HC Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc209-12

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If he would state to the House the considerations which influenced the Treasury in withholding aid to the Expedition about to be sent out in search of that distinguished Traveller, Dr. Livingstone?


I hope the Question of the hon. Gentleman will not be considered as a precedent that every Minister is bound to state to the House, at the demand of any hon. Member, all the considerations that are in his mind and influence particular decisions. I must say that would be, in my opinion, a very inconvenient course of proceeding. In this instance, however, I have not the slightest objection to reply to the Question put by the hon. Gentleman. Now, in the first place we subscribed £1,000 for the relief of Dr. Livingstone at a time when he was in a place called Ujiji. The money subscribed never reached him, and he was not benefited by it at all. Secondly, we are in profound ignorance of the locality in which Dr. Livingstone is at the present time. I am sorry to say we have entirely lost sight of him, and the expedition about to go out is to be sent out for the purpose of finding out where he is, and when he is found—which I hope he will be—to relieve him. It appeared to me that this is an object which, although it may very properly be undertaken, is hardly one in which it would be proper for the Government to embark. Perhaps the brave men who engage in it may themselves be involved in the difficulties, whatever those difficulties have been, which have overtaken Dr. Livingstone, and we might therefore be committed to a series of expeditions. A third consideration is that there is now, under the command of an English gentleman, a large armed force from the establishment at Gondokoro, at the head of the navigation of the Nile, which is probably now engaged in exploring the region of the two great lakes, the Albert and the Victoria Nyanza. By far the best chance for Dr. Livingstone is that he should hear of this, what I may call, extraordinary event—the presence, I mean, of this large, well-armed force in Africa; and that, having become acquainted with the fact, he may turn his steps in their direction. It is from those armed men that Dr. Livingstone would be most likely to receive relief; but, so far as I am able to form an opinion, I think it is exceedingly undesirable that the Government should enter upon the practice of giving subscriptions to objects placed in private hands, and forwarded by private means, however meritorious those objects may be. Parliament has not, in its wisdom, chosen to set aside any sum for this purpose in its provision for the year, and the Government must, therefore, take on themselves the responsibility of judging whether or not it will subscribe for such an object without any indication of the pleasure of this House. All Governments might be sufficiently ready to gain a little popularity for themselves if they could by being facile in these matters. Another consideration—and it appears to be a serious one—is that when the Government does subscribe the public money, it is not altogether right in losing control over that money; and if a case can be made out for the Government giving a subscription, a still better case might be made out for the Government undertaking the enterprize itself. Further, it is quite a false analogy to treat the Government as we do a wealthy individual, and to say that the same reason which makes it right for a rich man to subscribe towards a particular object would make it right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do the same. The difference between the two cases is perfectly manifest, because the private individual holds his money for his own benefit, and can do what he likes with it, whereas the Government holds the public money as a trustee. Moreover, the money with which the Government is intrusted is contributed not by the rich only, but by poor and rich alike. These are the considerations which influenced the Government in not subscribing.


asked, If he might remind the right hon. Gentleman that Dr. Livingstone was Consul General of Her Majesty in that part of the world?


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, If it is correct, as reported in the newspapers, that two Naval Officers who had volunteered to join the Expedition in search of Dr. Livingstone, the African Explorer, had been put on half-pay?


, in reply, said, that the Question of his hon. Friend appeared to rest on a misconception that the Admiralty had, by some special act, placed the two officers referred to on half-pay. That was not so. One was on half-pay, and the other had completed the peried of active service in which he had been engaged. The question, therefore, which the Admiralty had to consider was, whether the Government ought to place those gentlemen on full pay during the expedition. A request to that effect was made to the Admiralty, and instructions were given to ascertain whether there was a precedent for such a course, and he had been informed that there was none. It was not active service, and except on active service on behalf of Her Majesty, no officer had ever been placed on full pay. The nearest case to the present was that of Sir Leopold M'Clintock, when he undertook the Arctic Expedition; he was considered to be on active service, but it was by special Order in Council that the time occupied was allowed to count as time on service. With every desire, therefore, to promote the objects of the expedition, the Admiralty was unable to place the officers on full pay, they not being on active service.