§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £45,721, Purchase of the Blacas Collection of Coins and Antiquities for the British Museum.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, in proposing a Vote for the purchase of this collection, said, the Government were induced during the autumn to take on themselves the responsibility of making the purchase of, I believe, the most celebrated private collection connected with ancient art. That was a stop which, of course, we could only take with great reluctance; but we were compelled to take it by a sense of duty, and I hope we shall have the sanction of the House for the course we have adopted. Sir, this was the purchase of a collection which had been formed by the Dukes de Blacas during the present and the latter part of the last century. Of it it may be said that everything therein was choice, much was rare, and some things were unique. The attention of the Trustees of the British Museum was drawn to the circumstance that at the end of the autumn, by the law of inheritance that prevails in France, this great collection would probably be in the market. There was a particular reason why the attention of the Trustees of the British Museum—irrespective of their anxiety, when such opportunities are offered, to secure for the country specimens of art of a very choice or rare character—was attracted to the Blacas Collection. In our national collection of ancient art, which, on the whole, may be described as unrivalled, there is one great deficiency. It possesses no collection of ancient gems of any reputation. Now, the most rare and valuable portion of the Blacas Collection consists in a number of gems unrivalled in any private collection in Europe, that of Blenheim alone excepted. It was therefore of great consequence that these 492 gems should be obtained for our Museum. One great reason why that consequence was so urgent was that no such opportunity would probably ever occur again, and, most certainly, not in this century. All the celebrated gems of antiquity are now well known, and most of them form part of Royal or Imperial collections. It is at St. Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, and Paris, that the most valuable of these antique gems are to be found; while England, notwithstanding the celebrity of her British Museum, was almost entirely deficient in specimens of these works, which are among the most exquisite and rarest works of ancient art. It was obvious, from all intelligence that reached us upon the subject, that the Blacas Collection would be purchased by some foreign State, should we fail to secure it for ourselves; and, indeed, we were aware that the Emperor of the French had already appointed a committee to examine these treasures in order that they might be obtained for the French nation. There was, of course, considerable hesitation on the part of the Trustees of the British Museum—a hesitation which was naturally shared by Her Majesty's Government—as to the purchase of the whole of this collection. Had not this collection been purchased by some State, it would in the ordinary course of things have been brought to public auction, and it might have been sold under the same conditions as were two well-known collections of late years. In that case the British Museum would have sent an envoy thoroughly acquainted with the subject to the sale, with authority to expend a certain sum in making purchases for the Museum. It was accordingly contemplated that Mr. Newton, who is a gentleman most distinguised in this peculiar class of knowledge, should be directed to attend the sale, in order to purchase the most beautiful portions of the collection for this nation. The Government, however, found that if Mr. Newton were sent to attend the public sale we should have been called upon to give him a credit to the extent of at least £30,000; and it became us to consider whether it would not be wiser, instead of spending this large sum upon particular objects and portions of the collection, by a further expenditure to secure the whole. Mr. Newton went over to France, and examined the whole collection with a knowledge and a taste upon which we have thorough dependence; and he having made his report to the Government, we had reason to be- 493 lieve that it would be of the greatest advantage and benefit to this country, as well as for its honour, that it should acquire those treasures. Under these circumstances, we had to consider whether we should authorize Mr. Newton to purchase the whole collection. I will not venture—and perhaps it might be imprudent—to mention the amount that Mr. Newton was authorised by Government to offer; but I may say that that gentleman, acting under our instructions, made an offer of £45,000 for the purchase of the whole collection. That offer was refused; but I am glad to say that in the course of twenty-four hours after it was made the purchase was concluded on behalf of the country for £48,000. We have, however, reserved to ourselves the right of selling those portions of the collection, of which the British Museum possesses admirable duplicate specimens, and by this means we reduce the total sum paid by £2,221. The whole sum, therefore, that appears in the Estimates which I am now going to move, as having been expended upon the purchase of the Blacas Collection, is £45,721. I will now detail to the House with brevity the principal objects which we have obtained by this purchase. In the first place, we have gained one of the finest collections—probably the finest private collection—of gems in the world. It comprises 900 specimens, many of which are of the most exquisite description. These are now added to the British Museum, which before possessed but few works of art of this description and scarcely any of great importance. The British Museum also, which until the time of this purchase may be said to have been without a single cameo, now possesses the finest in the world—namely, that of the head of the Emperor Augustus, a cameo which