MR. GRANT DUFF
Sir, I rise to call attention to the threatened dispersion of the Indian Museum, and to put forward some considerations which may, I would fain hope, incline the Secretary of State in Council to re-consider the 1723 determination lately come to, even if the hon. Gentleman opposite sees it his duty to oppose the Motion with, which I shall conclude. I have the more hope that this will be so, because the recent decision is in flagrant opposition to other decisions not long since come to by the Secretary of State in Council; so that, in holding its hand, and not dispersing the collections, the India Office will only be reverting to its own earlier, and, as I venture to think, wiser ideas. The Indian Museum was established by the Great Company in 1798, and was the outcome of the same movement of mind which gave to our earlier Indian statesmen so prominent a place amongst Orientalists. That being so, it was natural that the first character impressed upon it should be a learned and antiquarian one. After some time, however, it passed into the care of Dr. Horsfield, who, being himself a naturalist of repute, gave more prominence to Natural History and Science. Later still, it came under the charge of Dr. Royle, who thought less of the promotion of learning or of science in the abstract, and more of direct commercial utility. He it was who developed the economical side of the Indian Museum. When, in 1860, with these three characters impressed upon it—at once learned, scientific, and helpful to trade—it passed from its original home in Leadenhall Street, the authorities at first intended to provide a really fitting home for it in or near the new India Office buildings which were begun shortly after. In 1865 a piece of land was acquired to be available for extending the India Office, and in 1868 the architect received orders from the then Secretary of State, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, to prepare plans for an Indian Museum and Library, to be built on that piece of ground. The same idea found favour with my noble Friend the Duke of Argyll, who went to the India Office in the December of that year, and in the June of 1869 everything seemed about to be settled, when a telegram came from Lord Mayo, giving very bad financial intelligence, which stopped for a while any further progress. From this time forward, for several years, the plan of building an Indian Museum and Library, with rooms for the Asiatic Society close to the India Office, remained in abeyance—while we endea- 1724 voured, not without success, to retrieve the finances—but was very far indeed from being laid aside. Meantime, a portion of the Museum was exhibited from the beginning of 1870 onwards in very wretched and unsuitable rooms at the top of the India Office. After right hon. Gentlemen opposite came into power, the question was again considered, and on the 25th of June, 1874, the Council of India passed the following Resolution:—Resolved, that it be determined to build on the vacant ground in Charles Street a museum and library, at an expenditure not exceeding £75,000, including internal fittings, with such assistance as can be obtained from the Imperial Government; and that during the construction of the building the offer of the Exhibition Commissioners be accepted to accommodate the museum at South Kensington on a short lease, renewable if desired.Then followed a long negotiation with the Treasury as to how much the Indian Government ought to pay, and how much the Treasury ought to pay, which led to no definite result, and, in the meantime, the unlucky Museum, banished from its uncomfortable but central rooms in the India Office, was set out in galleries at South Kensington, far away from the full tide of human existence in this great town. So it has remained to this day, while various plans have been agitated with reference to its future, the last and worst of which is the plan of breaking it up and handing over its disjecta membra to the British Museum, to South Kensington, and to Kew. Now, I have not a word to say against the desirability of these great collections possessing a variety of Indian articles. Doubtless, such articles would fit most excellently into many of their departments. Nor am I concerned to say that there may not be many articles now in the Indian Museum which would not be more in their place at the British Museum, at Kew, or at South Kensington. I should be quite willing to see the Indian Museum part with a good many of its contents to these institutions for a fair price; but I do most strongly object to collections bought with Indian money, or presented by Indians, or Anglo-Indians, for the express purpose of increasing the knowledge of India in this country, being given away to institutions which have as much and as little to do with India as they have with Patagonia or Kamschatka, Why, the Indian Mu- 1725 seum is now valued at £200,000. If the India Government is really so bad off that it cannot afford to pay for the looking after its collections, would not it be better to sell the whole thing and put the money into the Indian Treasury? The hon. Gentleman opposite will tell us that if he and those whom he represents succeed in dispersing the Museum they will have an eventual saving of £9,000 a-year. That saving, Sir, will be, I dare venture to say, most uncommonly eventual, for it will only be arrived at after the death of a number of persons who are, I am happy to say, likely to have a prolonged existence; but if they sell the whole thing it will be not much more inglorious, and in every way more profitable; for the British Museum, and South Kensington, and Kew will, no doubt, secure what they most want; and the other articles will many of them also find their way into good keeping; while the Secretary of State will put money into his purse, and be able to comfort himself with the old saying of Vespasian. There is, however, another plan which ought to be considered before anything irrevocable is done. Just about the time that certain difficulties arose with regard to building an Indian Museum on the piece of land which was acquired by the India Office in 1865—difficulties to which I need not further allude, for they have no bearing on the present state of the question—a communication came to the India Office from a Committee which was then sitting at the Colonial Office, with reference to the possibility of uniting their efforts and erecting a Museum for India and the Colonies. Out of this suggestion grew the project associated with the name of Dr. Forbes Watson, the project of a joint Museum for India and the Colonies, in a central situation, close to this House, in the midst of the full tide of human existence. The first site suggested was that of Fife House, and I