§ SUPPLY considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £105,000, be
granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1864, for the Purchase of the existing Exhibition Buildings at Kensington Gore from the Contractors, and for repairing, altering, and eventually completing the said Buildings.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I rise to propose a Vote of £105,000 for the purpose of purchasing the building at Kensington lately occupied for the Great Exhibition, and of commencing operations with a view to fitting a portion of it for certain purposes. I wish at the outset with great earnestness to submit to the House a two-fold request, of which, under the circumstances, I have no doubt the equity will be acknowledged. In the first place, I have to ask the Committee to endeavour to look at the question as a dry matter of business, and, on my own part, I shall do my best to abstain from importing into it any other matters. My other request is, that the Committee will be good enough to hear me out, if they have the patience to do so, before forming a judgment on what I have to say. I shall begin by trying to reduce the issue to its simplest form, and to place before the Committee as clearly and fully as I can what is the nature and what is the extent of the discretion which we seek, and by what restrictions we propose to continue bound. As a matter collateral to that issue, I ought to state for the full information of hon. Members, that if the Vote we ask be granted, I shall give notice of a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill to authorize the separation of certain of the collections in the British Museum. I presume that the House, by the Vote it has already passed, has evidently contemplated and admitted such a separation. At the same time, it would be useless for us to ask for authority to give effect to the judgment of the House unless we were really in a position to carry it out. It will also be necessary for us, whenever any Motion is taken for providing at Bloomsbury or elsewhere for the Natural History collections, to propose a separate Estimate with a view to the rearrangement and enlargement of the British Museum on its present site, so as to afford the greatest possible amount of accommodation.
The next point on which it is necessary to clear the subject from misapprehension is one referred to in a question put to me by my noble Friend opposite before Mr. Speaker left the Chair. My noble Friend 76 opposite inquired what provision we are going to make for the control and management of this property in case the House should sanction its purchase. That is a matter which Her Majesty's Government has carefully considered. We felt that we are asking the House to make a purchase of a very important character, one not required simply for the purposes of any particular department, and one with regard to which we, of course, knew that much difference of opinion would have to be encountered before all the arrangements could be concluded. It was therefore the judgment of the Government—which I trust will be satisfactory to the noble Lord and the House—that the management of the property, the distribution of space, and perhaps even the legal possession, should not be placed in the hands of any subordinate department or any body having only a partial responsibility. The Government, therefore, decided to announce to the Committee that it is their intention to vest the possession, control, and management of the estate and building, if acquired, in the Treasury, in order that the responsibility may be as direct and summary as possible, and that any question concerning it may be addressed at once by any Member to the head of the Government. I need not say, therefore, that neither the Office of Works nor the Department of Science and Art, far less any body irrespective of the Government, will have any control over the property, but the Prime Minister will hold himself directly responsible to the House of Commons for its management.
Sir, I now proceed to a very irksome portion of my duty—a portion, indeed, on which nothing but absolute necessity would ever have induced me to enter, but I have no choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), in his able speech the other evening, occupied a full half-hour or more with expressing the very deliberate and definite opinion of a gentleman whose name up to that time had not reached my ears, but that of course argued my obscurity and not his—I mean Mr. Mallet. There is no royal road, it is said, to learning; but if ever any gentleman found a royal road to immortality, it is Mr. Mallet, whose individual views were made to form the almost entire substratum of my hon. Friend's able speech, and a ground for rejecting the Reports of responsible and experienced officials and the carefully-weighed conclusions of the Govern- 77 ment. The House was asked to set no account on the days and weeks the officers of the Government have spent in investigation of the subject, but to accept in their stead the volunteer information afforded by Mr. Mallet. It was my duty therefore, after the House of Commons was required to come to a very important resolution on the credit of Mr. Mallet, to make inquiries and obtain information respecting him. My hon. Friend said that he was a very eminent engineer, who, under Sir Charles Barry, drew up the plans of the Houses of Parliament. [Mr. GREGORY: I did not say that.] That is the statement as reported. [Mr. GREGORY: It is incorrectly reported. I said he drew up the working plans.] At least, then, I understand my hon. Friend to say that he is an eminent engineer and was engaged under Sir Charles Barry. That is enough for my purpose. Mr. Mallet, I have ascertained, is a very ingenious and clever gentleman. He is well known to the world at large by the production of a work on earthquakes. Now, if the question concerned the destruction and not the construction of a public building, I, for one, should not hesitate to say that a gentleman who had profoundly considered the operation of earthquakes would be a good authority. Mr. Mallet is also known as the inventor of a certain great mortar, which may now be seen lying in the yard at Woolwich. I do not think it an indication that Mr. Mallet would be a safe guide for the House on the score of expense when I say that the ingenious mortar, after having been tried on three or four days, having required repair every day after trial, and having cost the country some £12,000, ended by lying in the yard at Woolwich. I do not ask the Committee to take any of this on my word. I invite the hon. Member for Galway to move for the production of the whole of the correspondence relating to the trial of this mortar. ["Question!"] Well, surely this has to do with the question of Mr. Mallet's experience. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: It was Lord Palmerston's mortar.] Well, I come now to the direct statement of my hon. Friend. That statement was that Mr. Mallett is an eminent engineer, who, under Sir Charles Barry, has been employed in the erection of the Houses of Parliament. After hearing the speech of my hon. Friend I endeavoured to find out what I could of the biography of this gentleman. The hon. Baronet the Member 78 for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) said he did not know him. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath said he did know him, and that he drew all the working plans of the Houses of Parliament. [Mr. TITE: Not exactly.] Then I withdraw the observation. Naturally enough, the contractors in this case, who were used not very mildly, though as mildly as other people, by Mr. Mallet, have made some inquiries about him, and I hold in my hand two rather curious letters illustrative of the statement on which my hon. Friend rested his case. One is from Mr. Banks, well known as an eminent architect, and senior partner in the firm of Banks and Barry. He writes as follows:—
§ "June 19.
§ "My dear Sir,—In reply to your question as to Mr. Mallet's connection with architectural or engineering works at the new Palace of Westminster, I can most confidently assert that that gentleman was in no way, either directly or indirectly, ever engaged on those works. I can speak with confidence from the fact of having been in connection with the late Sir Charles Barry, as his chief assistant, from before the commencement of the building and for thirteen years of their progress, and since that time having been in partnership with his son. I have also found from Mr. Quarm, who was the chief clerk of the works for a number of years, and until the completion of the building, that Mr. Mallet was simply an occasional visitor for his own gratification, and for no other purpose.
§ "I remain, my dear Sir, yours very truly,
§ "ROBERT R. BANKS.
§ "Charles Lucas, Esq."
That is the first part of my answer to the hon. Member for Galway. I know, however, that the hon. Gentleman is very sceptical, and therefore I have another authority for him. Mr. Meeson writes as follows:—
In reply to yours, I have to say that my connection with the Palace of Westminster commenced in 1844, when I was engaged by Sir C. Barry as his principal assistant, and from that time had intrusted to me the whole of the constructional drawings and details of that building and the machinery, &c., connected with it, until I was appointed engineer in charge of the Palace, that appointment terminating in 1856, and during all this time Mr. R. Mallet had no connection with the building. As you know, about April 1861, I was applied to respecting the International Exhibition building, when, at the request of the Commissioners, I undertook the consideration of, and the making, the whole of the structural and detail drawings of that building from the foundations, superintending the execution thereof so far as was requisite; and I have to assure you that the constructing the building strong and secure in every part was my most anxious endeavour.
My hon. Friend the Member for Galway
has said that Mr. Mallet was of extraordinary eminence as an engineer. This is a matter of opinion, and far be it from me to question the judgment of such a well-known arbiter of taste in this House; but it appears that Mr. Mallet was not employed in connection with Sir Charles Barry in the erection of the palace in which we sit. This is really a very serious matter in connection with the statement which the hon. Member for Galway admits himself to have made. I can explain his mistake in only one way. He says that Mr. Mallett was connected with Sir Charles Barry. It does appear that at one time Mr. Mallet had a partner named Mr. Frederick Barry, and I apprehend the hon. Member has fallen into the slight error of confounding Mr. Frederick Barry with Sir Charles Barry, and probably also Mr. Mallet with Mr. Meeson. At any rate, what I claim is that the authority of Mr. Mallet shall be wholly and absolutely withdrawn from this discussion.
§ But I must go on to other matters. I wish to explain to the Committee the meaning and intention of the Government in the submission to the consideration of hon. Members of certain estimates and figures prepared by Mr. Hunt. I have not one word to retract with respect to those figures. I believe that upon examination by competent and responsible persons they have been entirely confirmed. Nor have I a word to qualify with respect to the eminent position of Mr. Hunt in his business; but I wish to explain to the Committee what I think has been seriously misunderstood. Not unnaturally, but inconveniently, it has been supposed that in placing these figures before the Committee it was the intention of the Government to announce that they had a formed and perfected plan for dealing with the Exhibition building, and that their desire was to secure the assent of the Committee to that plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. You may perhaps ask what was our object. Our object was this. We were inviting you to purchase a building that had been erected for temporary purposes as to great parts of it, but for permanent purposes as to some portions of it, and with respect to the whole of which, on account of its magnitude and the uncertainty of various elements embraced in the question, it was our absolute duty to endeavour to furnish hon. Members with some guide in such inquiries as they might make. We took the simplest course available to us. We employed the most com- 80 petent man we knew to inquire what would be the sum necessary to bring the building to a state of substantial repair with a view to permanent uses, and the minimum of decoration for the purpose of completion. But we were not so foolish as to suppose that we could cover seventeen acres of ground in a fashion settled in a room at the Treasury by means of some hours conversation with a surveyor, however eminent he might be. The estimate of Mr. Hunt was simply intended to serve as a general guide to the minds of hon. Members on the question of expense. It was a perfectly trustworthy guide for the purpose to which it was addressed; but we had not the presumption to suppose—it would have been an idle dream on our part to have supposed, recollecting how this building had been erected, the measures taken to obtain competition among architects, the time that had elapsed, and the large funds that had been bestowed with the view of having the greatest talent employed in its construction—that these figures could be accepted as anything more than a basis of ascertaining for what sum the building, or different parts of it, might be brought to a state of completion sufficient for practical purposes. I am sure hon. Members will do me the favour and justice to understand that it would not have been ingenuous on our part if we had not presented these figures. We were bound to present them, and to present them in a printed form, with a view to the fullest information.
§ Well, Sir, a Petition has been presented to this House by the Society of Architects against the adoption of this building. I shall not attempt to follow the allegations of that Petition, and mainly for this reason, that, as the Committee will observe before I have done, by far the greatest portion of them are beside the purpose of the Vote which I invite the Committee to give tonight, even although the time might arrive when they would require to be taken into consideration. But I demur altogether to an opinion formed on a single visit by six or eight gentlemen, even if they were the heads of their profession, to inspect a vast building. I believe I am right in saying that that opinion was formed on a single visit. I do not wish to make any invidious comments, or to read out the names of the petitioners, but I must say the Petition is far from containing the names of the heads of the profession. I admit that Mr. Donaldson is a man of eminence as a 81 practical architect, and that Mr. Ferguson has written an ingenious book, and is a clever, excellent person: but I am not aware that the latter—I do not wish to speak of him with disparagement—has ever erected a public building as a practical architect. I shall not continue these comments, which are very painful whenever they assume a critical character; but I may be permitted to observe that the Petition of the Society of Architects was not founded upon any report from such men as Mr. Hardwick, Mr. Cockerell, Mr. Smirke, Messrs. Batiks and Barry, and Mr. Scott. Although I have not thought it my duty to go about canvassing architects, I am in a position to say that these gentlemen, who are in the main—not alluding, of course, to any Member of this House—the heads of their profession, are not in any sense parties to this Petition. Indeed, I have in my possession letters, not sought for by me, from two of them—Mr. Smirke and Mr. Scott—referring to that which is, perhaps, one of the sorest parts of the whole case—namely, the exterior decoration, and giving it as their deliberate opinion that the building is capable of being so embellished on the exterior surface as to be made a very handsome structure. After that manifestation of scepticism, and to show that I have not overstated the case, I may be permitted to refer to the letters themselves. Recollect, however, that I do not intend to indulge in any enthusiasm about the building. When I used the expression "a very handsome building," I used an expression meant to be general in its terms. Mr. Smirke writes, "I am now prepared to say that the outside of the Exhibition building is quite susceptible of being made extremely ornamental." These words go beyond the expression I used. Mr. Scott does not speak so strongly. [Cries of "Read!"] I am unwilling to trouble the House with long extracts, but the hon. Gentlemen who cry "Read!" will see from the letter of Mr. Smirke that I have not overstated the case. I have no wish to enter into the question between cement and stone, brick and terra cotta. No Chancellor of the Exchequer pretends to taste; he cannot have any; and the last thing he could dream of would be to put himself in competition with those great lights and luminaries of whom we are so fortunate as to have many among us. But what I say is, that the exterior of the Exhibition building is an exterior which, in the judgment of the two eminent architects I have named, 82 may be brought to a satisfactory condition and appearance.
