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Motion For An Address

Volume 203: debated on Friday 22 July 1870

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

said, he rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that sufficient gun-metal shall be issued for the construction of the statue about to be erected in Dublin to commemorate the services of the late Field Marshal Viscount Gough, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I. The committee for the erection of this memorial statue had applied to the War Office for the necessary gun-metal, which Mr. Foley, the sculptor, estimated at about eight tons, and the answer received was that a free issue could not be given, but that the metal required could be had at £70 per ton. The services of Lord Gough extended over a period of no less than 75 years. Previous to the Peninsula War he had served at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope, at the capture of the Dutch fleet in Saldanha Bay, in the attack on Porto Rico, and at the capture of Surinam. During the Peninsula War he commanded the 87th Regiment, which had since been named the Royal Irish Fusiliers. At Talavera he had a horse shot under him, and was afterwards severely wounded in the side. For his conduct in this action the Duke of Wellington subsequently recommended that his lieutenant-colonelcy should be ante-dated to the date of his despatch, thus making him the first officer who ever received brevet rank for service performed in the field at the head of his regiment. At Barrosa his regiment captured the eagle of the 8th French regiment. At Tarifa he was wounded in the head. At Vittoria his regiment captured the bâton of Marshal Jourdan. At Nivelle he was severely wounded. Lord Gough also was present at Orthes and Toulouse. In 1841 he commanded a land force at Canton, and was made a G.C.B. In 1842 he commanded our land forces during nearly the whole of the operations in China, and was made a Baronet. In 1843 to 1849 he commanded the British troops in India, and after a succession of victories over the Sikhs, he was raised to the Peerage, being made a Viscount after the crowning victory of Gujerat. Only eight tons of gun-metal were asked for, and it was right to state to the House that Lord Gough had on various occasions captured no fewer than 1,415 guns, of which 536 were brass and 879 were iron guns. Mr. Foley, a most eminent Irish sculptor, had undertaken to make the equestrian statue, and he (Colonel North) could not believe that the British House of Com- mons would refuse the eight tons of metal necessary for a purpose which would be most gratifying to the Irish people. He concluded by moving the Address.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that sufficient gun metal shall be issued for the construction of the statue about to be erected in Dublin to commemorate the services of the late Field Marshal Viscount Gough, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I.,"—(Colonel North,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

said, he hoped the Government would not refuse to accede to the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend. This was an appeal which should not be made in vain. It was the voice of all Ireland that spoke—Whig and Tory, Protestant and Catholic, all were united to do honour to that gallant old warrior, who, when living, was the pride of his country from his great military exploits, who was the joy of all around him from the simplicity and generosity of his character, and whom no Irish—aye, or English—soldier who had served under him ever passed without touching his hat and saying—"Long life to him—God bless him!" Such men as these their countrymen delight to honour, and now they had all classes and persuasions of Irishmen paying in their contributions for a national monument to Lord Gough. Everyone who had connected himself with the undertaking had acted with generosity and public spirit. The contributions were liberal considering the means of the contributors. The corporation of Dublin had offered any site in Dublin which the committee might select for the erection of the statue. Mr. Foley, the eminent sculptor to whom the work had been intrusted, had offered, in case the statue were to be made equestrian, to charge nothing, save expenses out of pocket, for the construction of the horse. In only one quarter was a niggardly spirit to be traced, and that was in the Government of the country whose Eastern Empire was rescued from the greatest peril by the achievements of Lord Gough. The Treasury had refused to grant four or five guns for the metal work of the statue. If that were not granted the statue could not be equestrian, and the monument would be deprived of the grandeur and dignity which it ought to possess. Were they asking an unprecedented boon? He believed they were not. He was informed that the Government had sanctioned the issue of 40 tons of gun-metal for the statue of the Prince Consort just about to be erected in the Park, and a grant of gun-metal was made also for the statue of Lord Hardinge. And the Government had done right. He contended that the Government of the country would always do well by coming forward on occasions such as this, when a feeling so universal prevailed as to the claims of a great citizen for posthumous honours. It was easy to separate those occasions which were a nation's duty and a nation's will from those cases where affection or vanity or interest proposed a monument. His hon. and gallant Friend and himself were not the mouthpieces of a few devoted friends and admirers, but of the whole of Ireland. Well, indeed, might Lord Gough's services, as detailed by his gallant Friend, seem to warrant this claim. If Vendôme was called the "Tapisseur de Nôtre Dame," the "Upholsterer of Nôtre Dame," from the banners and flags of enemies with which he decorated its walls, so might Lord Gough be called "The Purveyor of Woolwich Artillery Yard," from the number of guns which he captured in war and made over to the arsenal—something approaching 1,400, according to the statement of his gallant Friend. Not one shilling of prize money did Lord Gough receive or ask for on account of these spoils of war, of which the country has had the glory and the benefit; and now he (Mr. Gregory) asked, when it was a question of half-a-dozen useless guns in order to make a worthy national monument, were they going to refuse a nation's request with the reply that they were too poor to do honour to this great old captain, or too pedantic to relax an imaginary rule?