put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about that site several years ago. Now, there seems available a somewhat better site rather nearer the place where we are now assembled. The idea which finds favour with a great many persons is to place the India Museum on the site of the building which used to be occupied by the Board of Control. Alongside the Museum, which would extend back to the roadway of the Em- 1726 bankment, would run a short street, on the other side of which would rise the Colonial Museum, which would be connected with the India Museum by a subway, but be under the control of the Colonial Office, as the other would be under that of the India Office or its Representative. In the Indian Museum building would be located the Indian Museum, the India Office Library—always excepting the departmental portion of it—and the rooms of the Asiatic Society, which now receives £205 a-year from Indian Revenues, a payment which would, of course, determine when the heavy burden of rent was taken off the shoulders of that deserving and famous, but by no means wealthy, corporation. In the Colonial Museum buildings there would be—first, the Museum proper; secondly, an adequate Colonial Library; and, thirdly, rooms for the Agents General, who have now to pay a very large sum annually for accommodation in the neighbourhood of this House. It always seems a most surprising thing to foreigners, and it would seem a most surprising thing to ourselves, if we were not so broken into anomalies of all sorts, that there is no place in this City where can be obtained anything like an adequate idea of what sort of places the English Colonies and Dependencies really are. Why, it is extremely difficult even for ourselves, for Members of Parliament with every sort of social advantage, to get anything like a good idea of the actualities of a Colony. Supposing any of us wanted, for example, to get an accurate notion of the present state of Tasmania, he would find it anything but an easy task, even after putting himself in communication with our Librarian here, and with the Geographical Society. There are, it must be remembered, a variety of questions which have nothing to do with politics, which persons not directly supporting whatever Government happens to be for the moment in power would be unwilling to trouble the Colonial Office with, and even if they did the Colonial Office has not the appliances or organization necessary for supplying such information at all generally. We want a place to which not only Members of Parliament and other privileged persons, but all persons, can go and learn, without cost and without trouble, what our Colonies and Dependencies are, where they are, 1727 what sort of things they produce, what chances the inquirers or persons in whom they may be interested have of bettering their condition or pushing their fortunes in those countries, what attractive advertisements with regard to our Colonies and Dependencies are mere wills-o'-the-wisp, what little-known and unregarded resources of wealth there may be in those regions which have not yet received bold advertisement. What we want is a place, to the creation of which the Mother Country on the one hand, her Colonies and Dependencies on the other, shall contribute, the object of which shall be to bring them nearer each to each for the common advantage of all. It appears to me that there is hardly any knowledge which is more likely to be useful to a British citizen, whether born in the Colonies, India, or at Home, than a wide knowledge of the gigantic Empire to which he belongs. That knowledge, and the feelings that naturally come of if, are true Imperialism, the best antidote to false Imperialism, the "bloody meddlesomeness," which is the offspring of ignorance, at the centre of affairs, acted on by self-seeking on the far-off Frontiers of the Empire. How many of us, however—even of us, I say, in this great and powerful Assemblage—have adequate knowledge of these things? Is there one of us that has? I very much doubt it. There are hon. and right hon. Members who know individual Colonies and Dependencies well. There are Anglo-Indians, there are Australians amongst us. There are some hon. Members who have made a rapid journey through many of the Colonies and Dependencies. One hon. Member, the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), has written very brilliantly about not a few of them; but that was more than a decade ago, and a decade in the self-governing Colonies is an eternity. The late Sir Arthur Helps used to tell a story which is worth repeating. At one moment, when Lord Palmerston was making some arrangements for filling up vacant Offices, a difficulty arose as to who was to be Colonial Secretary. Lord Palmerston said—"I think I'll take the Office myself;" and the other people who were present, immediately after taking their leave, he said to Sir Arthur—"Just stay a little with me, and we'll look at the 1728 maps and see where these places are." Well, of course, that was rather a caricature of the state of his Lordship's mind; but is it not, nevertheless, perfectly and painfully true—I put it to every man who hears me on both sides if it is not true—that, considering our enormous power and our enormous responsibilities, we all know a great deal too little about our Colonies and Dependencies? Nor do I see how it can ever be otherwise unless, in some perfectly accessible place where he who runs may read, we have brought before us without any investigation, nay, actually forced upon our notice, the actualities of these countries. Persons, Sir, who walk in the dark will inevitably stumble, and we deal in our Colonies and Dependencies with interests so gigantic that we can hardly make the smallest stumble without its costing us more in hard money than it would cost to keep up such an institution as I contemplate for 10 years, considerable though the cost would no doubt be. I may be told, however, that these views are the views merely of a small section of persons who have a belief in knowledge—a most unpopular belief in some quarters—or take a special interest in India and the Colonies. I deny that in toto. They are, I maintain, views, views very largely prevailing amongst the commercial classes of this country. Indeed, it was the mercantile community which first put into practice the principle which I am defending, of co-operation between England and her Dependencies in matters important to the material prosperity of both. For the mercantile community subscribed no less a sum than £2,700 towards the publication of the textile work which the India Office put forth for the purpose—first, of showing to England what lovely textile fabrics could be procured in India; and, secondly, of enabling England to emulate the perfection that had been attained by Indian artists. To show that the principles of the mercantile community are as good as their practice, I will, with the permission of the House, read one or two extracts from the very numerous memorials which have been sent to Her Majesty's Government from Chambers of Commerce, cities, towns, and important Associations in the United Kingdom, all urging that England should aid the Colonies and India 1729 in securing the establishment of the proposed Museums on the Embankment. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce says—That your memorialists warmly approve a proposal, recently brought under their notice, for combining -within the same building a Colonial and an Indian Museum, thereby establishing an Imperial Museum for the Colonies and India for the supply of complete illustrations of the products and manufactures of our British Dependencies. That an institution of this character would supply important advantages and confer benefits not alone on India and the Colonies, but also upon this country; and, in the opinion of your memorialists, such an institution would be entitled to a liberal grant from Imperial funds in aid of its establishment.The Bradford Chamber of Commerce says—That your memorialists have noticed with great satisfaction the scheme of a really Imperial establishment, embracing India as well as the Colonies, and combining museums, libraries, lectures, offices, and all requirements for study, art, commerce, industry, and government, in one central building, erected at the joint expense of the Mother Country and her Dependencies. That your memorialists believe that such an undertaking, to be of real use to the merchant, the manufacturer, and the student, should have a central position at no great distance from the Government Offices and the city, owith easy access to visitors from the country.The Bristol Chamber of Commerce says—That in the present depression of commerce, and the scarcity of sound investments for absorbing the savings of the country, it is the highest policy to make as widely known as possible the resources of India and the Colonies, which experience has proved to be more reliable in their business relations with us than those of the majority of foreign countries can be said to be, and which, although, they already take about one-third of all our exports, and have afforded safe investments to probably more than £300,000,000 sterling of English capital, still possess boundless capabilities for further development.The United Association of Chambers of Commerce says—That the proposal now before the public for the establishment of an Indian and a Colonial Museum on the old Fife House site on the Victoria Embankment has the approval of this Association. That as, in the opinion of the Association, the proposed Museums are likely to be of great benefit to England, as well as to India and the Colonies, one-half of the expenditure required for establishing them, as also for their future maintenance, should be paid by this country; that as, in the opinion of this Association, the selection of the site for the proposed Museums will have a decisive influence on their future usefulness, no plan will be at all satisfactory which does not secure their establishment in a central position, where they will be easily 1730 accessible to all classes, commercially or politically interested in India and the Colonies. And further, that, in the opinion of this Association, the proposed site on the Victoria Embankment satisfies all the required conditions.The following resolutions were unanimously adopted at a meeting held in the Egyptian Hall in the Mansion House:—1st. Proposed by the Eight Hon. E. Pleydell Bouverie, seconded by Philip Twells, Esq., M.P.—That, in the opinion of this meeting, it is expedient to establish in London an Imperial Museum for the Colonies and India, and that such a Museum should be placed in a central position, easily accessible to all classes, whether political, commercial, or industrial.2nd resolution. Proposed by Alexander M'Arthur, Esq., M. P., seconded by Hugh Matheson, Esq.—That the proposal to establish such a Museum on the Victoria Embankment has the warm approval of this meeting; and that, as the proposed Museum is calculated to be of great use to this country as well as to India and the Colonies, it is the opinion of this meeting that Her Majesty's Government should take the necessary steps to aid in securing its establishment on that site.I could go on quoting for the next hour or two the opinions of influential bodies of mercantile men upon this subject; but I think, Sir, I have done enough to show that the commercial classes take a great interest in the scheme of a united Indian and Colonial Museum. But I should like it to be distinctly understood that although I think it would be greatly to the advantage of this country, of its Colonies and Dependencies, that we should have such a Museum, and although I have no doubt that if the Government would take the initiative the Colonies would do their part, I am not attempting to get the House to come to any Resolution on this subject at present. What I am pleading for is delay. I am most unwilling that while this scheme is being discussed in the country, while men's minds are becoming more and more accustomed to the idea of its being necessary to have what may be called an object-index to the British Empire in the Metropolis of the British Empire, India should, by a hurried and ill-considered step, be put at a disadvantage. If she disperse her Museum now she will most assuredly be obliged to repent at leisure, and to re-collect it when she happens to have Rulers more persuaded of the importance of visual teaching 1731 than are those who now direct her destinies. Visual teaching is becoming every day more popular. In all directions we hear the complaint that education has long dealt too much with words, too little with things. If I were asked what I thought the greatest fault of our Indian Civil Service, for which I have a very high admiration—an admiration greatly increased by having seen it at work in India—I should say that its greatest fault was a want of power to learn by the eye, a want of curiosity about the objects in the midst of which it passed its life. That cannot continue under the influence of the new educational ideas which are abroad; and before a generation is over, if the Museum is really broken up and dispersed, the names of the men who broke up and dispersed the Indian Museum will be remembered with execrations from one end of the Peninsula to the other. I doubt whether it would be possible to make a better investment of Indian money than by conveying a real feeling for India to a really large portion of the British public. Why, what is the only