§ The next point to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee is the situation of difficulty in which we shall be placed—and I greatly doubt whether what I have to say on this subject will excite the risible powers of hon. Members—the situation of difficulty in which we shall be placed if, having taken the important step of purchasing seventeen acres of land we should stop short, and say we will do nothing more, because that really is the proposal. ["No, no!"] The proposal is that we are to do no more than that, but to trust to our rhetorical powers and the powers of the law for the purpose of getting the ground clear, and then embarking in a sea of adventure for buildings. It is not for me to enter into the details of this part of the subject. It is not for me to put arms in the hands of those with whom we may have hostile relations. As a public officer, my desire is not to say one word which can in any case be injurious to the public interests. But this I have to say—for it is only what is patent and manifest—that there is no obligation whatever of a written and specific character upon the contractors to remove the building within a given time, or to remove it at all. ["Oh!"] Of course, my hon. Friend is aware that there are obligations incumbent upon them by the general law, which give us, as the possessors of the freehold, the right to go into a court of justice and question the proceedings of the contractors as to the rate at which they are removing it—to eject them, perhaps, after all the resources of the law have been exhausted in opposing us; and the remedy is this—and a pleasant remedy it is—to remove the building ourselves, being answerable to the contractors for the wisdom and propriety of our proceedings. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, if I am wrong, there are many hon. and learned Members here who can contradict me, but I wish to assure the Committee that I am not speaking simply upon my own authority on this point. I understand that we have the right to bring an action of ejectment—that if we eject the contractors, we may enter, and having entered, may proceed to remove the building, but that we remove it subject to the obligation of making no unnecessary waste of the property, and of accounting to the contractors for the net proceeds. That is the remedy, and it will be no very summary operation. There are hon. Gentlemen present who know pretty 83 well at what time, by a series of hostile measures, we shall succeed in ejecting the contractors, in taking down and removing the building, and also in restoring the surface, which I am told is no part of the obligation of the contractors. But what is then to happen? Two years hence perhaps—whether that is a sanguine estimate or not I am not prepared to say—we should find ourselves in possession of a tabula rasa of about sixteen acres, with the exception of certain buildings which we have already bought, and to which I shall refer by-and-by. I want to know what would then take place. We should have to face a greater architectural question that this House has ever yet been able to face—namely, how to dispose of a site unprecedentedly large, what buildings to place upon it, what architects to employ, what styles to adopt, and last, but not least, what monies to vote for the purpose. [Ironical cheers.] I think I can interpret those cheers of the minority. The minority are entitled to cheer, but they should recollect that they cheer, not in opposition to me, but in opposition to a Vote come to by this House. But may I not fairly request even that minority to forego for a moment the pleasure of gloating over their own forethought and wisdom, and endeavour by a strong effort of patriotism and self-sacrifice to place themselves in the position which the House of Commons has assumed, and which the Government has held all along? I am not taunting this House, which has, I believe, done wisely, I am only seeking to point out the course that is best under the circumstances in which we stand, and which involve the possession of a site of sixteen acres at South Kensington. In my opinion, nothing could be more embarrassing than the position which the Government and Parliament will occupy when, at the end of those years which must elapse before we attain to the blessing of a clear stage and no favour at South Kensington, we set ourselves to consider what plans should be adopted for covering this vast site; and when, during all the delay that must take place, we have to encounter the just and even indignant claims of inventors calling for a Patent Museum; and to deal also with a growing inconvenience, almost amounting to a scandal, of the present state of the British Museum; while likewise the pictures of the National Portrait Gallery must remain so buried in an obscure house in George Street that for the nation at large that gallery cannot be 84 said to have a real or practical existence. That is one of the alternatives before us if we refuse this Vote; and I have, I think, in some respects under-stated its disadvantages.
§ But I have still two other questions to deal with; and I shall be obliged to the hon. Member for Liskeard, or other hon. Gentlemen, should I seem to speak ambiguously, if they will give me an opportunity of making plainer what I have to say; for the wisdom of our proceedings to-night will depend upon whether the Committee has a right comprehension of that which we have to lay before them. An impression appears to have existed that we intend to offer the contractors an extravagant price for the building. I wish to tell the Committee exactly what has taken place in regard to this point. Assuming that we have purchased the site, and that we want to have buildings upon it, what is the principle on which we should negotiate for a structure like the one now standing there? I am entitled to say, that after the purchase of a site of seventeen acres, it will be requisite that there shall be buildings upon some part of it. We (the Government) think that either the building already there, or certain parts of it, are well suited for public purposes. We go to the contractors and wish to deal with them. There is immense advantage in adapting buildings already on the spot, if suitable, instead of destroying the old and erecting new ones. If that advantage exists, we ought to consent to some division of it between both the parties. That is the principle on which every man of business conducts his private affairs, and that is the principle on which we have thought it best, in common fairness, to proceed. We therefore first resorted to the best means of ascertaining what is the net removable value of the existing building. That term is well known to all Gentlemen conversant with such matters. It means, I apprehend, what the parties can make of the materials of the building after they have paid the expense of removing them from the site. But, as we do not intend to remove the buildings, but propose to make great use of some of them as they stand, and as, at any rate, the materials of the buildings are on the spot already, it is obvious that they are worth a great deal more to us than they would be to a person who seeks only their removable value. We therefore determined to give a fair premium to the contract- 85 ors upon the net removable value. The Committee shall know everything which took place. The first price announced by the contractors as the minimum was £120,000, and we were informed that we might take the building at that price or leave it to them. I am not complaining that the contractors made any extravagant demand. It must be recollected that the sum they received for the building was £230,000, and that the cost of it as estimated was £350,000; and as estimated by Mr. Fowler, when reduced to a minimum, was somewhere about £300,000. Far be it from me to say a word against the contractors. They are, I believe, gentlemen of the highest character and position; but that was their demand. We refused that demand. They took some time to consider, and then announced £100,000 as the absolute ultimatum they would offer to us. We, of course, refused that proposition. Subsequently Messrs. Kelk & Lucas made a communication to the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), whose reputation does not, I think, require any vindication or description from me; but as there are often communications in trade which do not appear, I may say that I believe my hon. Friend to be as devoid of any shade or shadow of connection with Messrs. Kelk & Lucas, in reference to this building, as any Gentleman who sits in this House. My hon. Friend wrote to inform me that he was in a condition to negotiate with me on their behalf, and it was agreed that the first thing I ought to do was to ascertain from some party friendly to the Government the net removable value. Mr. Hunt was employed, and desired to devote his time without reserve to ascertain the net removable value, which is a matter always liable to variation, but to variations lying within a certain margin. He went to work, and spent some weeks in the careful examination of this question, which other gentlemen have been able to dispose of in what is called a cursory view. Mr. Hunt reported to me that the removable value of the buildings, assuming that the contractors were compelled to remove them in six months, and to make forced sales of the materials, would be £48,000. I asked Mr. Hunt this question, "Can you guarantee to me that if we say we are dissatisfied with what has been offered to us, and if we claim to go before an impartially-chosen umpire, that that umpire will give us a sum either below £48,000 or a sum not 86 materially above that amount?" Mr. Hunt's answer on the moment was, "I can give no such assurance." Therefore it would have been foolish for us to propose any such sum. Mr. Hunt's estimate of the removable value was likewise taken upon conditions which do not exist. His calculation assumed that the contractors were bound to pull down the buildings post-haste, and sell the materials to whoever might first offer.
§ I hope I have shown the Committee that the contractors are not under obligations to remove the building within a given time. ["No, no!"] I am sorry that I have not so conveyed myself; for though the matter is rather complicated, such is actually the fact. The Commissioners of 1851, who are the owners of the ground, are not in direct relations with the contractors. The Commissioners of 1851 have an arrangement with the Commissioners of 1862, which might be considered to be a contract of removal, but I am advised that it is not a contract now available; and even if it were, the Commissioners of 1862 have no contract whatever with the contractors as regards the time within which they are bound to remove the building. [Laughter.] I am sorry this excites the mirth of hon. Gentlemen, but I am endeavouring to give a dry statement of the facts; there is no rhetoric, no figure of speech when I say that no engagement has been entered into by the contractors for the removal of this building. The question which was asked, I think, by some of the public journals—why do not the Government produce the contract?—is answered by the fact that we have no contract to produce. Mr. Hunt having made the report which I have stated as to the net removable value, it became evident that the naked figures stated by him must be considerably extended if we meant to have the building at all. I ventured to ask that gentleman, "Having discharged your official duty, Mr. Hunt, I wish now to know from you, as an individual conversant with transactions of this kind, what would be a fair price between man and man. I have no wish to bind you by your answer, neither ought we to be bound by it, but I wish to know what you would think a fair offer for us to make to the contractors." He said, "If you want to have the building, I think you should offer from £90,000 to £100,000." I said, "We can't do that; I think the Government may venture to go to a sum of £80,000, but we will not go a shilling further." That state- 87 ment, of course, became known, and my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury—no mean judge of the value of materials—communicated with Messrs. Kelk and Lucas, and that hon. Member has recorded his opinion, that taking their own time in the disposal of the materials, Messrs. Kelk and Lucas could from other sources have realized a larger sum. It is remarkable how closely the estimate of Mr. Hunt is corroborated by that of Mr. Fowler. It is not necessary that I should acquaint the House with the character and position of a gentleman, who, if not the very first, is certainly one of the very first engineers of the age, and has lately executed a work in the metropolis of infinite value to the inhabitants, and sufficient to give him a secure immortality in his profession. Mr. Fowler valued the buildings, if the contractors had only nine months to remove them, at £50,000; if eighteen months were allowed, at £60,000; and if additional time were at their disposal, at between £60,000 and £70,000. But he stated, that in order to secure the advantage of retaining them, we ought to give some moderate premium. The limit of the purchase-money, including that premium, we have fixed at £80,000; and the hon. Member for Finsbury, an impartial judge, who was himself connected with the Exhibition of 1851, and has a public part to play in the country, declares that to be the actual value.