has a European reputation, and which was purchased among others by the Duke dc Blacas from the unrivalled Strozzi Collection, the beauties of which have been made known to the world by the most celebrated engravers. Hon. Gentlemen are, doubtless, aware that it is a most hazardous experiment to purchase gems whose history is not well known, and therefore the value attached to a well-authenticated gem is very considerable. Besides these magnificent gems we have obtained some of the finest Roman coins that, in all probability, were ever comprised in an individual collection. It so happens that the British Museum, although deficient in gems, is pecu- 494 liarly rich in Roman coins; but some rare examples were wanting, and these the Blacas Collection will supply:—moreover, we have secured by the purchase several very rare and some unique specimens, and we may now say that our national collection of Roman coins and medals is the finest in the world. Besides those gems, coins, and medals, we have secured a very numerous and particularly rare collection of fictile vases. In these latter works of art the British Museum was already rich, and especially with relation to the early Greek period; but it was deficient with regard to the later period, when art flourished in its greatest luxuriance in Magna Græcia, and we have now been enabled to add 500 specimens of this latter age to our collection. I should perhaps not trouble the Committee further than to touch upon these three great divisions of gems, coins, and vases contained in the collection, which give an idea of its riches, but, by no means, the whole of its treasures. It contains one magnificent perfect specimen of sculpture in the head of Æsculapius of the period of Praxiteles and Lysippus, the very highest age of Grecian art, which will rank among the finest specimens of that great school. It might, perhaps, not be uninteresting to the Committee were I to point out one article in the collection which is so unique that there is nothing in Rome itself that approaches it. It was discovered in the Esquiline Mount in Rome in 1793. It is a copper casket of considerable size ornamented with silver, and holds the entire toilette service in solid silver of a Roman lady—the whole being in a perfect state—and thus giving us a very curious illustration, not only of the manners, but also of the art of chasing of that period. There are many other heads under which this great and rare collection might be divided. It would, however, be impertinent in me on an occasion like this to trouble the Committee further; but I believe from all that has reached me that this purchase has been made under fortunate circumstances, and that this country has acquired this celebrated collection upon terms which it never will regret. I may add that more than one State in Europe has been greatly disappointed at its being secured for the national collection of England. I trust that the Committee will allow me to move that the sum of £45,721 be voted for the purpose of defraying the coat of purchasing this collection, and that they will sanction the 495 expenditure which the Government admit to be exceptional, but which, under the circumstances, they felt it to be their duty to incur.
Had the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman required a Seconder, I should readily have undertaken that office. I do not mean to say that I have the knowledge or the experience in this particular matter which would in any way enable me to judge as to the precise relation between the value of the collection and the sum paid for it; but, having no reason to doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has well examined that question, I have not the slightest reason to believe that the state of the case is other than he has represented it to be. The right hon. Gentleman is himself aware that it would have been far more desirable had that course been possible for him to have submitted this Estimate in the regular course to this House previously to the purchase of this collection. He admits that he has undertaken a special responsibility in authorizing the expenditure of so large a sum without the sanction of Parliament. I wish, therefore, to release him from that responsibility as far as an individual Member of this House can do so. We have certainly arrived at a time when it becomes a very serious question whether we should grudge a sum of money for the purchase of rare articles such as those contained in this collection at a price not in excess of that which usage warrants. Now, I own that I do not see how the wealth of the country can be beneficially employed if not in the acquisition of treasures of this nature, which are themselves not only a perpetual and unfailing source of delight to multitudes of cultivated persons, but which are likewise a most powerful instrument of practical education for the people. If any Gentleman sit within these walls who yet require to be convinced, or, I will presume to Bay, enlightened, on that subject, I would humbly take the liberty to refer them to the masterly address delivered within the last fortnight by a Member of this House (Mr. Stuart Mill) to the students of the University of St. Andrew. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster on this public occasion for the singular felicity and power with which he has illustrated, with the weight of his own great authority, this practical and most important subject. There is one point on which I have a few words to say—namely, in regard to the 496 question of Supplemental Estimates; but I do not like to mix that up in the present Vote, because it is a point which stands on its own ground, and therefore I will reserve it till we come to the next Vote. For the present, taking it, it is true, on trust to a great extent, but fully believing that the right hon. Gentleman has been quite justified in the course he has taken, I sincerely congratulate him on having been the means of obtaining for the country this most valuable acquisition.