accusation that can truly be brought against us as a nation in our dealings with India? The English are just, say our foreign critics, but they are not sympathetic. How, then, can their sympathy be aroused? We cannot take millions of our people to India, even in this day of travelling facilities; but we can bring India to millions of our people—that is to say, we can bring the picturesque, interesting side of India into the midst of them. We can do a great deal to make them proud of ruling the races which raised the temples of Southern India, and the Jumma-Masjid, and the Pearl Mosque at Agra, and that wonderful Taj Mahal, which leaves all the other marvels of human architecture, except the Parthenon, at so great a distance. There was a time when much could be done by the cry of justice to India. In the days of Burke, God knows! there was reason enough for it. Very little can, I think, be effected by that cry now; for, having had occasion to look at the relations of the two countries from the Indian and English side, and more from the English than the Indian side, I have come, as I said the other day, to the conclusion that if we are to be guided by bare justice, and not by kindly feeling towards India, the 1732 demands made upon her by England for establishments kept up for the joint advantage of the two Empires will not be less, but greater. The time will come when the constituencies will begin to realize this, and when they do—if we have not succeeded in creating in the mass of the people something very like a romantic interest in India, and further, in stimulating the power of India to produce things of all kinds, useful to the world, which are not easily to be provided elsewhere, which things she may exchange against our products to our mutual advantage—shall we not one day be asked in very angry tones—What is the real case for our continuing to hold India? Now, I want to know by what possible process we can create the kind of interest in India, which I would fain see, except by making quite familiar to England all that is most beautiful, and useful, and interesting in India? And how can we do that without some such institution as I am sketching—an institution to which may be given the name of Indian Museum, or anything else, but for which the present Indian Museum and Library, after proper sifting, would form an excellent nucleus? But, it is said, India is wretchedly, abjectly poor. She cannot do anything but exist. She cannot afford to have any of the higher adjuncts and instruments of government. That I utterly deny. That is just as foolish an exaggeration as was the exaggeration of those who generalized the stories they heard of the splendour of the Great Mogul, and believed that India was a country where gold and diamonds were as common as iron and flint among us. The simple truth is that India can afford everything which it is primarily important should be possessed by a State in her circumstances. And I maintain that such a Museum as I wish to see established is of primary importance to a State in her circumstances. She must be economical; she cannot afford anything like luxurious expenditure; but as little can she afford that short-sighted parsimony which robs to-morrow of a pound to save a penny to-day. What case can be made in favour of breaking up the Museum which cannot also be made against getting rid of the library, in so far as it is not a mere departmental library? If Vandalism is to be the order of the day, why not carry it 1733 through, all proceedings? Is it, perhaps, that this proposed selling of the Museum is not a well-considered piece of policy, but a mere impatient cutting of an official knot, which it is the business of the Secretary of State in Council not to cut, but to unwind? The Under Secretary of State, in reply to me, will not be able to make anything of the expense of the present Museum. It may be that that expense is too great; if so, diminish it; but a large diminution of the expense is entirely compatible with keeping together everything in the Museum which ought to be kept together, and I believe we shall learn, in the course of this debate, that overtures have been made to the Indian Government with a view to the keeping together of the Museum at a diminished cost. Nor is anything to be made against my contention by saying that India ought not to be at the sole expense of keeping up a Museum in London. I think I could prove that if the Museum had been put on the footing and located in the place which would have best suited it, it might have been well worth India's while to have kept it up at her own expense. But that is not the proposition for which I am now contending. I am contending merely that nothing rash should now be done which may prevent India's coming to an arrangement with the Imperial Government for a joint keeping up of a Museum which may be for the joint benefit of the whole Empire. Anyone who likes it may ring the changes upon the poverty of India as much as seems to him good; but he will in no sort of way touch my argument unless he can succeed in showing the uselessness of an Indian Museum, arranged according to the best modern principles, and explained as all Museums intended primarily for the instruction of the people—and not, like the British Museum, primarily to advance the science and knowledge possessed by the leading minds of humanity—should be explained, by trained instructors, as they are in Copenhagen, the only city in which, so far as I am aware, museums are thoroughly worked for popular instruction. If anyone can succeed in demonstrating that I have no more to say, except that if he succeeds he will upset a great many other things beside the Indian Museum. He will, in fact, turn back one of the most powerful currents of the age—that which is 1734 running in favour of teaching the people not exclusively by words, but also by things. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard alike to the traditions of our rule in India and to the expediency of establishing, at an early period, by the joint action of the Mother Country, its Colonies, and Dependencies, an institution in which the productions of all those Colonies and Dependencies should be adequately represented, it is undesirable that the Indian Museum, collected at great cost by the East India Company, and taken over by the Crown, should now be broken up and distributed,"—(Mr. Grant Duff,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WILBRAHAM EGERTON