§ I now approach the last portion of the statement with which it is necessary that I should trouble the Committee, and I ask the patience of hon. Members while I make it. I do not scruple to say, that in my opinion, it is the duty of the executive Government in dealing with a question of the acquisition of a great mass of public property, to have the utmost regard, not only to the approved conviction of the House of Commons, but even to the prepossessions in which they may not entirely share. We have considered how far it is possible for us to meet the views entertained on this question. This is our position. We have got to provide for three urgent public wants. The first of these is a National Portrait Gallery. [Laughter.] I never said that the want of a National Portrait Gallery was one on which the existence of the State depends; but the National Portrait Gallery at this moment is a discredit, and not a credit to the country. If you have got a National Portrait Gallery, persons ought to be able to go and 88 see it. [Mr. CONINGHAM: It is closed five days in the week, I think.] The Gallery is at present contained in a house in Great George-Street, where you could not have ten persons in any one of the rooms at a time—if they were Indies, not five. A National Portrait Gallery, therefore, is wanting, if we speak of art as a great public interest, as I, for one, believe it to be. Another urgent want is a Patent Museum. The Commissioners of Patents, who are the great authorities on this subject, have been pressing the Treasury; and I wish to apprise the public, that unless measures are taken rapidly at Kensington, a sum of £200,000 must be spent in building a Museum elsewhere. The third want arises from the state of the Natural History collection at the British Museum; and that, I believe, is admitted to be urgent. I appeal to my noble Friend below the gangway (Lord Elcho), whom I see assuming the most hostile and severe aspect of which he is capable, what means have we of satisfying, within any measured or definite time, those three urgent public wants, except by a portion of that site at Kensington. We desire to satisfy those wants. We desire, at the same time, to meet the wishes—I will even say the prejudices—of the House of Commons; and to bow, as far as we can do so consistently with what we feel to be our duty, to the views entertained by hon. Members—not criticising those views too closely, but feeling confident that a little time will soften down any opinions adverse to the building which may now be entertained. I hope that is not an unfair basis on which to rest the proposal I have to make. We have considered in what way those urgent public wants can best be satisfied, and I hold in my hand the means [a coloured ground plan of the building on a large scale] of rendering intelligible to every Member of the Committee the mode in which we propose to proceed. Public opinion is adverse to the total destruction of the picture galleries. [Cries of "Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] Well, they have at least obtained a considerable amount of approval and admiration; and our proposal, I admit, involves the maintenance of those galleries. We do not ask you to come to any conclusion as to the exterior; it is not in the slightest degree necessary to touch that at present. We propose that it, along with some other questions, should stand over for your free discussion upon the Miscellaneous Estimates in Committee of Supply. We 89 ask you to give us the authority necessary to meet the wants I have described. The ground floor of these galleries would afford not a superfluous, nor, for a long time, a very ample accommodation as a museum for patents, but the accommodation for that purpose would be princely and magnificent compared with what now exists, and ample breathing time would thus be given for considering other questions involved. The first thing we seek is liberty to deal with the interior of the building, defined by the walls marked black on this plan, with the simple appendage of the staircase. The other request has relation to the northern part of the building; and here it is necessary that I should give explanations which we purposely withheld the other day in order not to lengthen the discussion. In the £120,000 which we have given for the seventeen acres of land, there is included a set of buildings looking towards the Horticultural Gardens, and forming a very large portion of the northern front of the structure. The cost price of that portion may be taken at £30,000; no inconsiderable addition to the property we have acquired at a very moderate rate. Now, speaking with a humility I can hardly describe, I have understood that this facade is considered to be unobjectionable. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "Oh!" Well, I frankly own that I believe what I have ventured to submit is an opinion shared by many. At any rate, you cannot deny that it is of a totally different character from other exterior portions of the building to which objection is taken. It is connected entirely with the Horticultural Gardens. We propose to preserve that facade. We ask leave not to deal with the exterior building at all, but to deal with the galleries for the purpose of picture and the patent museum, and so much of the three or nearly three acres adjacent to the Horticultural Gardens, but not touching any portion of the eastern fabric, and only taking the preliminary measures to deal with what may be requisite for the purposes of the British Museum. The exterior of the building will remain as it is pending the declaration of the pleasure of Parliament, and it will be for you to consider what Government, what Committee, or what Commission—if you are very fond of Committees and Commissions, and very sanguine of the results they have yet attained—you will be left perfectly free as to what measures you may afterwards take. [Lord ROBERT CECIL: Does the right hon. Gentleman begin by buying?] Oh, yes. I 90 said I rose to propose a Vote of £80,000 and £25,000 for preliminary adaptations. I am now speaking of what is to be distinctly understood. There is no written contract on the subject. But we take no discretion as to any question affecting the exterior of the building. We propose to proceed on the presumption that the galleries are to be preserved, and the northern facade, towards the Horticultural Gardens, is in some manner or another to be preserved, subject to future consideration, and that we may proceed with the 2¾ acres in immediate juxtaposition with it for the purposes of the British Museum. The effect of that will be that we give over to the future the domes; we give over to the future 12½ acres of ground. We ask authority to proceed on 4½ acres of ground. You will perhaps say that we stated that the immediate wants of the public amounted to about eight acres. That is quite true; but when I now speak of what is immediate, I speak of what will last perfectly well for two or three years, while further questions may be adjourned. I need not refer again to those general statements that were made either by my noble Friend or myself on a former night, because those were statements that we thought ourselves bound in fairness to submit with regard to the disposal and completion of the building as a whole. We could not enter into details as to the building when we were dealing with the ground, and you will now understand within what limits we ask you to give us possession with regard to the building. With regard to the finances I will state them with perfect precision, or something approaching to it, by means of the proposal I have formed. The fabulous story of water accumulating under the building is ludicrously the reverse of truth. I believe there is some pool of water under this House, but under that building there is one of the driest surfaces, I believe, in London. As to the permanence of the galleries, I need not dwell upon that subject, after the report, not only of Mr. Hunt, but of Mr. Fowler. I make a debtor and creditor account. We have to pay £120,000 for the land, and for buildings on a portion of it, which cost £30,000. We have to pay the contractors £80,000. I have endeavoured to ascertain what would be the cost of adapting the buildings to the purposes I have described. That cost would be £90,000. The total I ask your approval to contemplate paying is £290,000. You must look to the alternative of having 91 a tabula rasa with seventeen acres, on which to provide buildings for the British Museum. You have got an estimate of that building. The cost of building for three acres would be £240,000, or nearly the whole sum I ask. What are we to receive for this? We are to receive land worth £250,000. That is a low estimate of the market value. [Mr. AUGUSTUS SMITH: For science and art.] I am speaking of the market value of the land, and we must give the market value of the land even if we want it for science and art. In addition to the land we receive buildings that have cost £30,000 and are well adapted to their use. You receive the picture galleries; and, according to the estimates of Messrs. Fowler and Hunt, the cost of raising these such as they are now would be, one says, £80,000, and the other £90,000. I take the lower estimate of £80,000—that is, at the rate of 4d. per cubic foot. The cost of the British Museum estimate would be 1s. per cubic foot. In land, therefore, we get £250,000; in the commissioners' buildings, £30,000; in the picture galleries, £80,000; and besides all this there is the value of the old material, which is very considerable. It is within my knowledge that Messrs. Kelk and Lucas paid £76,000 for the ironwork alone. That is the state of the case. According to another view of it we pay £290,000. For that we receive 4½ acres or between that and five acres covered with good and substantial public buildings. We get 12½ acres more of site and the removable value of the rest of the building. I have endeavoured to redeem the pledge I gave. We ask you to maintain the southern galleries; we ask power to deal with the northern interior; we beg you to reflect on the position in which you will be placed if you decline to accept this plan, and we confidently recommend it as one which, if judiciously worked through, will not be discreditable to the national taste, will be highly useful for important public objects, and enable you to avoid what otherwise cannot be helped—long delay, infinite vexation, boundless dispute, much public discredit, and a vast expenditure of public money, not less than twice, it may be three or four times, the very moderate sum we now ask—a Vote of £105,000.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was printed in the papers. 92 An offer had been made which would be found in the printed papers to keep the building in reasonable repair, without permanent works, for three years for £2,000 paid down and £1,500 per annum. That would be about £2,200 a year.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he also wished to ask, whether it was true that Professor Owen had given an opinion that the building was not adapted for the purposes of his department?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have had many communications with Professor Owen, and think myself justified in saying that he warmly approves the interior part towards the north, where we propose to place him, and considers it most admirably adapted for his purposes.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to move the rejection of the Vote for the purchase of the building. He was not surprised that his noble Friend (Lord Robert Cecil) had asked, across the floor of the House, whether the Government intended to purchase the whole of the building, or only a part of it, for so many changes had been made in the Vote that he was about to ask the same question; and it had become necessary to know how the matter really stood. It appeared that the Government intended to purchase the whole of the building, and they asked for £80,000 for that purpose. Their object, as he gathered it, was to keep up the picture galleries, and that part of the building in the rear, towards the Horticultural Gardens. In military phrase the Government had "changed their front," and he only wished they could as easily change the front of the building they proposed to purchase. He should in limine object to take the advice of his right hon. Friend, and to sweep out of consideration the estimate of Mr. Hunt, and his report on the state of the building. He would ask the Committee to reject the proposal of the Government, which, whether it went to the purchase of the part or whole of the building, was equally opposed to sound sense, sound economy, and he would venture to add, though with some diffidence, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, good taste. Although he opposed the Vote, he wished it to be understood that he was ready to consider any well-digested scheme for the promotion of science and art. What influenced himself and others in voting the money for the purchase of the land was 93 the consideration, that when land near the British Museum was worth £50,000 an acre, while that at Kensington was to be had for £5,000, it would be folly to refuse so good a bargain. But the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given a very different colouring even to that Vote for the purchase of the land; for, anxious as he might be to promote science and art, and convinced, too, of the necessity for the acquisition of land, he should consider land at even £5,000 an acre dear, if part of the title of the land was the obligation to purchase this building, or else to run the chance of an action from the contractors. If the Commissioners had so mismanaged their affairs as to have no contract on this point with them, could any one doubt that public opinion, if not the common law, would force the contractors to clear the building away? He, for one, had little doubt of it. Any gentleman acquainted with the British Museum must admit that land must be acquired for its increasing collections. Admitting, however, the necessity for finding room for the collection, it did not at all follow, that if the Committee purchased the land, it ought to purchase this building. On what ground was the Committee recommended to purchase the building? Was it for its beauty? The only way in which it could be made, if not beautiful and pleasing, at least less objectionable to the eye, was by the use of the trowel and the cement so liberally applied by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. As to its fitness, it must be recollected that it was to be turned to purposes for which it was not originally designed. As to its solidity, the House had the Report of surveyors, from which it appeared that the building required to be renewed from the skylights to the floor, and even lower, because twelve inches of concrete were required below the floor. His hon. Friend (Mr. Gregory), who said that rubbish was dear at any price, had been censured for quoting Mr. Mallet as an authority. As the right hon. Gentleman took exception to the opinion of Mr. Mallet, he (Lord Elcho) had thought it his duty to obtain the opinions of some well-known practical man, possessing the confidence of the Government, as to the state and condition of the building. His Report stated that the gallery for pictures was a substantial structure; that the roof, how- 94 ever (let the Committee mark the "however"), required to be repaired, skylights to be replaced by others of a stronger character; that new floor boards were wanted; and the whole to be made fireproof. The remainder of the building was stated to be "partly permanent, and partly temporary." The iron work, as a whole, must be adjusted and modified. The timbers of roofs and skylights (nave and transepts excepted) must be removed. The whole roof (not excepting the nave and transepts) to be recovered with slate, marine metal, and new skylights. The gutters to be lined with lead; the skylights, frames, ridges, &c., covered with lead; the floors of galleries to be removed, and substantial floors substituted. The whole of the ground floor to be removed and renewed, a bed of concrete twelve inches thick being previously laid over the whole site. The ceiling and walls to be plastered, the drainage repaired. As to the domes, brick piers must be built, and arches and vaults made, and the domes would require thick glass lights. The warming and ventilation must also be provided for. The Report, added that there were other matters of a minor description not included in the above. If the Committee had followed that Report, they must have perceived that, practically, nearly the whole of the building must either be renewed or strengthened. Who was the gentleman who made the Report? It was the Government surveyor, Mr. Hunt, and the Report had been laid on the table. It was not for him to give an opinion on such a Report, but it might at least be placed by the side of that of Mr. Mallet. When, however, his right hon. Friend criticised the mortar of Mr. Mallet, he was probably not aware that the mortar to which he referred was designed by the Prime Minister himself. He did not know who made the working drawings, but at any rate the gun itself was made by Mr. Mallet according to the design of the Prime Minister; and if the right hon. Gentleman went to Woolwich, he would find that it went promiscuously by the name of the "Palmerston" or monster mortar. The Report of Mr. Mallet, however, was not so condemnatory of the building as that of the Government Surveyor, Mr. Hunt. He would not offer any opinion of his own upon the matter; he preferred to take the opinion of those gentlemen who drew up the Petition of the Institute of British Architects which he had presented that evening. His right hon. 95 Friend, knowing that that Petition was an awkward thing, had endeavoured to turn its flank, just as he had endeavoured to turn the flank of the House of Commons. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I did not speak of the Institute of British Architects. I spoke of the gentlemen who only visited the building once.] But the gentlemen who visited the building were a body of fifteen, appointed specially by the Institute for the purpose of visiting it; and if they only paid the building one visit, that was the most fatal argument against it, for so plain were its defects that professional men of skill and intelligence did not consider more than one visit necessary for the formation of an opinion. The Institute of British Architects had been formed about twenty-five years ago, in the reign of William IV.; its patroness was Her Majesty, the late President was the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), and its present President was Professor Donaldson, the private architect of the Prime Minister. He wished, in passing, to call particular attention to the fact that Professor Donaldson had never been consulted, and that Mr. Pennethorne, the architect of the Government, had never had his opinion asked upon the question. The Vice Presidents of the Institute were Mr. Ashpitel, Mr. Owen Jones, and Mr. Gilbert Scott, and on its council were Mr. Barry, Mr. Burges, Mr. Fergusson, and many other distinguished men. With few exceptions, therefore, the Institute embraced every man of eminence in the profession throughout the United Kingdom, and their opinion ought to have some weight with the House. Having appointed a Committee to visit the building, that Committee drew up a Report, which was submitted to a full meeting of the Institute—to two full meetings. Mr. Barry did not attend, but Mr. Owen Jones did, and he attempted to raise an opposition to the Report; but finding himself in a minority of one, he gave up the attempt. The Report, therefore, did represent the opinion of the intelligent mass of the architects of England. As regards structural considerations the Report said—A scheme of reinstatement so comprehensive, on any considerable scale, has probably never been proposed before in Europe; in other words, we know of no project that has ever been brought under discussion for the so-called conversion into a permanent public building of an edifice thus acknowledged [by the very proposal of Mr. Hunt] to be so unsubstantial and incomplete. Although this of itself is sufficient to excite grave anxiety in the minds of every one experienced in building, we have nevertheless deemed it proper to examine 96 the details of the proposal in order, and to note briefly our impressions regarding the more prominent considerations involved. As to the picture galleries, we feel bound to express the opinion that the mode proposed of forming a fire-proof floor is impracticable; and that the question of constituting the under story and roof fire-proof ought not to have been overlooked. Moreover, if valuable paintings are to be placed permanently in these galleries, we should consider it necessary to resort to still further precautions for their preservation from damp and dust. The allusion incidentally made to a required adjustment and modification of the iron columns, girders, and trusses, appears to us to cover a much more serious necessity for rectification than is implied. When it is proposed to line with lead the iron gutters of the roof, it becomes necessary to inquire particularly what can be the purpose of so unusual a measure; and to point to the well-known fact that the use of the two metals in such conjunction as would seem to be implied must result in a rapidly-destructive galvanic action.The use of the two metals lead and iron in combination, in the Armstrong shell for example, was found in the course of time to result in this, that it corroded into dust. His right hon. Friend had withdrawn the domes from the discussion; but they were to stand, and sooner or later something must be done with them. On that subject the Report said—So far as the project for the brick domes is intelligible to us, we feel bound to express the most emphatic disapproval of it. To encrust the iron skeleton of the present structure with brickwork is an idea which we could not seriously discuss; and we would content ourselves with suggesting that whether the iron is to support the brick, or the brick the iron, or whether there is to be a mutual dependence or independence, the probability is that so heterogeneous a structural combination would in a few years become utterly disorganized.Now, as to the financial point, what did the Institute say—With regard to the financial question, we are of opinion that it has been put forward upon singularly fallacious ground. The idea which seems to have been communicated to the Government is this, that by purchasing for £80,000 a temporary structure which cost £310,000, but which has served its purpose and become much dilapidated, and by expending upon it £284,000 in structural rectification and repair, the nation is to obtain for the total of £364,000 a building which shall be substantially permanent, and worth very much more than the price paid for it. We consider this to be on the face of it impossible. And if allowance be made for uncertainty of appropriation, for peculiar difficulty of conversion and waste of space, for the unestimated future expense of adaptation and fitting up, for the disputed estimate of the present cost of reparation, and more than all for the necessities of repair, which must become an annual charge in the case of such a structure, it seems to be plain beyond all need of argument that no prudent or responsible adviser could countenance an investment 97 which shows a margin so large in probable loss and so small in possible profit.Did any one ever purchase an old tumbledown house at £80, to spend £280 in repairs, not to beautify it, but to make it water-tight and habitable. Would any hon. Member do it? Would the right hon. Gentleman himself do such a thing? And if the house were said to be worth more than £80, would not the transaction be all the more suspicious as an investment? Well, but if the right hon. Gentleman would not do any such thing in the case of a house which might be bought for £80, with what face could he ask Parliament to do so in a case where there was this marked difference, that the sum to be paid was to be multiplied by thousands, and eventually, after all the outlay, they would fail to make the building permanent? He ventured to say that the picture galleries formed just that portion of the building which the public really did not want. They had had a distinct assurance from the Prime Minister that the national collection of pictures was not to be transferred to those galleries; but they had been told that the galleries were fit for the collection of historic portraits. He held in his hand a ground plan of the galleries, and he found that the length was 1,152 feet. Now any one who had visited the National Portrait Gallery would be able to conceive the amount of space which that collection would occupy in the galleries. He could not help thinking that there was something more behind. Captain Fowke was not only an architect, but a military man, and he fancied that that gallant gentleman had been teaching his right hon. Friend all kinds of manœuvres; but when a battery was masked, it was of great importance not to unmask it too soon. Now, he thought that his right hon. Friend had unmasked his battery too soon in trying to get these galleries. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that some time ago he made a Motion which was agreed to, for the issue of a Commission with the object of ascertaining, before anything was done in reference to the transfer of the national collection of pictures to Kensington Gore, whether such a transfer was desirable or not. It was felt that Kensington Gore never took St. Stephen's into its confidence, and that plans were constantly matured at the former place of which hon. Members heard nothing till they were suddenly thrown upon the table of the House. That Commission reported that it was not desirable to remove those 98 pictures from the centre of London. He believed that Report was endorsed by pubic opinion, and that the House of Commons would not be brought to sanction the removal of the national collection of pictures to Brompton. However, he could lot help thinking that some idea of their removal was entertained by the Government, when it was said that the galleries in the Great Exhibition building were wanted for the collection of portraits. This should not be the case, for there was no natural connection between portraits and patents, birds and beasts. The natural connection of the portrait gallery was with the national collection of pictures, and it would be entirely inconsistent to remove the portrait gallery to Kensington. One of two things was perfectly clear—either the Government must contend that the whole of the large picture galleries of the Exhibition building were wanted for the national collection of portraits—and that was absurd; or, to use a common expression, the whole thing was a "plant," and it was desired to carry the national collection of pictures there. It was desirable that the House of Commons should not look entirely at this question in a utilitarian point of view, and maintain a structure condemned by public opinion. He never recollected any subject in respect to which such a strange unanimity on the part of the press had prevailed as on the defects of the building. There were scarcely two opinions as to its ugliness or beauty. The only persons either in or out of the House who were advocates for the Exhibition building were the Prime Minister; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and The Times was the only newspaper which had expressed an opinion in its favour. He begged to read the following extract from the Spectator newspaper:—Let us not have the shrine of art set up in the Temple of Ugliness. The building stands condemned by the taste of cultivated Europe, and, first of all, as the essential preliminary to any further votes, should cease to encumber the soil. No patching, or stucco, or domes, or frescoes, or pillars, or gates of filagree iron can ever make the present building fit for anything but an International Dog Show, or a range of cavalry stables. Clear the ground for an edifice worthy of its end, and insist that if they are to spend millions on arts, Government shall acknowledge that architecture is one of them.The Institute of British Architects declared, among other things, that "the building is a grave discredit to the artistic reputation of England," and in the strongest language deprecated the proposal to cover the walls with surface ornament, and cloak the domes 99 with a doubtful solidity. Although he did not venture an opinion upon the building itself, there was a principle involved in what had been proposed to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee, and that was the sham decoration which was proposed under the sanction of Government and the Department of Science and Art. He objected to the application of stucco decoration because it was a sham. The Prime Minister had been eloquent in favour of stucco. He held in his hand an extract taken from the Lamp of Truth, and written by an English writer who had the happy knack of expressing himself in happy language. Mr. Ruskin, the writer to whom he alluded, said—We may not be able to command good, or beautiful, or inventive architecture, but we can command an honest architecture. The meagreness of poverty may be pardoned, the sternness of utility respected; but what is there but scorn for the meanness of deception? To cover brick with cement, and to divide this cement with joints that it may look like stone is to tell a falsehood. Yet, exactly as a woman of feeling would not wear false jewels, so would a builder of honour disdain false ornaments. You use that which pretends to a worth which it has not—which pretends to have cost, and to be what it did not and is not. It is an imposition, a vulgarity, an impertinence, and a sin. Down with it to the ground, grind it to powder, leave its ragged face upon the wall rather. You have not paid for it; you have no business with it; you do not want it. Nobody wants ornaments in this world; but everybody wants integrity. All the fair devices that ever were fancied are not worth a lie. Leave your walls as bare as a planed board, or build them of baked mud and chopped straw, if need be, but do not rough-cast them with falsehood.Mr. Ruskin referred to women wearing false jewels; but the process to be applied to the building was the process which Madame Rachel applied to women's faces. Madame Rachel covered the face with a preparation which made it beautiful for a time or as she professed for ever. The Prime Minister was the Madame Rachel to the Exhibition building; but there was this remarkable difference between the process of Madame Rachel and the process of the Government, that the former cost only £1,000—at least, he believed so, though he never had a bill of hers to pay—and lasted, as she said, for ever; but the process of the Government would cost £45,000, and certainly could not be expected to last for ever, while the building would be beautiful only in their own eyes and in those of Captain Fowke. A great change was taking place in the spirit of British architecture. An earnest, truthful school was springing up, which abhorred pretences and used only 100 bricks, stone, marble, and such materials as looked what they really were. Although the rays of the Lamp of Truth had not yet penetrated the gloom of Downing Street, they were shed on buildings of all kinds, from churches down to warehouses and shops; and he did not despair of seeing a new London, at once truthful and picturesque in its architecture, rise on the ruins of the dead conventionalities and stucco shams of the present period. He might mention, by way of contrast to the conduct of the Government, that the Marquess of Westminster had resolved to pull down Grosvenor Place and some of the adjoining property, and re-build it according to the designs of eminent architects, one of the conditions being that no stucco was to be used, and that the materials should consist only of brick, granite, and so on. The difference of cost from discarding "compo" was really very little, not more than five per cent, according to Professor Kerr of King's College, or at the most, if no extravagance were committed, ten per cent. Every device had been resorted to by the Government and the contractors to keep the building up. Every influence had been brought to bear to secure that result. Knowing, as he did, the opinions of hon. Members, he could call that nothing more nor less than an attempt to force a distasteful scheme down their throats. Balls, concerts, bazaars had been given in the building, although in the case of the Crystal Palace of 1851 all such things were positively prohibited by an express provision. The following advertisement from the columns of The Daily News gave some idea of the purposes for which the building had lately seen used:—In one part of the building may be seen the only true exponents of the Shaksperian Drama in their Richardsonian Booth and Thespian Temple, the exterior of which will be magnificently decorated with one-storied legends of the Dramatic Art, and before which the monarch, the sage, and the peasant of the good old mediæval ages will race more strut the stage of life; and in the interior will be presented, free of all charge (except that for admission), the spectacular, tentacular, vernacular, tabernacular, tragic and emotional tableau of Braganza the Brigand; or, the Spirit and the Proof! Alternating with the ultramarine, subaqueous, aquario-domestie drama of the Port Admiral; or the, Mysterious Mariner and the Rightful Heir.Such doings seemed rather out of place in a temple consecrated, as they were told in pompous speeches, to science and art; but at least the object of the bazaar was singularly appropriate to the character of the 101 building, for it was for the benefit of incurables. He had heard it said that it was necessary to retain the building in order that the plans of the late Prince Consort for the promotion of science and art should be realized. There was no one in the House who had a higher respect for the memory and character of the late Prince than he had. For his own part, and he believed he spoke the general feeling, he cordially approved the recent Vote for a monument, and would cheerfully have agreed to a larger sum had it been asked for. He trusted that if the Government should still require additional funds for that object, they would not hesitate to come to the House for them. When the Duke of Wellington's despatches were first published, an eminent foreigner remarked, "What a distinguished monument Colonel Gurwood has raised to the Duke!" In the same way the speeches of the late Prince Consort contributed a nobler and more touching memorial than any that could be formed of brass or marble. These speeches commemorated his wisdom, his foresight, his true philanthropy, his devotion to art and science, and his intimate knowledge of the people of this country—of our virtues and our defects. He was sure they would all consider most favourably any plan for the promotion of science and art which came with the Prince Consort's name attached to it. But the House had yet to learn what possible connection there was between the plans of the Prince Consort and a building which he never saw, into which, alas! he never entered, and with which he had really no connection. He could tell the Government, that if they wished to render the schemes of the late Prince unpopular and to cast discredit on science and art, they could not more effectually accomplish that object than by thrusting down the throat of the Committee that ugly temporary shed, which no amount of money would ever render permanent, convenient, or beautiful. Madame de Staël truly said that contemporary foreign opinion practically represented the verdict of posterity, because it was formed at a distance and was free from the prejudice and passion which prevailed close at hand. If, therefore, the Committee desired to ascertain the opinion of posterity about the transaction, they might gather it from the following letter, which M. Merimée, a distinguished Senator and member of the Institute of France, had addressed to him:— 102You ask me what I think of the Exhibition building in which we met last year. My answer is a short one—I think it detestable. If you ask me why, I say that it is ill adapted for its purpose, that it proportions are bad, and that it belongs to no style of architecture. Larger than Paxton's building, it yet looks smaller. I own I was surprised on arriving in London last year, to find that a sensible, practical people like the English could have allowed themselves to be so taken in. When in 1851 you wished to have a large conservatory for your International Exhibition, you judicially applied to a gardener—when you wanted a reading room for the British Museum, you took the plan of the best librarian in Europe; but this time you chose an engineer officer, very able no doubt in making or destroying fortifications, but assuredly not an architect. He has produced something with the pretensions of a monumental building without even the merit of being a commodious shed. By all means preserve it if you wish to warn posterity of the faults to be avoided in the erection of a great public building, just as the Spartans exhibited to their children a drunken Helot. Let me in my turn ask a question: What do they propose to do with this building? Is it to be again used for international exhibition? The space is insufficient, and all foreigners complained of want of room. Is it to be turned into a concert-room, into a hall for military exercises, or into a riding school for the Horse Guards? Remember that it was a very bad place for hearing music, and that in it one was unsheltered alike from sun and rain. If you mean to apply it to several purposes, take care that you do not share the fate of those who buy a horse for a double purpose, and find that they have got one which will neither ride nor drive.After reading that letter it would be impertinent in him to offer any further observations; but he hoped the Committee would support him in rejecting a proposal which, to use the words of the Petition of the Institute of Architects, could only be fraught with disappointment and discredit to the country. The noble Lord concluded by moving the rejection of the Vote.
§ MR. TITE
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, that when he (Mr. Tite) was asked whether he knew Mr. Mallet, he answered "No;" but he believed he had been consulted some years ago by Sir Charles Barry relative to the iron roofing of the Houses, which had then just been introduced to Mr. Hunt. He was a man of intelligence and honour, and any estimate of his would be received with respect by any architect or surveyor in England; but at the same time, as stated by the Institute of Architects, it was obvious that Mr. Hunt had omitted a great many things from his estimate, and that the amount ought therefore, in all reason, to be sensibly increased. Many of the architects, members of the Institute, who were engaged on the various juries, and visiting 103 the Exhibition almost daily, were intimately acquainted with the whole structure; but when it was proposed they should petition against the Vote, and when asked their opinion of the present value of the Building, he (Mr. Tite) suggested that a Committee should be appointed to go through the whole Building, and ascertain its present condition; and he continued to think a more prudent course could not have been adopted. This had been done, and the result was embodied in the Petition which now lay on the table of the House.