§ MR. GREGORY
thought that few persons would censure the Vote now proposed, for the press, as well as every person who had spoken to him on the subject, had with one accord approved most heartily of the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, if we were to have a great collection and to spend large sums of money on works of art, nothing could be so injudicious as to lose, for the sake of a few hundred pounds, opportunities which might never again present themselves. In the course of his experience in the House of Commons he had never known any serious objection made to any special Vote like the present. Private individuals abroad had great wealth, and they knew what rivalry there was on the Continent among Emperors and Kings to secure these treasures of art, so that the obtaining of these works of art was a very difficult task. Therefore, a rich country like England ought not to scruple to purchase a great collection like this when it came into the market. He wished, however, to make one other observation. Could anything be more hopeless or lamentable than the condition of the British Museum? The greater portion of the works of art in the collection which formed the subject of this Vote would, he feared, be stored up, so that the public generally would not have a chance of seeing them. This would be owing to the want of proper accommodation, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, as soon as he was relieved from the present pressure of politics, propose to the House some scheme for the better arrangement of the British Museum, so as to make its treasures available to the public. He, for one, would do all that lay in his power to assist the right hon. Gentleman in carrying out that object; because he felt that the vacillation, the want of system which prevailed in regard to that great national establishment rendered it a reproach to the country.
§ Vote agreed to.497
§ (2.) £165,309, Royal Palaces.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, it would be convenient if he took that opportunity of calling the attention of the House and that of his hon. Friend opposite to the construction of this Estimate, which he believed was almost without precedent. He did not think that hitherto it had been the custom of the House to vote at the commencement of a Session sums similar to that proposed in this Vote, in aid of Votes made in the early part of the financial year—at all events, it had not been the custom for the last few years. He had referred especially to the Estimates of last year to see under what circumstances the Supplementary Estimates had then been asked for, and he found that no Supplementary Vote had been taken on account of the Civil Estimate's for the then current year, but that certain excesses on the Votes of the previous year, 1864–5, had been provided for. This was necessary, because till that time the previous practice in voting the Civil Service Estimates had been different from that which was observed in voting the Army and Navy Estimates; for, whereas the latter Estimates were given in respect of sums which came in course of payment during the year, the Civil Service Estimates were merely in respect of sums required for the service of the year. Two years ago that practice was altered, and it became necessary to wind up the old accounts. Consequently, last year, the Treasury brought in a Supplementary Estimate, not for the service of the year 1865–6, but for the service of the year 1864–5, so that the balances of certain accounts for the year 1864–5 might be closed. The Government then proposed the Estimates for 1866–7—the current year—and in them such provision as was necessary was introduced to make good anticipated deficiencies on the payments for the expiring year 1865–6. It was not usual at the commencement of a Session to vote any excesses on the existing year. All that it was usual to do was to vote any actually ascertained excesses in the Estimates of the preceding year, and to include in the Estimates of the following year any sums which it was thought would be required to make good advances for the current year out of the Civil Contingencies. The sum required last year was rather excessive, because of the change in the method, and he thought the Supplementary Estimates were between £200,000 and £300,000. That Vote passed without 498 any objection being made. This year a new process had been introduced by his hon. Friend, who proposed that the House should vote in February certain sums for certain excesses anticipated on the Votes, not of the past, but of the current year. Indeed, it was proposed that excesses on individual items should be voted. The paper did not tell the House merely that the Vote No. 1, or No. 2, or No. 3 would be exceeded, but that certain items in those Votes would be exceeded; and his hon. Friend asked them to include all these individual items of excess in a fresh Estimate, to be accumulated upon the Estimates for the current year. He thought his hon. Friend ought to explain to the House why he had adopted this novel course, which might be attended with inconvenient results. If the House did not know whether the aggregate Vote was in excess, they might, perhaps, vote an additional sum, after all not really required, but which would tend to disturb the calculations on which the total expenditure of the Civil Services had always been based. Thus money would be unnecessarily placed at the disposal of Government which might be applied to other parts of the Vote, not mentioned on the face of the Supplementary Estimate. Besides, the tendency of trusting to a Supplementary Estimate on an ensuing Session would be to induce laxity in dealing with the original Estimate. As the Government was introducing a new practice, they ought to give good reasons for doing so before it was endorsed by Parliament. It had of course been anticipated that it would be necessary to supplement some Votes, and also to meet claims which had not been provided for; but this possibility was expressly contemplated by the Civil Contingencies Fund, the capital of which was £130,000. If the Government, instead of falling back upon this fund, was at the beginning of a Session to recoup itself by a Supplemental Estimate, it would be necessary for Parliament to consider whether the Civil Contingencies Fund was not too large for Government to have it at its disposal.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that the sums which were provided for in this Supplementary Estimate would, no doubt, under ordinary circumstances, have been paid out of the Civil Contingencies Fund; but it must be remembered that quite a new system of audit had been introduced, and it was therefore thought better, in this transition 499 period, to clear the account entirely of I sums that might have been recouped from the Civil Contingencies Fund, so that a fair start could be made with the now system. It was on that account that the Estimates were proposed in this form, and the explanation, he hoped, would be satisfactory. The first item in the Estimates was the re-voting of a portion of n sum of £1,780, which was included in the Estimates for 1864–5,and the item was therefore placed in the Estimates in accordance with the usual practice.