, as one of the general public interested in the Indian Museum, and also as one interested in the history and archaeology of that country, where he had travelled, desired to say a few words in support of the Motion. It would be most short-sighted policy on the part of the Government to abolish or disperse the collection, because it was impossible to make the people of this country properly acquainted with the size, wealth, and resources of the Indian Empire, unless they had an opportunity of seeing a Museum which illustrated those facts; and no scheme would be satisfactory which separated it from the library. The reason why so few persons visited the Indian collections at South Kensington was that they were placed in galleries, the approaches to which contained nothing to attract people or direct them further. Nothing could be so fatal to the objects of the Museum as to relegate it to Kew, which was too remote for popular as distinct from scientific interest. The Indian Museum ought to be in an easily accessible part of the Metropolis, and within a short distance of the library, so that both products and books could be referred to without difficulty. The Commissioners could not promote science and art more legitimately than by allowing the collections to remain at South Kensington rent-free until an arrangement could be come to between the Treasury and the India Office. A sum 1735 of £10,000 a-year, divided between the two countries, would be well laid out in the establishment of a Museum in a central part of the Metropolis, and it would be amply repaid by our increased knowledge of the manufactures and products of India, and by the greater interest the people of this country would take in that country. It would be very short-sighted to break up a valuable Museum for the sake of saving that sum. When Indian objects had been exhibited at Manchester and Derby they excited great popular interest; and some of our textile fabrics, such as hangings and carpets, had been greatly improved by the study of Indian manufactures. If it were worth while for India to be represented at International Exhibitions, it was surely worth while that it should have a permanent exhibition in this country.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he did not desire to dispute the abstract advantages of Museums in general, nor of an Indian and Colonial Museum in particular; but he thought the question of cost and its incidence were somewhat lost sight of. He attended the City meeting, at which, after two hours of speaking, being asked to say a few words, he expressed a desire to move an addition to the Resolution to the effect that the cost of the Museum should be borne by England, and not by India. But this was not entertained, because it was said the question of cost did not concern the meeting. It did, however, concern this House, and the way to bring it home was to consider what would be said if England were asked to bear the cost of maintaining corresponding Museums of English products in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. This debate furnished an illustration of the difficulties to be encountered by any Government that desired to reduce Indian expenditure. It was easy to preach economy in the abstract; but every application of the doctrine would provoke objections from some advocates of expenditure who would say—"Look somewhere else for economy." In the event of the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs being adopted, he would move at the end of the Question the following words—And this House is further of opinion that if it should he decided, in opposition to the recommendation of the Indian Government, to main- 1736 tain the Indian Museum in London, the expense of such a Museum ought to he borne by England, and not by India.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
said, he had much sympathy with the views of the hon. Member for Hackney(Mr. Fawcett), but did not agree with him to the full extent of the recommendation he had made to the House. The Council of India were not a good body to maintain and conduct the Museum, and had shown much vacillation of purpose in regard to it. Nevertheless, such a Museum was extremely valuable, and the question was whether some method could not be devised whereby the large charge of £9,450 a-year on the finances of India might be largely diminished? He believed that £7,500 was the amount of the legitimate Museum expenses. Such a Museum was of great importance to our Indian Empire in two senses—in a political sense, and in an industrial sense. It was of great importance in a political sense that the masters of India—this country—should take an interest in her history, in her manners, her social habits, and in her industrial relations and manufactures; and, surely, there could be nothing more likely to interest this country than a well-organized and properly illustrated Museum, by which we could understand how much civilization had advanced in that country, and see that the Natives were by no means the barbarians we considered them. In an industrial sense, the Museum had a double use. It was useful to India, because England was a great customer of India, and it was well that there should be a complete picture of the products of India in a country which bought most of India's goods and manufactures. It was useful to England, because of the advantage it gave in the display of Oriental art and designs, from which our manufacturers benefited. Therefore, this was not an English or an Indian question alone, but a question of joint interest, and it was acknowledged that it was so in 1875, when the Treasury intimated to the India Office that they would be prepared to consider the necessity of furnishing, at the joint expense of England and India, such a Museum. He had gone into the question of expense with those who had considerable knowledge of museums; and he believed that, instead of the absurd sum of £7,500 a-year, the cost of conducting this Indian Museum should only be 1737 £2,000. If the Government asked the Department of Science and Art, they would find that the Museum could be managed and much improved for that sum. Then came the question of rental. Much had been said about the bad position of South Kensington, and the desirability of having the Museum in a central position; but such a position could not be had without incurring an expense which neither Government cared to incur at present. The question was, whether they could not by simple and moderate means avoid scattering the Museum, at least, for a few years, until the finances of both countries were in a better position? Being a Member of the Executive Committee of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, he could state—and he was revealing no secret in saying so—that the Royal President (the Prince of Wales) had written to the Prime Minister offering, on the part of the Commissioners, to make facilities for keeping the collection as long as it was considered desirable in their buildings, at a very great reduction of the rent, should the Government desire it. If the Museum was not, at present, as popular as it might be, there was no wonder, because there were no catalogues, and nothing to make things intelligible. He was sure that by the payment of £2,000 a-year on the part of the Indian Government the Museum could be put on a sound basis for a number of years; and he hoped the Government would convince the Indian Government that this was not the time to scatter a Museum of this kind.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