§ MR. TITE
But long enough to justify the opinions they had expressed. As to Captain Fowke, he had never spoken against him. Doubtless, he was a man of great talent; but in this case he had stepped out of his profession. The insinuation that there was any dirty jealousy in the minds of architects against Captain Fowke he repudiated altogether. The Building at Kensington was universally condemned. Although he (Mr. Tite) had voted in favour of purchasing the land, he considered the building upon it was a blot and a reproach. What was the prospect of the permanency of the Royal Horticultural Society? And besides, he had been informed that the land flanking it and the annexes was to be sold for building ground. And what was there to prevent it?—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: A covenant]—Yes; a covenant of sixty years. The building was universally objected to by the painters who were members of the Royal Academy; in truth, there was a general opinion expressed against its continuance in the artistic world. We did not want the picture galleries, for how were we to fill them? and Professor Owen, when asked what it was he wanted for his Natural History collection, replied that all he required was a building, 150 feet by 40 or 50 feet, divided into eight galleries, and a lecture room; and that he was indifferent whether they were built in Great Russell Street, Montague Square, near the British Museum, or on the site of one of the annexes. There was therefore no necessity for purchasing the Exhibition Building for the purposes of the Natural History collection. The building was also objectionable as a public building from 104 want of area around it; the walls actually coming up to the footpaths. Stucco also was objectionable for a public building, for it was not truthful, like stone. Nor was it even economical, for it required colouring or painting every three years. It was universally condemned by architects for a public building. If economy and durability were desired, stone should always be used, and not stucco. He (Mr. Tite) for these reasons was entirely opposed to the resolution.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he hoped the Committee would not allow a division to be stolen in so thin a House at that hour (a quarter to eight) on so important a matter. One peculiarity of that House was, that as the common phrase ran, it was remarkably regular at its meals. The remarkable silence which had ensued on the Motion being put from the Chair might be mainly attributed to that peculiarity, and also, on one side of the House at least, to the obvious wish of the proposer of the Vote that a division should take place when a large number of hon. Members were absent. He (Mr. Bentinck) had not intended to address the Committee on the question; but he thought it exceedingly unfair that a question of this importance should be dealt with in so hasty, he might say so indecent a manner, that he felt bound to occupy a little of their time in stating his objections to the measure, in the hope, he frankly owned, that other hon. Members might be induced to follow his example. He had listened attentively to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, and must say he had never heard that right hon. Gentleman furnish so many strong arguments against the very course which he had sought to persuade them to adopt as he had done on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman tried to disparage Mr. Mallet's opinion by stating that that gentleman had never been employed in the construction of the Houses of Parliament. Now, surely it was a strong point in Mr. Mallet's favour that he was guiltless of any connection with the erection of that enormous pile of extravagance, inconvenience, and bad taste. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the uncertainty as to several elements connected with the building at South Kensington; but in respect to two "elements" at least there was no uncertainty whatever, for there could be no doubt that unless a very large outlay were made in annual reparations, wind and rain would have free course through the building. The right hon. 105 Gentleman further remarked that the building was "susceptible of being made handsome." This was rather a singular phrase; and if the right hon. Gentleman would show the Committee any cosmetic that would impart any portion of beauty to the building in question, the inventor of that cosmetic would soon possess the largest fortune ever accumulated in the country. The right hon. Gentleman then said, "After buying the land will you stop short?" And now he was coming to the real merits of the case. The right hon. Gentleman added that the contractors were under no obligation to remove the building at any specified time. That was told to the House now for the first time; and he (Mr. Bentinck) therefore said that the land was purchased under false pretences. Had that circumstance been fairly stated at the time, the Committee would never have agreed to the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman said to the Committee, however, "Having bought the land, what are you going to do with it?" That was as much as to say, "I have got you in a corner." But he (Mr. Bentinck) refused to go into the corner. The question, "What will you do with the land?" was easily answered. They said they had purchased the land a bargain; and he said, "Sell it again as soon as you can." [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: It is subject to a covenant.] He should contend that a covenant in a purchase obtained under false pretences was not binding. The House ought to have been in possession of all the facts of the case when it assented to the bargain. The right hon. Gentleman further urged the mischief of delay. He (Mr. Bentinck) thought, on the contrary, it would be most beneficial. If the proposal involved a wasteful expenditure of the public money, every delay was a positive saving of so much money. He could prove that the whole of the proposal was one of glaring and reckless extravagance, and therefore the question what they were to do after having bought the land could be easily answered. Let them do that which they were bound to do in justice to the public purse. The Government said they had made a good bargain for the site. Then the sooner they sold it again the better. The right hon. Gentleman himself, in asking for the Vote, admitted that the place was much too large for any objects which the Government, with all their wit and extravagance in this matter, at present contemplated. If that was so, could there 106 be a stronger argument to show that the purchase was much too expensive a one, and did it not afford a strong reason for selling a portion of the land? The right hon. Gentleman called on the minority to exhibit self-sacrifice and patriotism by concurring in this Vote; but would there be any self-sacrifice and patriotism in hon. Gentlemen voting this week that a thing was white which last week they had voted was black? The right hon. Gentleman admitted that one side of the building was bad; but, as the other side was so different, he said it must be good; and by an extraordinary process of logic, he arrived at the conclusion that what Parliament ought to do was to buy both, inasmuch as if it did so, it could not fail to be right. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had considerately told them to leave the domes to the future. He was satisfied to accept that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, because six months of the future unaided by a grant of public money would dispose of the domes in toto—they would disappear. He was therefore glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman, amongst the various ways in which he proposed to squander right and left the public money, was not prepared to ask for any on account of the domes. He would remind the Committee, that on the introduction of his Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made most eloquent appeals to the House, not to interfere with his surplus, which he said was so small that a due regard to the possible requirements of the public service rendered it advisable for him to keep it in hand; but if, instead of that answer to all appeals made to him for a further remission of taxation, the right hon. Gentleman had said he must keep his balance in hand because he intended to ask the House of Commons to sanction this expenditure of public money, would the House have listened to such an appeal? [The CHANCELLOR, of the EXCHEQUER: All this was provided for at that time.] These contingencies were not thought of, or provided for at that time, and he would ask the Committee not to diminish the surplus, or sanction an expenditure of at least half a million of money in the redemption and repairing and reconstruction of enormous buildings, which, were now composed of broken glass and brickbats, and which, when finished, would be filled with stuffed monkeys and dead animals. He would defy the right hon. Gentleman to deny, that if the scheme which he now proposed were carried, the 107 entire amount of the surplus would be swallowed up. The right hon. Gentleman might shake his head; but he could not deny that. The right hon. Gentleman said to the Committee, "You have purchased the land, and what will you do now?"—and that in plied that the Government had succeeded in getting the House into a corner from which they could not escape. He (Mr. Bentinck) would again say that the land had been purchased under false pretences, and that the House had a full right to re-consider the question. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the course he was taking was in accordance with his position of legitimate guardian of the public purse, and in accordance also with all those denunciations of extravagant expenditure with which he had so often charmed the ears of the House, and with respect to which he had been supposed to be at variance with several of his Colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman who had censured his own Colleagues on the score of extravagance, now came forward as the member of the Government, to make one of the most wasteful, one of the most extravagant, and one of the most unjustifiable proposals ever submitted to the House of Commons. No man could calculate the cost in the future, if that wild scheme were carried on, or say what millions might be required to carry it out. What would be the feelings of a large number of their countrymen, who, a few days ago, had read a debate in which it was fully admitted that great distress, and that great difficulty was found by the Executive in dealing with the financial part of that difficulty? What would those people say, when they found the guardian of the public purse proposing an outlay of millions of money, for such a comparatively worthless and trivial purpose as that before the Committee? It would raise a feeling of indignation throughout every part of the country, and particularly where distress had existed. The people would feel, and justly feel, that the sympathy which had been expressed for them by the Government, and by that House, was a farce—a mere pretence; and that it was perfectly impossible that that feeling of sympathy was the sincere or honest feeling of the House of Commons, when that House could lend itself to the frittering away of millions of money upon a comparatively trifling object. At no time ought the Committee to sanction such a wasteful expenditure of public money, but still less at a time when the distress in the 108 country generally was such as to require that every shilling should be saved that could possibly be spared from the requirements of the country.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he had always done his best to support the South Kensington Museum, believing there was no institution in the kingdom which afforded more instruction and intellectual amusement to the people of the metropolis—not only the rich, but the working classes—and including visitors to London. Having been a Juror at both Exhibitions, he must say such institutions did much to improve the taste of the country, and especially to enable working men to compete successfully with foreign workmen. If, therefore, he could conscientiously vote on that occasion with the Government, he should do so. He had certainly been under the impression that the contractors were bound, if the House should insist, to remove the building within a certain time; but those who knew anything of the antecedents of Messrs. Kelk and Lucas would be slow to believe that they would resort to anything like a legal quibble on the point. At the same time, even if the contractors were under such an engagement, he did not suppose the Committee would insist on the pound of flesh within six or twelve months. They would deal liberally with them, and allow them to make the best of the materials. Looking to what had happened on other occasions with regard to public buildings, they should be prepared to face the difficulties of the case. The really false step was to buy buildings which were in such a state as had been described. He proceeded in this matter on the opinion of Mr. Hunt, who was a man of standing in his profession, and, guided by that opinion, he could not vote for the proposal. The best economy, in the long run, would be to pull the building down. Instead of trying to patch it up, the ground should be cleared, and, putting men of taste on one side, the best advice that could be obtained should be taken as to the building which was really wanted. With regard to Captain Fowke, although there could not be two opinions as to the outside of the building, yet, looking at the instructions given to him, and the money he had to spend, that gentleman had made a little money go a long way. Captain Fowke, however, was not an architect, and that was the reason why all the architects were against him. It was not fair to charge him with having erected a building 109 which now required a great deal of repair because it was never intended to be permanent. With every wish to resist the sort of running fire which was kept up against South Kensington, he felt bound to vote against the proposal of the Government.
said, he believed that what had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the arrangement with the contractors had not been thoroughly understood. The Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851 who were the proprietors of the land, covenanted with the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1862 that the land should be cleared within six months after the conclusion of the Exhibition, and they naturally assumed that some legal document had been signed by the contractors to give effect to that engagement. It was only recently discovered that the Commissioners of 1862 had failed to obtain any covenant that would bind the contractors on that point, and had his right hon. Friend been aware of the fact when he proposed the Vote he would have mentioned it. It was now found, that though there was no doubt that the contractors were bound to remove the building, they were, in the absence of an express covenant, left to the ordinary course of the law as to the time of clearing the ground, and could therefore take a longer time than six months. His noble Friend (Lord Elcho) had made an entertaining speech in moving the rejection of the Vote, but he failed to grapple with the particular question put before the Committee by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The proposal of the Government only involved an expenditure of £290,000, and the retention for use of those portions of the building which were permanent, as distinguished from those of a mere temporary character. Any body who had studied the building must be aware that the picture gallery on the south side, and what were the refreshment rooms on the north side, were built solidly of brick, and did not require any thing more than slight repairs. The foundations did not need alteration, and some little repair to the drainage, and an alteration of the skylights was all that was necessary. Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he excluded the domes from consideration, for they were not dealt with in the proposal before the Committee; and that would get rid of much of the argument which had been offered, and of the speeches which had been prepared against the plan. The proposal referred only to the substan- 110 tial and solid part of the building, which would provide what was immediately wanted for the British Museum and the Patent Museum, leaving for further consideration afterwards how the remainder of the land should be covered with a view to accommodate other collections. Against the picture gallery nothing could be said, either as to its adaptability for the exhibition of pictures or as to its permanence. The Government did not propose to take any steps for the alteration of the front, but they had the authority of Mr. Smirke and Mr. Scott that the building might be made ornamental, If the matter were put into Mr. Scott's hands, no doubt he would adopt a brick front; he would certainly not adopt stucco, as that was against his principle, and would hardly propose to incur the expense of Portland stone. The object of the Government in the beginning was to put before the Committee the best estimate of costs which they could obtain previous to the Vote, and not to submit any plan, because no plan of architectural arrangement had been gone into. It was much better to postpone that to a future day. But Mr. Hunt estimated the amount which might be expected to be incurred for rendering permanent and substantial the whole of the building, so that the Committee might know the maximum. Not that the Government intended at once to deal with the whole of the estimate, because, on the contrary, his noble Friend at the head of the Government, in bringing forward the first proposal, said, he only intended to appropriate seven acres out of the seventeen; but they thought it right that the House of Commons should know the maximum estimate if it were thought necessary to repair the whole of the building. The stucco covering was adopted by Mr. Hunt as a very good test of the expense of completing the front, but the Government had never seriously proposed to adopt stucco. If the Committee were prepared to go to the expense of Portland stone, no one would be more pleased than he should be. But that point was not involved in the present Vote. His noble Friend commented on the purchase of a large extent of picture gallery, there being at present no pictures to place in it, and seemed rather to infer the existence of some secret design on the part of the Government to transfer the pictures of the National Gallery there. Now, his noble Friend at the head of the Government, in moving the Vote for the purchase of the land, distinctly stated that there was no intention of transferring those pictures to 111 Kensington Gore. But that picture gallery was just the building required, not merely for pictures, but for such articles as were to be found in the Patent Museum. The light was very good, the gallery itself very convenient, and he doubted whether, for the purposes required, any architect would design a better building. On the score of economy, too, the Committee would do well to entertain the proposal. Thus they had a portion which was originally designed for permanent use, as Captain Fowke's Report showed that he was compelled to construct the picture galleries in such a manner as would render them fit for permanent use, in order to preserve the valuable paintings that were to be exhibited there from all risk of injury from damp. That portion the Government proposed to retain. The remainder of the building would require very extensive repairs or re-construction to become permanent. If the Committee should think it was undesirable to effect these changes, the materials of the present building could be sold. Some ridicule had been cast upon the suggestion that the Government had become a seller of old materials, but that would be no new character, as the accounts would show large sums annually received from the sale of old materials, and there was no reason why the Government should not obtain as good a price for the materials as any private seller could obtain. But if the Committee should insist upon the materials already on the ground being sold, then, in order to make the ground available for any purpose, it would be necessary to buy other materials of the same character. The Committee could judge which would be the cheaper course. As to the domes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had fairly said that question could be left for future consideration. Although a good deal might be said in favour of domes as an architectural feature, yet much might also be said against the actual position of the domes. It was not necessary, however, to enter upon that question at present. It had been truly stated, that if the Vote were altogether rejected, a door would be opened for an unlimited indulgence of speculative taste. The Institute of Architects might propose something very admirable but very costly, other persons would propose something else, and thus there must be great delay, and probably much increased expense. They could judge from experience how difficult it was to decide upon the filling-up of vacant ground when there were conflicting opinions as to the manner of filling up. The site 112 for the Foreign Office had been vacant for twenty or thirty years, while a discussion was being carried on as to the style, the size, and other details of the building. The difficulty was not limited to Government buildings, because there was the site of the Fleet Prison, which had lain idle for twenty years. No one could desire that the seventeen acres which they had purchased should remain in that useless condition, and therefore he thought they would do wisely to buy the building as it stood, to retain those portions which were in a satisfactory condition, and which could easily he rendered so; and with regard to the portions of the building which at present were not beneficially available, they could either sell the materials or re-convert in an improved shape. The sort of building required for a patent museum was much the same building as that now standing upon the property; and there was a paper on the table showing the plans of Mr. Hunt, to meet the views of Professor Owen, and they were a building with iron columns, with a portion of the roof of glass. He thought the views of Professor Owen, with regard to a portion of the contents of the British Museum, could be easily met in the refreshment rooms and the ground immediately adjoining. The Vote was proposed upon the ground of making an economical and rational use of the site, and he hoped the Committee, regarding it as a mere dry matter of business, would assent to it. He was aware that there had been many floating rumours; but although he listened attentively to the complaints made against the Government, he thought they applied not so much to what was actually proposed as to some fancied scheme or remote contingency, which, as far as he knew, existed only in the imagination of those who entertained such fears. The desire of the Government had been to give the fullest information, and, without coming to any decision as to a final arrangement, they wished to point out to the Committee that they believed the present building might be made available for the reception of some portions of the British Museum collections and the Patent Museum.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Commissioner of Works wished the Committee to treat the question as a dry matter of business; but this was the most unbusiness-like proceedings of which he had ever heard. It appeared from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that they had 113 bought a property with a bad title; that the Commissioners of 1851 had no power to sell the property unincumbered. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Commissioners of 1851 let a portion of the land to the Commissioners of 1862, and yet that they were not sufficiently careful to obtain a valid covenant for the removal of the building.
