HC Deb 16 November 1852 vol 123 cc211-4

On the Order of the Day for going into Committee of Supply,


said, before the Order of the Day was proceeded with, he wished to state that he had made a request on a former night, that some estimate of the expenses of the funeral of the Duke of Wellington should be laid upon the table of the House. He found, upon referring to the journals of the House, that an estimate was laid on the table by Mr. Vansittart of the expenses of the funeral of Lord Nelson, and also of that of Mr. Pitt. The House was not sitting at the time of Lord Nelson's funeral, and therefore the estimate was not laid on the table until after the occasion; but as the House was now sitting, they ought to have an estimate laid before them. Not that he was desirous to abridge or to throw any difficulty in the way of a public demonstration, but they ought to relieve and disabuse the public mind of the extravagant ideas that had been formed as to the amount of the ex- pense. The department upon whom the trust was devolved should be prepared to lay before them an estimate in some degree approximating to the amount.


said, he had not forgotten the intimation given some days ago by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, but, from the pressure of circumstances connected with this solemnity, it was quite impossible to lay an estimate before the House.


said, that if the public money could not be accounted for, it appeared to him there must be great blame somewhere.


said, his hon. Friend had greatly misconstrued what he had stated, in supposing that the public money could not be accounted for. If the public money were expended in this manner, it would be accounted for to the last shilling; but, from the pressure of circumstances, it was impossible at the present moment to lay an estimate before the House.


thought the House had heard a most extraordinary statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that they had been treated in a most extraordinary way by the refusal given to the request of his hon. Friend that an estimate should be laid on the table of the House. With regard to the expenses of the funeral of the late Duke of Wellington, all persons in the country were unanimous in wishing, by every possible means, to testify their respect for the memory of that great and illustrious man; but he did not think that respect would in any degree be diminished by the constitutional course of giving to that House, who held the purse strings of the country, an estimate of the probable expense attending the solemnity of Thursday. They all recollected the letter addressed by the Prime Minister to the Home Secretary on the occasion of the death of the Duke. In that letter, which he thought most admirable, and he believed was generally Be considered, the reason given for delaying the funeral from what appeared to be the natural time, shortly after the death of the illustrious hero, was, that it would be better and more constitutional to delay it until Parliament should be assembled, in order that Parliament might give its consent and approbation to the manner in which it was to be performed. He was sorry to see that the proceeding of the Government on this occasion appeared to be like some other of their modes of proceeding—not characterised by much sincerity, but to be something of a deceptive character. ["Oh, oh!"] The Prime Minister was for waiting until Parliament could be consulted, and express its opinion on the subject. But had Parliament been consulted as to the arrangement or expense of this great national solemnity? On the contrary, everything had been done by prerogative. All the orders had been given and the expense incurred, and now the House of Commons, after being thus bamboozled—["Oh, oh!"]— was left without information, and had no alternative but to wait until after the expenses were incurred. ["Oh, oh!"] It was all very well for the adherents of the Ministry to cry "Oh, oh!" but he was sure the people were with him, and having to pay the bill, they would say the Government had done wrong in not being prepared to answer the appeal so properly made by his hon. Friend.


said, he should be wanting in his duty to his constituents if he did not protest against the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had delayed the funeral solemnity for more than two months for the purpose of consulting Parliament, and yet was not now prepared to say whether the expenses would be 10,000l. or 100,000l., or whether, as some people said, they would amount to a quarter of a million. It seemed a somewhat invidious and ungracious task to address the House on that subject. But he was bound to say he felt last night he had not done his duty to his own conscience, in not having stood up when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer poured out, in well-turned periods, his eulogium on the Duke of Wellington, and resisted that which he (Mr. S. Carter) felt to be a national folly—for he could only term a national funeral a national folly. The right hon. Gentleman said the feelings of a great people could only find vent in a splendid pageant. If that was the only way in which they could express their feelings, it would be far better, in his opinion, not to express them at all. He thought it would have been much more to the credit of that House and of the country if the money expended on that funeral had been applied to some object of public usefulness, rather than for the pageantry, parade, and pomp of a public funeral. He thought all this wore the aspect of impiety —it was man paying almost idolatrous worship to the clay of his fellow worm. He had availed himself of his privilege as a Member of that House to witness the ceremony of the lying in state. He did so from no idle curiosity, hut for the purpose of observation and reflection; but he confessed, when he looked upon all its pomp, the feeling in his mind was only one of deep disgust, to see the clay of a departed man hung round with all those emblems of heraldry, with jewellery and emblazonments, as if in mockery, and all to do honour to a being who was placed beyond the honour of this world, and could receive it no more, hut who, perhaps, had received more in his lifetime than any man of this or any other age. It was nothing more than a solemn mockery. The late Duke was now beyond the power of praise or the incense they might choose to bestow, therefore the pageant was a mockery, and ought to be put down. [Cries of "Oh!"] Gentlemen might cry "Oh!" hut they would find it impossible to oh him down. The pageant could only be justified on one of two grounds: first, upon the plea that it was a tribute to the dead; and, secondly, upon the allegation that it would be a benefit to the living. Now, he denied that it was in the power of that House to confer any honour upon the dead, and he also denied that it was likely to confer any benefit upon the living. The eulogists of the Duke of Wellington told them that his virtues were too great for imitation. They told them that he was the greatest man of a great age, and to a certain extent debarred emulation. The only thing which the pageant would do, in his opinion, would be to stimulate the military spirit of the people, and make militiamen come forward, and also foster in the minds of the poorer classes the love for expensive funerals, a folly to which they were already too prone. He must again protest against Government taking a carte blanche for the expense, and then coming to the people and saying the bill must be paid, as the debt had been incurred. He had not that confidence in hon. Gentlemen opposite; he had not that confidence in any Government, and although they might not spend more money than the Whigs, if in power, his want of confidence was an additional reason for this protest.

Motion agreed to.

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