added his earnest request to the Under Secretary of State for India not to adhere to so pitiful a policy as the dissolution of our national Indian collection. Let it not go out to the art-collecting nations of Europe—to Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg—that for £2,000 a year we had dispersed an unique Museum of the history, arts, and productions of that Dependency which was our special boast and the envy of the world. What would be the inference? That England must be very hard up, on the very verge of bankruptcy, if she should allow such a thing to be done. One stroke of the pen might disperse the Museum; but what would ever bring it together again? As his hon. Friend the Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Grant Duff) had 1738 pointed out, there was a sentiment in the thing. This Museum was 80 years old. It went back to the great days of the Wellesleys, to the traditionary history of India. What effect must the dispersion have upon the Native mind, which was so much more accessible to sentiment than logic? As a student of art, as one who loved science, he must implore the Government not to have set against its name the black mark of having dispersed a Museum which had been ripening and growing for more than 80 years—that was, since we could call India especially our own.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that there was not the slightest objection on the part of the gentlemen connected with India that this collection should be kept together. The great difficulty the Indian Government had felt in this matter had been due to the grand and costly character of the proposed plan for placing the Museum on the Thames Embankment, and the doubt as to who was to bear the cost. The real question was on whose shoulders was the burden to fall, and the two Governments might determine to meet each other on this subject. He regretted that the question should be mixed up with the larger question of a Colonial Museum, from which, it stood quite apart. If the various Colonies came forward to join in such a scheme, well and good; but now the question they had really to consider was this India Museum. He deprecated in the strongest way any shirking of the expense of maintaining this collection from economical motives. If that were once encouraged, he feared that the next proposal would be to get rid of the library. If the Government were willing to take the collection into the British Museum and into South Kensington, he trusted that by-and-bye the difficulty with respect to the cost of a building would not be insuperable, and that the ratepayers of this country would not refuse to bear a part of the expense. He sincerely hoped the collection would not be hastily dispersed; but that time would be taken for the consideration of some plan.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
agreed with those hon. Gentlemen who had urged the Government not to allow the Museum to be dispersed, for, if that was the case, "All the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men" would never put the 1739 Indian Museum together again. In the India Office there were a number of interesting pictures representing Shah Jehan, Aurungzebe, and other former Rulers of India. He suggested that in the re-arrangement of the India Museum those pictures should be placed in a proper position where the public could see them.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
hoped this short discussion would have a practical result. At present, the sum of £9,000 a-year was paid at the expense of India to keep up a Museum which he believed was as good as it appeared to be badly managed. This was not a state of things to be regarded with any pleasure. In his opinion, it was rather mean to make the Indian Government pay for the maintenance of the Museum if it felt unable to do so. On the other hand, the Indian Government proposed to break up the Museum, and he should be very sorry to see that happen. Such a result would, in his judgment, be disadvantageous both to England and to India. Perhaps his hon. Friend (Mr. Grant Duff) might have exaggerated the advantages of the Museum; but, still, we ought not altogether to disregard them. By object-lessons of this kind we kept up popular and public interests; and when we were considering the interests of India we must bear in mind that it was the English people who ruled India, and that it was desirable that they should have everything which would give them an intelligent interest in the welfare of India. The exhibition of those ancient monuments of India, and other works of Indian art, would keep up that interest, and make us feel what our duties were towards the enormous population of India. That alone appeared to him to furnish very good grounds for not breaking up the India Museum. The proposal of the Under Secretary involved an enormous reduction as compared with the total amount expended on the Museum; because, instead of expending £9,000, it was proposed to expend only £2,000. It would be decidedly to the interest of India if this Museum were kept up for a few years, rather than that it should be broken up and scattered. The question was, how that plan could be carried out? If the Museum were placed under the direction of the Department of Science and Art, it would be in the hands 1740 of a body who really understood how it might be improved. They knew very well that the South Kensington Museum was almost the most popular place in the world. He had no doubt if the Trustees of the Museum had the management of the India Museum they would make it far more attractive, and therefore far more useful, than it was at the present moment. He therefore hoped the Government would not pledge themselves to prevent this offer from being taken fully into consideration. On the other hand, he did not think it a right thing that India should, pay this £9,000 for the Museum, seeing the very little benefit she had received from it. He quite sympathized with the hon. Member for Hackney that the House of Commons ought not to check the Indian Government in effecting economies; and he hoped, if this offer was found to answer, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be unwilling to allow the £2,000 to be paid out of the English Exchequer towards the maintenance of this important Museum.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