They took it from the Commissioners of 1862; but the Commissioners of 1862 did not take a covenant from the contractors.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he would like to know whether any private gentleman would buy property without having an abstract of title delivered and perused. There appeared to have been no such investigation in this case, and there was clearly a flaw in the title. The Vote for the purchase of the land had been taken without the House being fully informed upon that point, and several hon. Members who voted for the purchase of the land had since assured him, that had they been aware of the fact now stated, their votes would have been given the other way. A great question was now opened. He would like to know what was the impression upon the minds of the Commissioners of 1862 as to the ultimate destination of the building. He also thought the Committee was entitled to some explanation why so important a question had been kept back till so late a period of the Session as the 2nd of July? There was a report in circulation, which he was strongly disposed to credit, that from the first there had been an intention on the part of the Commissioners and persons connected with the Exhibition that the building, by some means, should become the property of the nation. He called on some Member of Her Majesty's Government to say that was not so. [Mr. LOWE: It is not so.] He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would prove his assertion. He had remarked that, whenever the Government had a bad case, they were very unwilling to prolong a debate, and that night they had allowed three or four hon. Gentlemen to rise one after another on the same side without interposing a word, almost allowing the discussion to drop. Either the Government intended to purchase the building originally, or they did not. If such had been their intention, why was it that they only allowed information to be extracted from them by driblets? If they were opposed to the purchase, why did they ask the House, towards the close of the Session, to vote the pur- 114 chase of that monstrous erection? Whoever else might have been in ignorance, Captain Fowke clearly knew that the building was to be permanent; the right hon. Gentleman admitted as much. It was strange that the President of the Department of Science and Art, and Heaven only knew of what else besides, should not have taken pains to acquaint himself with particulars which were perfectly well known to the First Commissioner of Works. The Institute of British Architects was decried by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it was a very extraordinary circumstance that Mr. Sidney Smirke, whom the right hon. Gentleman had cited in support of his views, was the very architect of the British Museum, to whom the Prime Minister had objected a few evenings since, declaring that if Government buildings were intrusted to him to construct, there would be no end to the expense. To what use, he would ask, would this Exhibition building be put when once it was obtained? Talk of science and art! Science and art cost the country £130,000 a year, and indignation was excited last year at the mere proposal to add five acres to the Kensington estate, and to cover them with buildings. The present proposition extended to three times that quantity of land. In what style were the new buildings to be—Fowkean or Dilkhoosian? Far from instructing students in architecture, the wretched edifice would be a perpetual byword and shame to England. A Patent Museum was said to be included in the urgent wants of the country. But when had it been heard of before? The Patent Museum was an invention on the part of the Government to hoodwink the country and plunge it into further expenditure. How were they to fill picture galleries 1,000 feet long? The National Portrait Gallery was at present contained in three or four small rooms in Great George Street, and according to the Report of the Commission of 1857, the national pictures never could be removed to Kensington. Supposing a new gallery to be made at Burlington House or elsewhere for the Royal Academy, there would be ample space for the portraits in Trafalgar-square. This unjustifiable expenditure was being entered upon without any definite plan, and would never be satisfactory to the country. The Vote for this building was but an attempt to get in the small end of the wedge, and he should therefore support the Amendment.
§ MR. DOULTON
declared that he felt 115 himself at some loss to understand the proposals submitted to the Committee. The only idea to be gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was, that the requirements of the country consisted in plenty of space and plenty of cement. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government in reference to the question, to say the least, had been very disingenuous. On the previous occasion they asked the House to purchase the land, giving hon. Members to understand that the two questions were to be kept entirely distinct. Now the right hon. Gentleman told them, "You have the land; surely you will not be so foolish as to refuse to buy the building." That night they heard for the first time that there would be some difficulty in getting the contractors to remove the building. Surely, if such was the fact, they ought to have heard it from the noble Lord when he first introduced the question. He hardly knew whether to be most surprised at the want of candour on the part of the Government, or at the incompetence of the Commissioners in entering into such an arrangement. Not satisfied with the other duties resting upon them, it appeared that the Government were about to become marine store dealers. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works would be always charged with the conduct of that Department. The Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiated the authority of the document emanating from the Institute of British Architects, but it was not fair to that Report to treat it as the production of a small Committee, for the subject had been considered by the Institute at large, and referred to that Committee to report upon. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that the building was a decided bargain at £80,000, as the contractors had been offered more than that sum; the right hon. Gentleman might believe that story—he did not. He could not believe that contractors had such a love for science and art as to take £80,000, if they could have obtained £90,000. The highest estimate he had heard of the value of the building was £30,000. Mr. Hunt's estimate was only £47,000; and why, then, should Parliament be called upon to give £80,000? If the Committee accepted the building, it must remember the enormous expenditure which it would entail on the country. The expenditure on the British Museum was between £92,000 and £93,000. What the annual expenditure at South Kensington would be, when they knew who was lord 116 and master there, it was not easy to imagine. If the Committee must purchase the present building, it ought to know who were to be the builders and architect of the improved edifice. Every one knew out of doors that the building had been throughout an immense job. If the architect were to be Captain Fowke, perhaps he was selected in order to enable the noble Lord at the head of the Government to try his hand there, as he had done with Mr. Scott's work. Before he consented to that, however, he should like to see the new Foreign Office that was being built. He thought it somewhat extraordinary that the Committee had not heard as yet the opinion of any right hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition bench. If all they heard were true, those right hon. Gentlemen were in perfect accord with Her Majesty's Government, and were prepared to sanction the Vote before the Committee. It was not the first time that the two front benches had agreed together; but it was always when there was some great abuse to be maintained. Last year there was a proposal before the House to make an embankment on the north side of the Thames. There was then a perfect agreement on the part of the leaders on both sides of the House; but there was a sufficient number of independent Members to repudiate the proposal of the Government. He trusted that the same spirit and determination would be shown on the present occasion.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he could not congratulate either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the First Commissioner of Works on the manner in which they had introduced the Vote to the Committee. Their speeches were by no means calculated to remove the asperities surrounding the subject; but, on the contrary, they introduced remarks and items which were certain to provoke unnecessary and hostile criticism. He felt inclined to join issue with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on one of his statements, and to contend, on the other hand, that in his story about the non-removal of the Exhibition building the Treasury bench had discovered what was popularly called a "mare's nest." Any one who knew the character and standing of Messrs. Lucas and Kelk, and those associated with them, would be sure, that if the House of Commons determined not to purchase the building, there would not be the slightest difficulty on their part in proceeding to fulfil what would be a virtual undertaking, although it might not have been an absolute bargain. He felt bound 117 to pay the tribute of his admiration to the eloquence and the gallantry with which the opposition to the Vote had been conducted. When, however, the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) assured the Committee that no one was more friendly to any well-digested scheme for the promotion of science and art than himself, he felt obliged to look to the antecedents of his noble Friend. His noble Friend occupied rather too long in the process of digestion in these matters—so much so that the cause he was digesting ceased to be before the House. In 1848 his noble Friend took a leading part in discussing the subject of the National Gallery. In 1853 his noble Friend acquiesced in Hyde Park as the site of a new National Gallery, and thought it ought to be proceeded with at once. In 1856, when Sir George Lewis, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, rose to move the second reading of the Bill for that purpose, his noble Friend proposed that the question of the site of the National Gallery should be referred back to a Royal Commission. That Commission decided that the National Gallery should be retained in Trafalgar Square, where it still remained. The party of action in science and art had therefore good reason to pause before they followed the leading of his noble Friend. With regard to the adaptability and permanency of the Exhibition, various authorities had been referred to. On the one side, the Committee had the estimate of Mr. Hunt; but then the Report of Mr. Mallet was adduced to crush the estimate. He deeply regretted that the Royal Commissioners of 1862 had been so far wanting in common sense and in a due regard for their own interests as not to accept the offer of Mr. Mallet's services at the remuneration he named. Then there was the opinion of Mr. Fowler, who was at the very top of his profession. It was a question between Mr. Fowler and Mr. Mallet, and he would ask hon. Members to whom they would give the palm. No one had greater reason to lay stress upon the opinion of Mr. Fowler than his hon. Friend the Member for Galway. A great deal had been said about that old bugbear of science and art at South Kensington. The hon. Gentleman opposite had said that it was not littérateurs—not men of science or art that were at South Kensington, but a mere set of toadies. But what was the opinion of the hon. Member for Galway? In March 1862, he (Lord H. Lennox) addressed the House on the question of the British Museum, and his hon. Friend (Mr. Gregory) 118 supported him in a very eloquent speech, and expressed himself thus—Kensington Museum was really a case in point, where there was thorough vigour, efficiency, and responsibility. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who laughed might think it did not carry out its objects, but he considered that it did, and he approved the principle upon which it was founded. At all events, no man could say that the Kensington Museum was not carried on with a vigour and efficiency which put to shame the older institutions." [3 Hansard, clxv. 1781.]In addition they had the approval of the foreign Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1862, including M. Merrimée, M. Michel Chevalier, the great political writer, the deputies from the city of Lyons, the Austrian Commissioner, who announced that his Master had ordered that an institution on precisely similar principles should be founded, and the Italian Minister, who said that the King of Italy had decided to establish an institution on the same basis. Therefore, he thought the bugbear of the Kensington Museum, or "The Brompton Boilers," should not be allowed to enter into the question. He came next to the great point of discussion to-night, and he at once gave up the noble Lord at the head of the Government and his idea of stucco. He was quite sure that his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) was mistaken when he stated that Captain Fowke was quite satisfied with that idea; for Captain Fowke said that he should deeply lament the use of stucco. With respect to the possibility of beautifying the building, when Mr. Scott's opinion that it could be ornamented was quoted, it was received with derisive laughter. Mr. Scott thought it was quite possible to decorate the building by the use of rough brickwork, relieved by a dressing partly of stone and partly of terra cotta, with the addition of granite and other materials, and that a most satisfactory result might be produced, provided always the treatment of the design was artistic and well carried out. He (Lord H. Lennox) would suggest that competition should be invited, and that a sum not exceeding £180,000 should be granted. But admitting that, they would thus have a building which would cost in all about £500,000. If they pulled down the present building and erected another, the new structure would cost at least £2,000,000 at the ratio of the cost of the British Museum. But he had quite another authority, and that was, the very Report of the Institute of British Architects. They said that a very plain building of solid stone would cost at the rate of £100,000 119 an acre. They had sixteen acres, so he would leave the House to calculate what the cost would be. The question seemed to him to be surrounded by a great deal of passion and prejudice. Among the many objections taken to it was one he wished to treat with very great delicacy, but which he thought could not be passed over, because from its insidious nature it was not the less dangerous. The charge was made distinctly by only one hon. Member, but other hon. Gentlemen had alluded to it. The hon. Member for Brighton, however, boldly designated it as a "Court job." He did not know what the hon. Member meant by a "Court job;" but if he meant that he (Lord H. Lennox) wished to see carried into effect the various plans advocated by the Royal Commission, and which bore the signature of the late Prince Consort, he was certainly influenced by a "Court job." But the hon. Gentleman altogether overlooked the fact that the Report of the Royal Commission was signed by other names. He would find appended to it the names of Robert Stephenson and Richard Cobden, and he (Lord H. Lennox) did not think that either of these gentlemen would have put his name to a "Court Job." On a question of fortification, whose name and opinions were usually referred to? Were they not those of the late Duke of Wellington? On a matter of finance did they not quote the late Sir Robert Peel? And why not then refer a question of science or art to the name of a man who had done more than any one else for science and art in this country? Hon. Gentlemen knew that there was a time when the words science and art were never heard of in that House; but now the crowded benches of the House, whenever questions of science and art came under discussion, testified to the position which they had assumed. Now, he was of opinion, that if they lost that opportunity, the youngest man among them would never see any progress made towards the housing of those collections which everybody admitted had reduced the British Museum to a state of chronic suffocation and congestion. He was not in a position to state what exact partition of the building should be made as the best arrangement. But he was sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give a pledge that no further steps than were necessary for housing those collections should be taken without the full sanction of Parliament, and that he would thus remove all doubt as to his intentions. He saw before him a 120 very strong array of Gentlemen who were anxious to pull down the Exhibition Building. He saw his gallant Friend opposite (Mr. Bernal Osborne), who was trying to pull down a building stronger and more ancient, and he hoped his hon. Friend would keep his eloquence and powers of attack for the Irish Church. Having said so much, he would merely add that he hoped the explanation which his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Privy Council would give to the House would do away with the difficulty that had been raised as to the removal of the building, and would show that it was merely a mare's nest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by which the House would not be deceived.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, that although the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced his speech in a very grave and solemn manner, and begged the Committee not to be led away from the direct consideration of the question before them, he occupied some minutes in attacking Mr. Mallet, into whose birth, parentage, and education he appeared to have made the most minute inquiries. The right hon. Gentleman attacked him for saying that Mr. Mallet was employed by the late Sir Charles Barry; but the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) had proved that such was the case. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER made a gesture of dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but the hon. Member had stated it to his face. If the right hon. Gentleman had made further inquiries, he would have found that Mr. Mallet was a man of the highest reputation in Ireland, where he had constructed a large number of bridges of great mechanical merit; among others, one over the river Nore, and only the other day Sir Charles Fox told him that he considered Mr. Mallet a man of the very greatest ability as a practical engineer. The right hon. Gentleman laughed at Mr. Mallet, and mentioned to his disadvantage the fact that he had written a scientific treatise upon earthquakes. If any one were to remark upon the right hon. Gentleman's having written a book upon theology, or one containing profound theories about Homer, or upon his having gone down to Wales to deliver a lecture upon the Volunteer system and military tactics, he would have regarded it as a very illiberal proceeding; and equally illiberal was his own conduct in alleging as against the credit of Mr. Mallet that he had published a treatise upon earthquakes. His noble Friend the Mem- 121 ber for Chichester (Lord H. Lennox) attempted to make it a question between Mr. Fowler and Mr. Mallet. It was nothing of the kind. The only question was, whether the statements which Mr. Mallet had made in the letters which were read to the House were true or untrue. Every one of those statements was true. Every word which he had said was confirmed by the Petition of the Society of Architects, and even by Mr. Hunt himself. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he had heard that Mr. Mallet, who had occupied far too much of the attention of the House, had only been five or six times in the Exhibition Building. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I did not say so.] The right hon. Gentleman quoted from a letter. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] If his ears did not deceive him, the right hon. Gentleman read a letter in which the writer said that Mr. Mallet was not employed at the Exhibition, and only visited it five or six times.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the letter from which he had read referred to the employment of Mr. Mallet at the Houses of Parliament.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he would then dismiss that subject, only adding, that Mr. Mallet had ample opportunities of knowing everything connected with the building, because he happened to have been the editor of the Exhibition Record. His noble Friend (Lord H. Lennox) had accused him of inconsistency in regard to the observations which he had made upon the class of persons who had possession of Kensington, because he last year said that the Kensington Museum was efficiently conducted, and that a vast deal of energy and spirit was displayed in its management. There was no discrepancy whatever between these two observations. He adhered to his statement, that there was a great deal of vigour and success in the administration of that Museum. What he objected to on the part of those people was the encroaching, pushing, and grasping spirit which led them to travel out of their own establishment, and endeavour to get all the institutions and all the museums of London under their management. Many different opinions had been expressed in the course of the debate upon the subject of the building, and upon the merits and demerits of stone. His noble Friend below him (Lord Elcho) and himself would, no doubt, be accused, with much clamour and rancour, of attacking the reign of 122 stucco over our public buildings. Earl Granville said the other night, in another place, that stucco was a thing of beauty; that it had a grace and a charm peculiar to itself, in which he entirely agreed with the noble Earl, and that its application would be of great advantage to the public buildings of this country. He believed that a belief in stucco—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would deny it if it was not so—was one of the "credos" of the Kensington School. Notwithstanding these differences, one universal opinion had been expressed, both in the House and out of it, and in almost every journal that he had read, since the discussion in another place the other night, with regard to the conduct of the persons who were connected with all these transactions. In that discussion they were warned that they had bought the land, and that the building could not be removed. In speaking of the persons connected with these transactions he was not going to allude to all the fussy agitations and perpetual endeavours to recommend the building to the attention of the public. He was not going to allude to or comment upon the liberality of the contractors in letting off the guarantors, or in giving a large sum of money towards a new floor for a ball the other night; nor should he dwell upon the mystery, or rather the mystification, which had been practised with regard to the value of the materials of which the building was composed. What had been universally blamed was the total want of respect with which the House of Commons had been treated, in the first instance, by the Estimate being pitched before them, and their being told to accept it; and, in the second, in their being allowed and recommended by the Government to buy the land with a building of that description upon it, of the faults of which, if the Government were ignorant, great and culpable was their ignorance; and if they were not, then they were still more to be blamed, because they had practised upon the House a palpable deception, and having deceived it into a bad bargain, turned round and said, "You have made your purchase, and cannot get out of it; the best thing for you to do is to throw good money after bad." The other night the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a great onslaught upon him, and those who read or heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech no doubt thought that the right hon. Gentleman had lost the equanimity 123 of his temper. But he knew better. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to answer the objections which had been urged against the building, and therefore thought that the best thing to do was to work up a great deal of indignation against Mr. Mallet for having at tacked Mr. Hunt, which he never did and to accuse himself of fertility of imagination, and a great many other things so as to lead the House from the consideration of the real question before it. Among other things, the right hon. Gentleman charged him with having confounded the Patent Office with the Patent Museum. He had not done so. If there was any confusion, it arose with the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who said, "In the first place, we want a Patent Office and Museum." He thought, when he heard the noble Lord speak, that his ears deceived him, for he believed it to be utterly impossible that the Government should have the intention of removing the Patent Office from an accessible position and carrying it down to Kensington. However, the noble Lord did propose the removal, on the ground that the models belonging to the Patent Office were at the present moment at Kensington. They were, however, removed there merely for a temporary lodging. As many as 909 of these models were stowed away at Kensington, and only 108 of them belonged to the Commissioners of Patents. The others belonged to private individuals, who were determined that their property should never form part of the stuffing of the great shed at Kensington. In their last year's Report the Commissioners stated that memorials from Sheffield, Glasgow, Leeds, and Bradford, had been sent up to the Patent Office, praying that the library and museum should be kept together with the Patent Office; and the Commissioners intimated their opinion that they all should be under the same roof and situated in a central position, so that they might be easily accessible to the class of persons who would have occasion to frequent them, such as barristers, engineers, inventors, and skilled workmen. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appealed to their feelings of emulation and pride, and mentioned the great size of the Patent Museum in America. The reason why the American museum was so large was because the American law required, that in addition to the specifications, there should also be deposited at the museum the models, drawings, 124 samples, &c. The English law, on the other hand, required only the deposit of the specifications. A greater collection of rubbish was never beheld under one roof than that to be seen in the American Patent Museum, and it was a warning against constructing a similar building in this country. When he mentioned on a former night the existence of a fund for the erection of a Patent Office and Museum, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, waxing merry, said he had a very fertile imagination. Yet it appeared from the Report of the Patent Commissioners, among whom were the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and Sir John Romilly, that in 1862 there was an estimated surplus income of £40,000. The surplus in the present year would probably be £40,000 more; so that the surplus income in the present and succeeding years, upon which the right hon. Gentleman had no claim, might in the first instance be applied to the erection and maintenance of the necessary buildings, and after that might go in diminution of the heavy fees in connection with patents. The Portrait Gallery was to go to Kensington, because the gallery was the only part of the Exhibition building that was decent; and putting the best foot foremost, the promoters of the scheme were obliged to put something in the gallery; but to remove those portraits to Kensington would, he maintained, be a direct breach of faith, for in the Address moved in 1856, by Lord Stanhope, the House prayed Her Majesty to be pleased to take into consideration the expediency of forming a gallery of portraits, in connection with the site of the National Gallery, and every Vote which had been since granted had been granted on the faith of that arrangement. Now, there had been a great deal of mystification and shifting of figures, and much said about what they required at present, and were likely to require, in dealing with the question at issue. If, however, the Government were determined to persevere in their proposal for purchasing the Exhibition, he would pin them to the scheme in its entirety. He would not be satisfied with any announcement that they meant to buy one slip or slice of the building, and to hack away another. It was the merest nonsense to talk of separating various portions of it after that fashion, and he wished, before he sat down, to place the matter, in a few words, in the clearest light before the Committee. The noble Lord at the head of 125 the Government had, the other day, made a statement with reference to the figures involved, which enabled him at once to do so. The noble Lord fixed the purchase money of the building at £80,000, and allowed £286,000 for the necessary repairs, making a total of £366,000. "If, on the other hand," said the noble Lord, "we build separate museums to the extent which we require, this will be our expenditure:—We shall want £100,000 to build de novo a Patent Office, £240,000 for a Natural History Museum, £40,000 for additional extensions at South Kensington, and £25,000 to build a new Portrait Gallery." That was a clear and intelligible statement, and the sum total of the outlay for those separate Museums was estimated by the noble Lord at £405,000. But the cost of the Exhibition building was, as he had already mentioned, to be £366,000, whereas they might have new buildings—permanent, stable, decent, respectable buildings—for £405,000, or £39,000 more than the present estimate. That he did not think was too large a price; but if he were to deduct from the £405,000, as he thought he was entitled to do, £100,000 for the Patent Museum, and £25,000 for the Portraits, which would have to go wherever the future National Gallery of pictures stood, then the amount required for the accommodation of the Natural History collection—£240,000—and the £40,000 for providing additional accommodation at Kensington, would make in all only £280,000 or £86,000 less than the sum which the Committee was asked by the Government to vote. His noble Friend opposite had observed, that if a new building were erected, of the same proportions as that at Kensington, and on the same scale of expenditure as the British Museum, it would cost £2,000,000; and in that opinion he entirely concurred, for a more ill-arranged and extravagant structure had, he believed, never yet been raised than the British Museum, in the case of which they were paying the penalty of not having consulted those who had charge of the different collections when the building for their reception was commenced. What he would urge upon the Committee, therefore, was to build where to build was necessary, but then to build only for what they required. By adopting that course they would avoid the risk of having every institution in London swept down to Kensington, and would secure something well suited for the reception of the national 126 collections, instead of having on their hands a ricketty building which would probably some day tumble down about its contents. Mr. Hunt, in his report, said that the building was a "substantial structure;" but what did he mean by that? The roof required repair; the skylights, he said, should be replaced with others; and even the drains required repair. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in speaking of that building, would lead the Committee to believe that the drainage was very satisfactory, wonderfully dry and fit to receive any collection; but he understood most distinctly that such was not the case, and that after a heavy fall of rain there was to be found a large accumulation of water underneath. In short, all the objections which he had stated on a former occasion, had been fully borne out by the Report of the Institute of British Architects. The House of Commons, he might add, was accused of meanness and illiberality in voting money for such objects as that to which it was proposed the Exhibition Building should be devoted; but such was not a correct statement of the case. If the plans and specifications were duly submitted to it, and if it saw clearly that a good work was to be done, the House of Commons was invariably ready to grant money for such purposes. He trusted, however, the Committee would reject such a proposal as the present; and it would do so if hon. Members did not wish to sanction what would be a permanent disgrace, and to see science and art and all the foolery of Bartholomew fair mixed up together. He looked with confidence to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and those who sat with him on the same bench, to oppose the proposition of the Government, because he recollected the yearning for economy which marked the close of one of his speeches last year, when he said that the main characteristic of the Liberal party was the liberal manner in which they taxed the pockets of the ratepayers of this country. The proposal under discussion was, he believed, one of an extravagant character, inasmuch as no one knew where would end the expenditure which it would entail, and he sincerely hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would give effect to sentences, the expression of which he felt assured was not meant to fall as mere idle words on the ear of the House of Commons.