HC Deb 22 April 1825 vol 13 cc137-8

The House having resolved itself into a committee of Supply,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

adverting to the report of the committee appointed to consider the expediency of purchasing for the British Museum the collection of coins, antiquities, and manuscripts of the late Mr. Rich, observed, that that report was so explicit and satisfactory, that it was quite unnecessary for him to trouble the House with any details or arguments on the subject. Nor could it be necessary for him to impress Upon the House how highly honourable it was to the country, to make every effort for the due cultivation of literature and the arts. The collection in question was one of undoubted value, and was declared by competent judges to be well worth the sum required for it. He would therefore move, " That a sum not exceeding 7,500l. be granted t o ins majesty, for the purchase of Mr. Rich's collection of manuscripts, antiquities and coins, to be placed in the British Museum, for the benefit of the public."

Mr. Hume

cordially supported the motion. He said he would take the present opportunity of expressing his regret at the condition in which many of the valuable monuments in the country now were, and of asking the right hon. gentleman if he would hate any objection to the appointment of a committee to inquire what was the state of the monuments which had bean erected to the memory of our distinguished countrymen, where they were placed, the expense that had been incurred in their erection, and how far they were at present accessible to the people? If the right hon. gentleman had no objection to such a proposition, he hoped that either he, or some other member of his majesty's government, would make it, in order that the public might know what was the result of the great expense on the subject which they had incurred. Among other things, he was informed, that the shillings which were collected at the doors of Westminster Abbey went into the pockets of the persons who were appointed to take care of those monuments; but he also understood, that there was another fund from which those persons ought to be paid, and which the dean and chapter put into their own pockets. He thought this was a subject which should be inquired into.

Mr. Bankes

admitted that the expense which the public were put to in the erection of those monuments gave them a fair claim to inquire how the funds received for exhibiting them were applied; but he thought the onus of such inquiry ought not to be thrown upon the chancellor of the Exchequer. The subject was, he granted, a fair one for inquiry.

Mr. Hume

disclaimed the slightest imputation on the right hon. gentleman. All that he wished to know was, whether government would sanction the appointment of such a committee as he had alluded to; as otherwise, any proposition for its appointment would be nugatory.

Sir C. Long

did not know any thing of the fund to which the right lion. member bad alluded, as being provided for the care of the monuments in Westminster Abbey. He could assure the hon. gentleman that his majesty's government had no other wish on the subject, than that the public should have the full benefit of the money that had been expended upon it. As to the present vote, there could be no difference of opinion about the value of the collection which it was to secure; and he thought it but common justice to observe, that there had never been any collection offered to the trustees of the British. Museum, in a more fair, liberal, and handsome manner.

The resolution was then agreed to.