remarked, that the operative part of the hon. Gentleman's Resolution referred specially to the Indian Museum; but the remainder of his Resolution, and the greater part of his speech, referred to a scheme of a far wider character. It was a great Imperial scheme, and was part of the scheme put forward originally by Dr. Forbes Watson, whose imagination had soared so high as to lead him to propose the establishment, on the most expensive site in London, of a great Museum to be mainly paid for by India, where lectures were to be delivered, and he did not know what else done at the expense of the unfortunate taxpayers of India. That scheme had met with a great deal of approval in some quarters in that House; but whether it were realized or not it would not be fair to charge, and he did not believe the people of England would ever charge, the cost upon the Revenues of India. The hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs said that if such a plan were to be carried into effect the co-operation of the Asiatic Society might be relied upon. The belief at the India Office was that the reason why the Asiatic Society had not been able to make greater advances was because this visionary scheme of a central Museum was being constantly dangled before 1741 the eyes of the public. He believed that if such an idea were knocked on the head private enterprize would come forward, and endeavours would be made at once to enlarge the scope of the Asiatic Society and put some of its functions on a more satisfactory basis. The hon. Member said that if we did not adopt his scheme we ought to sell the Museum and thus get rid of it. That was not, however, the view taken by the Secretary of State for India, who attached great value to this collection, and who believed that the great objects which he, and he believed most Members of that House, had at heart could be secured, without any cost to the Revenues of India, by the scheme which he was now considering. What was the condition of the Indian Museum at the present time? Practically, in spite of its great interest, it was very little visited. The proposal under the consideration of the Secretary of State for India was altogether misunderstood by several hon. Gentlemen who had taken part in this debate. The objects of that proposal were—first, to make the Museum more generally useful to the public; and, secondly, to make portions of the collection available to different localities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, where they could be seen to advantage. Lastly, they wished to effect those objects without any charge on the Revenues of India. When they came to consider the scheme there were one or two points on which there would be no difference of opinion. Hardly anybody would dispute that it would be much to the advantage of the economic section of the collection that it should be transferred to Kew. At Kew, under the charge and the skilled direction of Sir Joseph Hooker, who had already an admirable collection of similar objects relating to India, the public would have before them a complete exhibition of that class of the products of India. Kew was a place which was visited every year by many thousands of persons, and it was not less accessible than South Kensington. Then they came to the zoological part of the collection. When the Natural History Museum was finished at South Kensington it would be to everybody's advantage to transfer to the authorities at South Kensington, and make as complete as possible, the zoological collection; and it would be hardly desirable that they should keep up their 1742 small collection of stuffed birds and animals where they had no persons properly qualified to explain them. They then came to the remainder of the collection. The plan adopted by the Secretary of State in Council was to appoint a Special Committee of the India Office to consider the best means of carrying out the objects he had just indicated. That Committee would be very glad to receive suggestions from those who wished to offer any. They would read with great interest what had been said in the House to-night, and he hoped that Gentlemen taking a special interest in portions of the collection, like the hon. Member for Cheshire (Mr. W. Egerton), would kindly communicate with them on the matter and give them the benefit of their experience and advice. But the instructions which the Secretary of State had given to that Committee were that they should do everything in their power, in the recommendations which they might make to him, to retain the special Indian character of that collection. It might have been desirable to transfer the whole of the collection bodily to the British Museum, the authorities of which would be glad to take it upon the condition of giving it a distinctively Indian character; but that idea was not entertained by the Secretary of State for India as the best course to be adopted, because he had in view another plan, which was that certain portions of the collection—certain duplicates—ought to be made available for the local Museums in the Provinces. There was no possible means at the British Museum for carrying out such an object as that; but at South Kensington they had a machinery ready to their hand for the purpose. It had been suggested—and the suggestion was now before the Special Committee to which he had referred—that the ancient sculptures which were of a similar description to those already exhibited at the British Museum should be transferred to the British Museum, and that the illustrations of contemporary art should be transferred to the South Kensington authorities. But they were now told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair) that the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 were about to make an offer as to what they were prepared to do towards meeting the objects of the Secretary of State in Council, and he understood that the Com- 1743 missioners were prepared to reduce very considerably the rent charged for the building in which the Museum, was at present placed. That was a proposal which should properly be submitted to the Committee which was now sitting; but he was not prepared to say that the Secretary of State would entertain any proposal that £2,000 a-year should be taken from the Indian Revenues for the maintenance of that Museum. When the right hon. Gentleman talked of its being perfectly easy to keep up that Museum at the rate of £2,000 a-year he appeared to overlook the miscellaneous character of the Museum they had now. Take the coins, for example. What was the use of having a collection of coins when they had nobody who was at all competent to give them advice as to arranging and improving the collection?