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he had seldom been more disappointed than in the expectations which he had been led to form at the commencement of the debate with regard to the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they should have "a business-like debate" on that occasion. If, however, the various speeches which had been made that evening had been marked by very little of the businesslike tone, the right hon. Gentleman himself was the chief offender, inasmuch as he had entered into several matters and made several observations which were distinguished by anything but a business-like spirit. Now, there never was an occasion when it was more important that a question should be treated in a business-like manner. It was a question which involved the meeting of a public demand for purposes long recognised as essentially necessary, and a large expenditure of money. It was therefore important that the Government should have come forward with a clear and definite proposal which they were prepared to stand by in its integrity; and if it were possible that the question could be made more important, it had been so made by the course which the Government had previously taken. In the course of the previous year the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come to the House with a measure which was very different in many respects from that which the Government now proposed; he had asked them to pass a Bill to remove some portions of the collections in the British Museum to South Kensington, though not to the site now referred to. He had then said that he could give them no account of the expenditure necessary, and the result was, that after hearing his explanation, they had found themselves unable to support his proposition, and it bad been thrown out by a considerable majority upon the second reading. It was impossible, also, to forget that this year a day had been appointed with considerable solemnity for proposing to the House a plan and estimate for the purchase of the site and building, and for adapting the building to the purposes in view; but that when they came to discuss the plan in its entirety, the main portion had been suddenly withdrawn, and they had been asked to vote the purchase of the site alone, by which they had been led to infer that the purchase of the site and the purchase of the building could be separated. The subject was not discussed on that occasion in a 128 business-like manner, and at an early hour the House, by a large majority, had voted in favour of the portion of the plan which was thus submitted to them, without listening to the arguments which hon. Members on both sides of the question were anxious to urge, and which would have gone to show that one portion of the plan was closely connected with the other. And now this evening they found, as had been foretold, that the vote taken the other evening was pressed against them, and that circumstances existed, of which the Government had said nothing on that occasion, which put it out of the power of the House to do other than buy the building, because there were no means to compel the contractor to remove the building, and the site which they had bought was incumbered with it. In that state of things it was peculiarly important that the Government should have come before the House with some clear and definite proposition, which in its entirety they were ready to vouch for, and for the details of which they were prepared to be responsible. But having listened very attentively, and with no un friendly ear, to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was sorry to find that his proposal was one which it was extremely difficult to look upon as complete. It was proposed to take one or two portions of the building, which they were told were extremely well-fitted for certain purposes; but nothing was said as to whether the other portions were to be made use of or were to be pulled down. The question of the domes and the question of the external decoration were to be left in suspense, and he thought it most unsatisfactory to vote upon an arrangement which would leave to future years the decision what to do with those other portions of the building to which he had referred. He believed that the real objects of the Government were worthy of support, and he regretted that they should have been put forward in a form so likely to meet an unfavourable reception. The opposition was conducted by Gentlemen of very great ability, who, however, took very different views of the considerations by which they ought to be guided. A certain number of Gentlemen advocated the doctrines of economy, and would restrict that sort of expenditure to the smallest possible amount. On that ground, he believed many voted against the proposition the other night. Though he thought that many hon. Members had come to these conclusions upon mistaken premises, yet he believed that many who voted against 129 the purchase of the site did so to stop expenditure upon those objects which the Government represented as important. But there were other Gentlemen who objected to the plan of the Government, because they were anxious, not for economy, but for a building of greater beauty and ornamentation, which meant greater expenditure. His noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire argued, that if the Government were going to do something for science and art, they should remember that architecture was one of the arts, and the general tenour of his speech, and of those who had taken the same line, was that such a building as the Exhibition building, or such a building as it might be made, was unworthy of the national taste, and not sufficiently beautiful. He could quite understand those who desired to promote the ornamentation of the metropolis, and the erection of magnificent structures regardless of cost, taking that line of argument; but the advocates of economy should be cautious how they connected themselves with hon. Gentlemen of such æsthetic tastes, who were likely in future years to be the great advocates of expenditure. He was anxious to avoid any personal discussion, and he regretted that personal matters should have been imported into this debate. He would therefore only notice one matter, and that was the observation of his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire, that stuccoing the building would be like the painting of Madame Rachel, and only make it beautiful in the eyes of the Government and Captain Fowke. He was sure that it was an unintentional misrepresentation, and that his noble Friend had overlooked the words in Captain Fowke's Report as to stucco—"that he should lament extremely the use of such a material." It was unfair to charge Captain Fowke with a preference for the use of stucco, when he had so carefully guarded himself against being supposed to approve it. It was necessary that some provision should be made for the Patent Museum. It was true the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) said he had never heard a Patent Museum mentioned; but the attention of the House and of the country had long been directed to the question, and it was necessary that some provision should be speedily made. It was also necessary that they should relieve the British Museum of a large part of the collection lodged there for which there was no longer any room. He did not put the Portrait Gallery in the front rank, and 130 thought it was rather unfortunate that so much prominence had been given to it. [Cries of "Divide!"] He was extremely sorry to weary the Committee. He must, however, remind hon. Members that on the former occasion great impatience was manifested to divide for the dinner-hour, and the consequence was that the Vote was taken without sufficient consideration. He was not speaking without a practical object. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] It was his intention to move an Amendment. ["Oh!" and "Move!"] It was necessary to explain the grounds of that Amendment. ["Oh!" "Divide!" and "Order!"] They had purchased the site at Kensington on terms which were very favourable to the Government. [The hon. Gentleman continued to speak for several minutes amid cries of "Divide!"] As it was hopeless to obtain a hearing, he should move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. LOWE
was cheered when he rose, and said, he accepted that cheer as a compliment to the Department he had the honour to represent. He wished to make an explanation, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, who said he could not help suspecting that the Exhibition building was erected with a view to making the public buy it. That was quite a mistake. An engagement was entered into between the Commissioners of 1851 and the Society of Arts, by which the building was to be reserved for the purposes of future Exhibitions. ["Divide!"] That reservation, however, depended on the success of the Exhibition. If there was no surplus, the building was to revert to the contractors. [The rest of the right hon. Gentleman's explanation was rendered inaudible by the cries of "Divide!"]
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he would entreat the Committee to conduct the debate in a more orderly manner. They ought not to check a legitimate discussion by mere inarticulate noises. Keenly opposed as he himself was to the proposal of the Government, he held that they ought to hear what could be said for it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I will not detain the Committee a minute. I do not desire to enter into the general question, but merely to offer my advice with humility to the Committee, at a moment when they seem to be entering on a course for which, I think, they will afterwards be sorry. I 131 was not present on the former occasion and am not, therefore, responsible for the division which then took place, and which I believe both sides of the House now regret, from the precipitation with which it was arrived at. It is acknowledged, I understand, that there was a great want of discussion on that occasion. At present, I wish to point out to the Committee the inconvenient position in which they may place themselves. The Government have brought forward a measure of considerable importance. As yet no Gentleman on this bench has spoken on the question before us, although we have been challenged by several hon. Members to state our opinions. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) rose to state the reasons why he opposed the Motion, and to offer an Amendment of considerable weight, the gist of which was, that the question should be referred to a Select Committee of the House. [Cries of "No!" and "Divide!"] It is only fair that that Amendment should be properly considered, as there are reasons of great weight to be advanced in favour of it. The course which the Committee has taken in refusing it a hearing, is one which I am sure it will, on reflection, feel is not consistent with Parliamentary practice. ["Divide!"]
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am unwilling, in the excitement of the Committee, to enter into details. I may say, however, that the Amendment of my hon. Friend would have been perfectly in unison with the Orders of the House. It was an Amendment to reduce the Vote; but with the ulterior view of sending it to a Select Committee. ["Divide!"]
§ SIR ROBERT CLIFTON
said, he believed that the Vote was utterly repugnant to the whole country; and therefore he contended there ought to be no reduction in the amount of it. He would urge the Committee to come to an immediate decision on the Vote itself.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Sir Stafford Northcote,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he intended to propose that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £25,000. He 132 wished, by moving that Amendment, that the Government might have an opportunity of purchasing the building [Cries of "No, no!"]; and then that steps might be taken, either on the initiation of the Government or any hon. Member, of moving for the appointment of a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the question generally. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Vote be reduced to £80,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £80,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1864, for the Purchase of the existing Exhibition Buildings at Kensington Gore from the Contractors, and for repairing, altering, and eventually completing the said Buildings."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
I shall shortly state to the Committee the reasons for the vote I am about to give on both the propositions now before us. I came down to the House to-night with every disposition, if I could, to hear something in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to enable me to support the proposal of the Government; but I am bound to confess that from the beginning to the end of that speech it completely removed any and every doubt I might have had before. I therefore feel compelled to vote against the Government, and I feel equally compelled to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stamford. That Amendment, as well as the proposition of the Government, would pledge the House to an expenditure to which I can see no end, and for which the Government have no plans. I am compelled to say, with great regret, that the course the Government have taken with respect to the land makes one suspect everything connected with the proposal. What has been the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night with regard to the land? He has raised up a multitude of difficulties—whether real or imaginary I do not know—of which we heard not a single word when we were asked to vote the money for the purchase of the land. It is to be remembered, moreover, that the proposal was brought forward in the first instance upon a joint Estimate; the whole money was asked for at once. Suddenly, without warning, the noble Lord the Prime Minister cut the Estimate into pieces, but gave us no inkling that there would be those difficulties connected with the land, be they 133 real or not, which occupied so large a portion of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night. Now, I believe that this House, when a plain, straightforward statement is put before it, does not mind the expense, if it sees it is for a good object, likely to be carried out in a proper way. Something has been said tonight about the probability of great architectural expense being incurred hereafter if we vote against this proposition of the Government; but in what position would that proposal, if carried, leave us? The Government propose to take the rough shell of this building, and to occupy a little less than five acres of it, leaving the rest to be operated upon hereafter by gentlemen of taste or of no taste; and in all likelihood we may be told at some future time, "Oh, you have already used about five acres, why not make the other portions available?" Here I must say that we have got into a curious way lately of dealing with buildings by the acre. The upshot in the present instance is that we have no security whatever that the whole building may not be treated in the most costly style. In fact, the Chancellor of the Exchequer read to us a letter, in which the writer, an architect, says that this building is "susceptible"—I think that was the word—of great ornamentation. I recollect once seeing a mountebank with a black woman, who was susceptible of a great deal of ornamentation. He said, "I can make her white, and I can make her red; but do what I will, I can't make a handsome woman of her." I am afraid that Mr. Smirke, do what he may to ornament the Exhibition building, must still leave it like that unhappy black woman: he cannot make it handsome. Look at another proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says, "See how cheap you have got these five acres of building; how very handy it will be for the Portrait Gallery, the Patent Museum, and certain portions of the British Museum." That is smething like a man buying an estate cheaply—say for £1,000—but finding that he has an expensive bridge to keep up ratione tenurœ. If we agree to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we shall have ten or twelve acres to keep up more than we want—by no means a very wise or economical arrangement. I shall vote against it, and its rejection will give the Government time, with their hands free and with our hands free, to re-consider the matter between this and the next Ses- 134 sion of Parliament. If they can see their way to point out how this building can be usefully applied; if they can lay before us proper plans and estimates; if they can look straight forward to the end—ascertaining precisely what sum they will have to spend and to what use the money will be put—I, for one, will be ready to consider their proposition, with every disposition to agree to it, if possible. But I am not prepared to vote the sum they now ask for and to embark on an expedition to which I see no limit; and I am still less disposed to embark on it after the very unsatisfactory way in which the Government have treated the House. I equally object to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stamford, because it would equally embarrass the House. The same reasoning applies to both; for if we spend £100,000, we may as well go the length of £120,000. I think the best course the Committee can pursue is to allow the Government in the recess to reconsider the whole question. If they can submit a proper case to Parliament next Session, I have no doubt Parliament will agree to it; but I do not think they can say themselves that they have put the matter before us on the present occasion in such a way as to enable us to record our votes in their favour.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
was understood to assure the Committee that Messrs. Kelk and Lucas, if the Committee refused the Vote, would not retain possession of the ground an hour longer than was necessary.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am very reluctant to intrude myself on the Committee, but after what has just been said I think it absolutely necessary that I should say a few words. No motive of self-love on the part of the Government would induce us to decline to accept the Amendment, but I am bound to say that from the indications given by the Committee it seems not very likely to meet with support. If the Committee divide on it, it would probably not be very easy for the Committee to understand the exact position in which it was placed, and I think it would be better on the whole, therefore, if it were withdrawn. There are two points on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite commented in terms of undeserved severity. He seems to think that the Government have practised some concealment, by which the Committee is now placed in some difficulty with regard to the purchase of the land. On the contrary, those difficultie 135 are, in the main, of a nature which every one in the Committee could comprehend just as well as I could. ["Oh! oh!"] On the very first occasion when it occurred to my mind that there would be a certain amount of difficulty in consequence of the want of a specific contract with the contractors, I took the earliest opportunity of stating it to the House. We had not examined the subject. ["Oh! oh!"] It had no relation to our proposal; it had relation to the proposal pressed on us by this House, and to which we acceded out of respect for this House. What did I say upon the subject? I said it was not likely that you would get possession of the land before 1865, and it would be difficult, even if you had a contract, to get possession of it before 1864. I never supposed for a moment that Messrs. Kelk and Lucas would make a vexatious use of their power; but what I anticipated was, that, like men of business, they would look out for a proper market for their materials, and that they would endeavour to obtain the time necessary for seeking that market. The real difficulties do not arise out of the want of a contract, but out of circumstances of which the right hon. Gentleman is just as competent to judge as I am. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government have not a clear and distinct proposal to offer to the House, but I say that our proposal is perfectly clear and distinct. We propose to deal with 4½ acres of the land, reserving the question of the 12½ acres for future consideration. No pledge whatever is involved; and if you think fit that the building on the 12½ acres shall be removed, it can be removed, and you will receive a considerable sum of money.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he would withdraw his Amendment, reserving to himself the power of moving a reduction hereafter if the Vote were carried.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 121; Noes 287: Majority 166.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.