said, he was glad to learn, from the statement which had just been made by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that that Vote had been submitted to them under peculiar circumstances, and that it was not to be repeated. He would not take upon himself to decide upon the sufficiency of the reason assigned by the hon. Gentleman for the adoption in that instance of so exceptional a course, and he felt that it was the less necessary he should make such an attempt, inasmuch as the matter was not one of any great importance. But he confessed that he felt strongly in reference to the general question of Supplementary Estimates. He was persuaded that if any party or any Government wished to undermine the Constitution of this country, and the control of Parliament over the public finances, they could adopt no more effectual method for the attainment of that object than the presentation of Supplemental Estimates, which would necessarily prevent the House from exercising any real check over the national expenditure. The power of Parliament depended on its permitting no deviation from the principle of one Estimate of expenditure and one Estimate of revenue, except under very grave and exceptional circumstances. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury seemed by his cheers to assent to that enunciation of opinion, and he (Mr. Gladstone) thought that it would, therefore, be unnecessary for him to state the grounds on which he had been led to that conclusion; but he should repeat that he regarded that question of Supplementary Estimates as one which deserved the anxious and vigilant consideration of Parliament.
did not know that he should object individually to these Votes; but he did object to the Committee being called upon to vote upon all sorts of questions in a way that he never before, 500 during his Parliamentary experience, recollected them to have been. He did not think they should be called upon to vote £165,000 in that offhand way. He thought it was due to the House that they should have an opportunity of discussing these Votes in detail. He trusted that the course now taken would not form a precedent for the future.
said, he could not conceive why many of those items of expenditure, such, for instance, as the charge for the Royal Parks, should not have been foreseen; and the fact that those Supplemental Estimates were brought forward must, in his opinion, be held to be discreditable to the sagacity of the heads of the different Departments.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
wished that the Secretary to the Treasury would explain his former explanation. It was not enough to say that the matter should not be drawn into a precedent, for that would not prevent it. A method of proceeding had been established by the House for such cases. A Civil Contingency Fund had been instituted; it was that fund which should have been drawn upon for the expenses in question, and then a sum would be voted in 1867–8 to make up the deficiency.
§ MR. WYLD
said, there were two points on which he was anxious to receive any information which the Government could supply. He wished, in the first place, to know whether it was the intention of the Government to entrust the execution of the new National Gallery to the architect who might be held to have produced the best design? He further desired to be informed whether intelligence has been received from Mr. Rassam to the effect that the Emperor of Abyssinia regards this as a political question, and will not release the prisoners unless he receives diplomatic communications from the Government?
§ MR. E. C. EGERTON
, in reply to the last Question, said, that no intelligence had been received by the Government with respect to Mr. Rassam and the Abyssinian captives since the 12th of December; and he regretted to have to add that, according to that account, they were still in chains, although they were in good health and in good spirits as regarded their future prospects. The third item of £4,500 was for the expense of a body of artisans who had been sent out, and who were furnished with an autograph letter from the Queen. They had been 501 unable to reach the Emperor Theodore, in consequence of a rebellion in his dominions. They were therefore still at Aden, and Colonel Merewether had instructed them to remain there until the captives had been released.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, he looked upon that Vote as a sort of olla podrida such as he had never before seen brought before Parliament; and many of the items seemed to him to require explanation. There was, for instance, a sum of £1,575 to be paid to Messrs. Banks and Barry for a design which they had been commissioned to make of a National Gallery on the site of Burlington House. He was quite aware that the noble Lord opposite was in no respect responsible for that sum. He would like to see the late First Commissioner in the House to explain why Messrs. Banks and Barry were originally to receive £5,000 for preparing designs for which that House had never given any authority. He was also struck by a Vote of £3,372 for the railing at Hyde Park; but he supposed that was the cost of the meeting which it was proposed should be held in the Park last summer. Then there was a sum of £1,300 for the expenses of the marriage of the Princess Helena, and immediately after that a sum of £65,000 for the cattle plague. Another item, which he saw with surprise and disapprobation, was an additional payment of £600 to be made to Mr. Cope for repairing the frescoes in the Houses of Parliament. He had always resisted the abominable uses to which the walls of these Houses had been put with respect to frescoes. The frescoes were dropping off the walls for shame. Had Parliament ever given its sanction to such additional remuneration? They were told that the Fine Arts Commission recommended that this sum should be given for the follies perpetrated on these walls. So long as the House of Commons consented so long would the Fine Arts Commission go on indulging their taste, and then call on the House to pay. If he could get any hon. Gentlemen, beside the leader of the forlorn hope, his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes), if he could get any respectable body of men, even thirteen, the number of the Reform Resolutions, he would go to a division.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that the Burlington House design for the National Gallery had been prepared in 1859 when his predecessor was in office. When Messrs. 