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
explained, that what he had said was that the administration at South Kensington could do it for £2,000.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
That was a point which would be considered by the Committee appointed by the Secretary of State. But if those things were to be taken over by the South Kensington Museum, and to be used for exhibition to the people of this country, and also to be sent through the Provinces, why should not the people of this country do it for themselves? Therefore, the suggestion to be considered was whether they could not endeavour to make some arrangement with the South Kensington authorities, or with the British Museum, for the transfer of the collection to them, so that the Indian Revenues would ultimately be entirely free from that charge. He confessed that he was sorry to hear the sneers which had been indulged in at the Government's attempts to economize. But economy was not the main ground of their action in that matter. They believed that it would end in the exhibition being much better shown to the public; but if they could save £5,000 a-year it would be of great advantage. He might add that their maintenance of that Museum had led them into another extravagance; because whenever an International Exhibition was held anywhere the Indian Government had been asked to make a considerable contribution towards it. In conclusion, the Government believed that that collection might be made one that would really instruct and amuse the 1744 English public, and that, instead of being, as at present, passive, it might be brought into active life; and with that view he hoped the House would not pass a Resolution which was calculated in any way to hamper the action of the Secretary of State for India in Council.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
observed, that he had not understood Dr. Forbes Watson to have proposed that the whole expense of a great Indian and Colonial Museum should fall upon India, but that the different parts of the Empire should contribute to the scheme in fair proportions. His hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) had urged, very justly, as he thought, that when a project of that sort was before the public and was supported by large numbers of their countrymen in all parts of the Kingdom, it was a very unhappy moment to take for breaking up their Indian collection. No one, he supposed, would deny that it would be a great advantage for India if we knew more about her position and wants—if we had all, for instance, been able to spend some time there. Now, a Museum such as was contemplated by his hon. Friend (Mr. Grant Duff) was a sort of epitome of the country, and though, of course, only imperfectly, would to a certain extent remedy the defect, and be for the advantage of both countries. No one had a higher appreciation than he had of the valuable services of Sir Joseph Hooker; but, as the Under Secretary had told them, at Kew they already had a most admirable collection; and the same remark applied to a great extent with regard to the British Museum. No doubt, if that collection were really to be broken up, the Trustees of the British Museum would gladly receive it, still this would involve some expense. There was the great collection of ancient marbles. The buildings for the British Museum had not been constructed with reference to them, and they would occupy a considerable amount of space. The views he advocated were by no means confined to scientific men. The Association of Chambers of Commerce in the United Kingdom, in their Memorial to the Government, directed particular attention to the case of jute, the importation of which, though now amounting to several millions, was altogether a creation of the last 30 years. It might be said that if India produced 1745 something that we wanted, or vice versâ, we were sure to find it out sooner or later; it was only a question of time. That was true, but time was everything. We owed our commercial position very greatly to the rapid utilization of new materials and new processes; and, moreover, the existence of such a Museum might actually create markets for the productions of India. It might, and probably would, tend in that direction, both by raising and developing the skill of the workmen in India, and by creating in this country a market for high-class Indian productions. Moreover, the evidence of the high appreciation in which first-rate Native work would be held in England would re-act on India itself, and perhaps stem the debasement of Indian art, resulting from a mistaken introduction of European fashions, and create a better appreciation of the indigenous art. The Memorial adopted by the Working Men's Club and Institutes of London gave evidence as to the opinions entertained by working men. They said—As artizans desirous of improving our artistic taste and industrial knowledge, we consider it highly desirable that we should have free and ready access to the admirable specimens of Indian workmanship to he found in the India Museum. The natural products and manufactures of that collection throw great light upon handicrafts in which we are engaged, and are calculated to promote our technical knowledge.For his own part, he should not object to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). It could not be denied that the Museum would be an advantage to England as well as to India. But whether this were so or not, clearly the saving—the mere pecuniary saving—to India must be quite infinitesimal, and over and over again outweighed by the advantages the Museum afforded.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that he also, as a Member of the Indian Council when the Museum was established, had listened with great regret to the "no surrender" speech of the Under Secretary. As for the Asiatic Society, notwithstanding what it owed to the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke), it was quite incapable of undertaking the great task of maintaining and managing the Museum. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh. University (Mr. Lyon Playfair) was very hard on the Indian Council 1746 when this Museum at South Kensington was established. The views of the Council were, in fact, those expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and others in this debate. They thought it most desirable that there should be a great Indian Museum, and that it should be established in England; but they, unfortunately, fell into the hands of the body to whom his right hon. Friend belonged, and who were, no doubt, a wise and useful body, but who considered it their duty to drive an exceedingly hard bargain with the India Office, and to claim an exorbitant rent for the Museum premises, in addition to excessively high charges for gas, heating, &c. There was no denying that the Museum at South Kensington had been a failure, and these charges, he was afraid, were among the causes. He suggested, that a deal of trash which the Museum contained should be destroyed, that duplicate exhibits should be given to country institutions, and that some of the scientific objects should also be given away, leaving a valuable nucleus, partly economical and partly industrial, for retention by the Government, and for development when less was spent on spirited foreign policies and more on things useful to the people at home. He hoped that, some day or other, they would have an Indian Museum worthy of the name.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, it seemed, from the statement of the Under Secretary, that South Kensington was destined to gobble up the Indian Museum. If this took place, it would result in the expenditure of far more money, because they would be asked to erect a special building for it at South Kensington, at a cost of some £60,000, which would afterwards mount up to £250,000. If this took place, and he were alive and in the House, he would protest against it.
§ LORD ELCHO
hoped the Report of the Committee, which had been referred to by the Under Secretary, would be laid upon the Table of the House before any final steps were taken in the matter.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
could not accede to this request, which would have the effect of deferring all action in the matter for a year.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1747
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ WAYS AND MEANS—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) Resolved, That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to raise any sum, not exceeding £3,000,000, by an issue of Exchequer Bonds, Exchequer Bills, or Treasury Bills.
§ (2.) Resolved, That the principal of all Exchequer Bonds which may be so issued shall be paid off at par, at the expiration of any period not exceeding three years from the date of such Bonds.
§ (3.) Resolved, That the interest of all such Exchequer Bonds shall be paid half-yearly, and shall be charged upon and issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.