waited a little longer to find an estate suitable in every respect. He condemned the conduct of the commissioners with regard to Mr. Kemp; and thought they should not, on such light grounds, have broken off a treaty so nearly concluded.

Mr. W. Smith

thought, that leaving the negociation with Mr. Kemp entirely out of the question, the proposition before the committee ought not to be acceded to. As to Mr. Kemp, all that he had ever beard of that gentleman's case was, that he had some years ago bought an estate on cheap terms, which estate he was anxious to dispose of to lord Nelson, on such terms as should secure to himself an extraordinary bargain; but although no advocate for Mr. Kemp, he thought the contract with that gentleman binding. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last, but one, was, therefore, in error, if he supposed Mr. Kemp's case the cause of the obstacles which were presented to the proposed vote, and still more in error in assuming that those obstacles implied any disrespect to the memory of the late lord Nelson. For no such disrespect was felt; on the contrary, he himself, who was such a warm admirer of that hero as to be among the first to support the erection of a monument to his memory, in Norfolk, which monument would be a lasting honour to the object, and to the country, conceived it his duty to oppose this vote, because no circumstances appeared to him to have occurred since the original grant was voted, to make the additional sum now proposed either just or necessary. Even supposing the present earl were equally meritorious with his predecessor, he should, upon principle, feel himself bound to oppose the proposition. His objection was, that if there was 9,000l. necessary to complete the purchase, it could be paid out of the revenues' of the estate, and not by a country that had already given 90,000l. Parliament could appoint trustees to receive the 9,000l. from the estate, and the business might thus be settled very easily. But if 9,000l. were granted from the country at present, he saw no reason why 19,000l. 29,000l. or any other sum might not be required hereafter. He could discover no sufficient cause for the grant, and must therefore oppose it.

Mr. Rose

observed that Mr. Kemp pertinaciously insisted upon his own terms; namely, that 65,000l. should be paid for his estate, together with 5,000l. for fixtures, thus rejecting every proposal of concession.

Mr. Whitbread

remarked upon the expressed disposition of the right hon. gentleman and the other commissioners, on the 2d of July last, to accede to the purchase of an estate, which was now felt to be in such an inaccessible situation, as to be quite unsuitable to the object, and to the proper dignity of lord Nelson's family.

The Speaker

vindicated the conduct of the commissioners appointed to purchase an appropriate estate for the family of lord Nelson, who had, in pursuance of their duty, concluded for the purchase of the estate of Standlynch, which contained 2,500 acres, together with a suitable mansion, instead of Mr. Kemp's estate of 1,000 acres. But it was also to be observed, that Mr. Kemp could not, as he himself knew, make out a good title. The commissioners had not, however, been guilty of any injustice whatever, either towards Mr. Kemp or the public. This the right hon. gentleman illustrated, by describing the nature of the negociation with Mr. Kemp, and stating that only 87,000l. was advanced to the proprietor of the estate of Standlynch, the commissioners reserving 3,000l. for the repairs of the mansion, and covenanting with the present lord Nelson, that he should advance the remainder of the purchase-money, to be secured to him as his own personal property, independently of the original grant. Therefore the commissioners had in no degree pledged the House; and of course it remained to be considered, whether the committee would, as an act of grace, liberality, and favour, accede to the grant now proposed, in compliment to the merits of the late lord Nelson—whether it would stop short with the original grant, or go farther, with a view to make suitable provision for the family of that great warrior.

Mr. Bankes

was at a loss to know where the House could find a justification for giving the additional 9,000l. When the merits of lord Nelson were brought before them, it was difficult to fix the bounds of their generosity; but as a limit had been settled, he could not perceive why it should be extended. Under all these circumstances of the case, he could not understand how the present proposition could be supported.

Mr. Rose

replied, that there was nothing to prevent Mr. Kemp from applying to the Court of Chancery, if he should consider himself to have been injured. With respect to Standlynch, no other property had offered equally eligible, and, on that account, the commissioners had conceived themselves bound to accept of it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that it had been difficult to find an estate applicable to the purposes of the act parliament. The Act required that the estate should be freehold, and free from incumbrances. It was therefore essential to the spirit of the Act, that the estate should be settled unincumbered in the Nelson family.

General Walpole

said, that every man must think it an advantageous purchase.

The question was then loudly called for, and the House divided:

For the Grant 111
Against it 66
Majority —45