502 Banks and Barry sent in their bill it was for a sum of £5,007; but they consented to reduce the amount very largely, on condition that they should be appointed architects for the new buildings on the same site. What had in reality been done was this—the country had been saved £3,000 by the Vote which the Committee was now asked to sanction. He was not responsible for the plan of 1859. The hon. Gentleman opposite had very naturally alluded to the cost of the riot in Hyde Park; but he (Lord John Manners) could not help being a little amused at the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen, who seemed to be of opinion that it was the business of the Government to be prepared for everything beforehand, and that therefore it was the duty of the Department charged with the superintendence of the Royal Parks to have foreseen every charge that might arise in the course of the financial year. He did not think that his predecessor was fairly chargeable with having made no provision for this exceptional case. The money had been expended in replacing in a temporary manner the railings pulled down. It was perfectly obvious that it was a proper charge, and it was impossible to make any provision for it at the time. With respect to the frescoes in the Houses of Parliament, he (Lord John Manners) had to observe that the hon. Member for Nottingham was mistaken in supposing that they were repaired by Mr. Cope under the authority of the Fine Arts Commission. The fact was that that Commission had been abolished some time since; but in consequence of some remarks made in that House a year or two ago, a Commission had been appointed to inquire into the claims of certain artists who had been engaged in executing the frescoes; and it was in conformity with the Report of that Commission that it was proposed to pay to Mr. Cope that additional sum of £600.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, his hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) had not explained the first item of £212 for Royal Palaces. There was a distinct item in the original Vote for 1866–7 for the repairs of the Royal Palace of Windsor; and if it had been found the sum was not sufficient this year the difference might, with the consent of the Treasury, have been made up out of the other items of the same Vote. It is nowhere stated that the total Vote will be insufficient. While addressing the House, he wished to ask a question with regard to 503 the enormous Vote of £50,000 proposed for the French Exhibition. The year before last a small Vote—£5,000, he believed—was taken for this purpose, of which only £800 was spent. Last year £12,000 was voted for the service of the present year, and the Treasury was informed at the time that the sum would be sufficient for the expenditure connected with the French Exhibition in 1866–7. The entire Vote for the former Exhibition was £50,000, and of this only £41,000 was spent; but the Secretary of the Treasury now proposed to spend up to the end of March next not less than £62,000, even before the Exhibition was opened. It might be that the requirements of the French Government had necessitated so large an expenditure; but in the absence of any explanation it appeared monstrous. He also wanted to know whether the Royal Commissioners, who had the management of everything relating to the English exhibitors, had anticipated this expenditure; and, if so, when they had brought it under the notice of Her Majesty's Government and of the Treasury? If they had not anticipated it, the House had a right to ask what precautions they took in their arrangements with the French authorities as to the sum we were to be liable for. He need hardly remark that a considerable additional sum would probably be required for the following year. He hoped that those Members of the Government who were upon the Commission would show that proper precautions had been taken against what he feared would end in enormous expenditure.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
wished it to be understood that the great body of the Royal Commissioners had no control over the expenditure which had been incurred, a cut-and-dried schedule being merely submitted to them by the Executive when they met. No one was more astonished than himself at so enormous an outlay.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that when the recent change of Government took place Her Majesty's present Advisers were astonished to hear of the large sum of money that would be required for the French Exhibition. The Government directed their immediate attention to the matter, and made every effort to keep the expenses in check, but they were told that a great part of the money to be asked for was already incurred; that under arrangements made with the Commissioners contracts had been entered into for the execution of certain 504 works, and that it was, consequently, impossible seriously to reduce the expenditure. With the view of giving some explanation of why so large a sum was required, he must state some figures on the authority of a paper issued by the Science and Art Department. The space occupied by the United Kingdom and the colonies in the Exhibition of 1855 was 183,000 square feet, and in 1867 it was 360,000. In 1855 the sum voted by Parliament was £50,000, of which only £40,000 was expended, or something like 4s. 6d. per square foot. Under precisely similar circumstances that would make the expenditure for the present Exhibition upwards of £80,000. In 1855 the expense of flooring, decorations, counters, blinds, and other fittings, and nearly the whole staff for cleaning, arranging, and watching, were paid by the French authorities. This year all these things, with the exception of the flooring, blinds, and Fine Art decorations, had to be provided by this country; besides that, additional expense had to be incurred for the erection of supplemental buildings in the park, for agricultural and horticultural exhibitions, for machinery, &c. In 1855, the War Department, the Admiralty, the Trinity House, the Post Office, the Treasury, and the Science and Art Department were but slightly, if at all represented; in 1867 they would all be fully represented. The total Estimate of the Paris Exhibition was £116,650, which included the whole of the money expended during the last three years. He believed that nearly the whole of the sum now asked for would be spent before the close of the financial year; and a part of it was already due. As he had explained, contracts had been entered into before the accession to office of the present Government, and virtually the matter connected with this expenditure had been beyond their control.
put it to the hon. Gentleman whether, under these circumstances, it would not be desirable to lay before the House the Correspondence which had taken place before pressing the Vote. 505 By suggesting the adoption of such a course he did not wish to cast the slightest imputation upon the Treasury, or to repudiate any share which the late Government might have had in the transaction. He thought, judging from the feeling of the House, that they should be put in possession of documents to show how this charge of £62,000 had arisen, because it was a thing not to be tolerated that extraneous bodies should dispose of the public money. He was sure the hon. Member the Secretary for the Treasury would not misunderstand him when he asked that the Correspondence upon the subject should be laid upon the table.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, this Vote appeared to him to be a great exhibition of extravagance which it was necessary for the House seriously to consider. He submitted that the mode in which the Vote had been presented was a departure from the proper plan of submitting Votes to the House. He thought it had been clearly understood that no Votes should be submitted upon expenditure for a particular object unless the entire expenditure for the object was submitted to the House, and then the Vote was to be taken upon account. This was a very serious matter. They found that this Exhibition Commission had grown up without any sanction of the House, which was pledged to spend a sum exceeding £100,000. If this had been done at Kensington, it was of some consequence to know that there was at Kensington a fund out of which this could be paid. The expenses of our own Great Exhibition of 1862 could be defrayed without coming to this House, out of the estates ill the hands of the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851; and it was a curious circumstance that they should now be called upon to pay so much towards the Exhibition at Paris. He was of opinion that to a large extent the expense of exhibiting the productions of this country should be borne by those who were to derive the benefit from the Exhibition. He hoped the House would not allow the Vote to pass without giving it its serious attention, and he trusted, for the reasons that had been advanced, that the hon. Member the Secretary for the Treasury would withdraw the Vote till the Correspondence was produced. He moved that the Vote be postponed.
assured the Committee that no one could be more surprised than 506 the Lord President and he himself were when they first saw the amount of money that would be required for the British department of the Exhibition. At their first meeting at South Kensington Museum they were informed of the enormous cost which the carrying out of the requirements of the French Government would entail; but the question they had had to consider was whether they should do a very uncivil thing to France by withdrawing altogether from a participation in the Exhibition, or incur the necessary expenditure. The French Government had imposed charges on this and other countries which we did not ask foreign countries to pay on the occasion of our Great Exhibitions; but when they came to a comparison between the forthcoming Universal Exhibition and those which have preceded it—when they saw how much larger was the number of jurors who would be required, and how much greater the extent of space which this country had to fill, the amount did not appear so very large after all. Very heavy charges were thrown on us for a testing-house and other buildings in connection with war implements and working machinery. The engagements in connection with the French Exhibition had been entered into before the present Government came into office; but he and his Colleagues had cut down the expenses as much as possible. He had no objection to give the House every information in his power with respect to details.
wished to know whether they were to understand that an allowance was to be given to the jurors?
replied that of course an allowance was to be given to jurors, as had been the case on previous occasions. The Committee did not imagine that gentlemen in business would go over to Paris and spend a couple of months there, examining articles, and making awards, and living at their own expense.
had served as a juror at a former Exhibition and had not received a penny for his services.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
wished to know whether the foreign jurors had been paid at the Exhibition of 1862, because he had served as an English juror on the occasion and had not been paid?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the sole question before the Committee was whether 507 they were going to vote the money now, or whether they were to wait until the papers were laid before them. His own opinion was the latter course should be followed, so that they might learn upon what items the money was to be expended, and who was responsible for its expenditure.
§ MR. WATKIN
said, that the question was whether the Committee would refuse to complete the work which had been commenced, and would intimate to the French that we would not carry out our promise to take part in their Exhibition. No blame for this expenditure rested upon the present Administration. The fault, if fault there was, was with the late Government, who appointed a Commission, the Members of which, not being business men, had, in their anxiety to promote the interests of England, demanded a great allowance of space, and great facilities for the exhibition of articles of English industry, without counting the cost. He should support the Vote.
§ MR. OSBORNE
observed, that this was not a question of incivility to the French Government, but one of the responsibility of a large expenditure which Parliament had never voted. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) must not forget, in his desire to promote the Great Exhibition at Paris, that it was his duty, as a representative of the people, to look to the way in which the public money was voted. There was no charge made against the present Government in the matter. Every one knew that they had nothing to do with it. The Vice President of the Privy Council having cut the amount down as much as he could, now took the responsibility of it, He should like very much to know what it was when it first came under the observation of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues. This was one of the too frequent instances in which small beginnings grew into large Votes without Parliament knowing anything about what was going on until it was too late to object. The hon. Member for Stockport suggested that the Member for the Potteries and the other Commissioners were not men of business. Now, he suspected that "Science and Art" had stepped in, and that this was another of the South Kensington manœuvres. It was all very well to say, "Don't let us insult the French Government;" but Members of Parliament were bound to look after public money. He hoped the Committee would insist on having the details laid before the House, in 508 order that they might be able to fix the responsibility in this affair.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the only point was on whom the responsibility was to be fixed. The House was entitled to the details making up the amount of £50,000 before they voted such a lump sum.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I should be very sorry that the question should be bandied about in this Committee as to the responsibility of any body for a proposition of this kind. The persons who are responsible are the Ministers. I myself do not shrink from that responsibility. Whether the late Government or some other persons have suggested the course which have led to these results is immaterial; but there can be no difficulty in deciding who are responsible. The Government would not have sanctioned such a Vote unless they had thought it desirable that it should be granted. When the credit and honour of the country are concerned, I trust it will never be a question as to who are the persons that should undertake responsibility in such a matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) complained that no details of the Vote are given, and with the view of getting rid of the objection I will give the details. They are as follows:—For internal fittings, £16,000; supplementary buildings in the Park, £23,065; ancient and modern art, £11,050; exhibitions of Government departments, £11,490; management, watching, clearing, £14,755; house expenses, £17,190; jurors, £12,000; rating,£8,250; Royal Commissioners, £2,750; total, £116,650. I do not want the Committee to consider, in any course they may take, whether what they are doing will be pleasing or displeasing to the French Government. We ought to perform our duty; and, no doubt, we can do so without doing anything displeasing to the French Government. But I want the Committee to take a largo view of the circumstances—not a petty, personal, or prejudiced one. These great Exhibitions of universal interest are periodical. Expenses such as this have not to be often incurred. There is no doubt, therefore, that when it was determined that England should be represented in this Great Exhibition intended to be held at Paris, those responsible for the management did not consider that it would lead to an expenditure of such magnitude. There can be no doubt about that. But it is a great mistake to suppose that we find ourselves 509 embarked in this expenditure because matters have been managed by persons who have been described as not men of business. On the contrary, those who had from the beginning the management of affairs—and as they are gentlemen not connected with me in politics I am speaking impartially on the subject—showed no deficiency of business-like attributes in all their arrangements and all their calculations; everything was planned and everything was foreseen, and many of these noblemen and gentlemen undertook their duty with the advantage of information based upon previous experience and experiments in those matters. The French Government, however, thought fit, after a due consideration of all the circumstances, to change the conditions which hitherto have been observed in all public Exhibitions of this kind. I do not for a moment think of questioning the propriety of their conduct, but that is really the cause of the increased expenditure. And what has happened? Those responsible for the Government of the country, whether those were our predecessors or ourselves, had to consider this simple question. The French Government having, in the exercise of their discretion, changed all the conditions hitherto observed in these Exhibitions, and by that change entailed on this country a considerable expenditure, shall we refrain from giving to the industry of our country that opportunity of showing its ingenuity and its varied powers which it expects at the hands of the Government? That is really the question. I dare say there are other States and countries that may also have been—I will not say annoyed, but may have been astonished at the change that the French Government has thought fit to make. But let us understand this. Every other country, however dissatisfied, or at least disappointed, by the course which the French Government has taken, has agreed to the altered conditions. Their industry will be represented, their ingenuity and acquaintance with the arts will be known to all the world, and the satisfaction and reputation which arise from such representation will be enjoyed by those respective States and countries. Well, would you be content in such a position that we should withdraw from the Exhibition? You know you would not. If we came down and told you, not that £50,000, nor £150,000, but that £200,000 were essential to the proper representation of this country, would you be satis- 510 fied at our withdrawal? The right hon. I Gentleman says he must move for papers, I will candidly avow that there are no papers of the slightest importance. There is not a single line upon the subject, as I have just learnt by inquiry from my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. No doubt there has I been a great deal of bustling second-rate communication between individuals, but nothing that would throw any light upon or affect the main question. That question is simply what I have put before you. There has been no want of intelligence, no want of experience, no want of businesslike habits, on the part of those—some of them filling the highest position in society—who undertook these offices; they did their duty thoroughly and perfectly and in a workmanlike manner. But the French Government changed their conditions, and the change has entailed great expense on every exhibiting country. No one is more annoyed than the Chancellor of the Exchequer at any increased expenditure; but, because of that expenditure, would you wish those who sit on these Benches to deprive England of the opportunity of exhibiting the products of her inventive genius by the side of other countries? You know you would not. You would think that in doing so we had taken up a mean position; a position degrading to the honour and to the highest interests of the country. I therefore trust the Committee will take a large view of the circumstances of this case—which I admit to be unsatisfactory—and will put on them the construction which they deserve, will assent to this proposition, will sanction this Vote of £50,000, and will feel that, in taking that course, they are acting in the manner most conducive to the advantage and the honour of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman towards the close of his remarks admitted that the position of this affair is not satisfactory, and he also told us that he had not in his possession any papers which could throw light on the question. Under these circumstances, I confess I do not see that there would be any object in pressing for a postponement of the Vote; especially as the unsatisfactory circumstances which he confesses are to a certain extent covered by the admissions which he freely made. It is impossible, however, for me to pass over in silence the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin) He, forsooth, deals very easily 511 with this matter, and shows immense anxiety to promote this French Exhibition. But that is not the question at all. Nobody shows any want of anxiety to promote the French Exhibition. I should hope we all come up to the standard of my hon. Friend in that respect. The question is whether engagements of this kind, involving matters strictly in the jurisdiction of this House, and of no one else, ought to be made apart from the responsibility of the Executive Government. My hon. Friend thought the late Government were responsible for this expenditure. My answer is, if the late Government be responsible, let any act of theirs be brought forward and put before the House; but when I ask my hon. Friend to do this he cries out against delay. My own mind is a perfect blank as to what has occurred prior to my leaving office, or what state of maturity the matter had attained at that period; but, substantially, this great charge has grown out of the change in the proceedings of the late Government; and after the frank statement made by the right hon. Gentleman as to the position of the House with regard to this Vote, I, for one, accede to the proposal of the Government. But before the regular Estimates of the year are brought forward I hope the necessary information will be afforded, so that when the Committee is asked for the large residue, as I am afraid it will be, of the Vote, they may see distinctly, and in a written form, what is to be the precise position of the House with respect to it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
wished the House to revert to the question really before it—namely, the jumbling together in one lot a mass of heterogeneous matters. He trusted that such a jumble would not be presented to the House again.
§ MR. OSBORNE
hoped his hon. Friend would not press his Motion to a division after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the same time, he trusted some assurance would be given that the expenditure under this head would not exceed the limit of £116,000.
§ MR. WATKIN
observed, that he had not said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) was responsible for expending the money, but for appointing the Commission which caused the expenditure. Technically, the statement of the Chancellor of 512 the Exchequer was accurate; but the French Government changed the original conditions because of the unexpected and enormous demands for space by the foreign Commissioners, among others by our own representatives. The original cause of the heavy expenditure, he repeated, was the appointment by the late Government of Commissioners who were not men of business.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £101,300, Anglo-Chinese Flotilla.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that in the year 1865 an arrangement was made with the Chinese Government that if they would not sell the Anglo-Chinese flotilla they should be compensated for any loss they might sustain. It was thought that if they were obtained by either of the belligerent parties in America Imperial interests might be prejudiced. The value put upon the flotilla when it left China for England was £152,500, and the value for which it had been sold was £51,350. The ships were all either sold or contracted to be sold but one, and if that were sold the money would be paid to the Exchequer.
denounced the sending out of these vessels for the purpose of service in China under the command of an English naval officer. Captain Sherard Osborn was put at the head of the expedition; but, unfortunately, a misunderstanding took place when he arrived in China. He found that he was not to be in the service of the Emperor of China, but in the service of the Governor of Shanghai. He very properly declined to accept the pay of a Governor of a province, and threw up his commission. The people of this country were now saddled with this Vote of £101,300, as the expense occasioned by our Government intermeddling between the Emperor of China and the Taepings. The head and front of the whole matter had been Mr. Horatio Nelson May, and now that gentleman, in a letter recently published, acknowledged the whole action of the British Government in interfering between the Chinese dynasty and its subjects the Taepings to have been an error. The result was that the British taxpayers had to pay £101,000 on account of these gunboats. He felt bound to protest against it, and moved the omission of the Vote.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, it was too late to object to the Vote, but he earnestly hoped it would be the lost of the kind that would ever appear in the Estimates. We had virtually interfered with a great civil war in China, and by so doing had committed a great blunder. The British taxpayers were now called upon to pay in respect of a fleet with which they had no concern. He trusted the noble Lord now at the head of the Foreign Office would take care that the policy of his predecessors in this respect would not again be adopted.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported on Wednesday; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.