said, he had had the honour of Lord Gough's acquaintance for many years, and he had never seen a man who was more completely the type of a soldier for his frankness, his straightforwardness, and resolution of purpose. Lord Gough had rendered great services, and it would be a disgrace to this country if the paltry amount of a few tons of metal needed for his statue, and which were lying like lumber in the yards at Woolwich, should be refused.

said, he trusted that his reply would not come under the character of being pedantic, but he must observe that the Motion amounted to a demand for public money; and it was his duty to state the conditions and regulations which had been adopted not by the present Government, but by preceding Governments, with respect to demands of this nature. He had not the Papers by him, and he might be wrong as to a year or two; but, if his memory served him aright, the last occasion on which a direct grant of gun-metal was made was in 1858 for a statue of Sir Isaac Newton at Grantham. The matter was considered not in reference to the question whether or not, or in what cases it was desirable to make these contributions, but in reference to what his hon. Friend called technical and pedantic considerations. It was felt not to be advisable that the War Office, whose function was not to make public grants either of money or money's worth, should be permitted, as a matter of departmental discretion, to give away a portion of the stores it held on the part of the nation for a specific purpose; and the Treasury decided that, whenever it should be thought proper to make grants of gun-metal, a Vote should first be taken for the cost of the guns as old metal, and that the War Office should be repaid out of that Vote for the amount of stores taken from its possession. Of late years further change had been adopted. It had been thought advisable to put the thing on a still more distinct ground, and to say—"If you want the metal, you may buy it of the War Department or elsewhere; but if you come to the Government for a grant of what, practically speaking, is money, you must ask for money, and not for the money's worth." If it was thought advisable to ask the Government to aid in the erection of a statue, the request must be addressed to the Government in an explicit shape Government must be asked for a Vote of money, and then they know what responsibility they undertook in that respect. They must propose a Vote to the House of Commons, and the House of Commons would know what amount, if any, should be granted. Without at all entering into the question whether it was advisable that the House of Commons should be asked to grant a sum of money for such a purpose, he must remind them that, in recent times, in a very notable case, a grant of this kind had been refused; no public grant had been made for a statue to the memory of the most eminent scientific man of the day—Mr. Faraday. An application for gun-metal for a statue to Lord Palmerston had also been refused. He hoped the House would not assent to the Motion in its present form, because to do so would go to upset and rescind the resolutions at which successive Governments had arrived on this question during the last ten years.

said, that the two cases to which the Secretary to the Treasury had referred were those of civilians, but the case of Lord Gough was widely different. This was not a mere question of pounds, shillings, and pence; it was intimately connected with the military honour of the country. He had heard appeals even from the Treasury Bench made to the military spirit of the nation, and to refuse this grant to the unanimous desire of the Irish people in memory of the illustrious hero of Gujerat would, in fact, be ignoring that very martial spirit to which they at other times thought it becoming to appeal. If the Treasury were willing to give the money it would not be regarded by those who took an interest in the statue as at all commensurate in value with the gun-metal which was asked, and which would form the most appropriate national contribution.

said, he could not help thinking that the grounds on which the refusal of the Treasury had been put were not only pedantic but penurious. The people of Ireland took great interest in this matter. But Lord Gough was not merely an Irishman; as a soldier he had shed lustre on the arms of England. Where all united in the application it ought not to be met on technical grounds.

said, there was not the least wish to be either penurious or hypertechnical about this matter, but now that very strict methods were adopted in the care of public stores and the audit of public accounts the precedents of old times did not apply, and the old plan with regard to these appeals was quite different from the present practice. The old notion was that the War Office hold these stores as a sort of property of their own, and when a monument was to be erected to any distinguished soldier like Lord Gough, application was made to the War Office for assistance, and a subscription was made out of these stores in the mode recommended by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel North). But now the stores must be accounted for as money, and the Government had no right to take and appropriate them to any purpose other than as directed by a Vote of the House. It would be a proceeding directly in contempt of the House. It was not that they wanted to throw any obstacle in the way of the erection of the proposed statue, or to oppose the wishes of the House; but they could not, consistently with their duty, accede to the present Motion. Lord Gough was distinguished for his devotion to the public service, and he was one of the last men who would wish that any violation of the rules of the public service should occur in any matter relating to himself. Whether it would be right that the country should subscribe to a statue to commemorate the services of a great and illustrious soldier like Lord Gough was a question which it was fair and reasonable for the House to consider; and what he would undertake on the part of the Government was to make an estimate of what was wanted and to bring before the House a Vote on the subject, and let the thing be considered on the question of a money grant. But the Government could not take these stores and give them away. He doubted whether that could be done without an Act of Parliament. If the hon. and gallant Member would be so kind as not to press his Motion the Government would give the House the fullest opportunity of considering the question.

said, he did not see how the accounts could be deranged by giving this grant in gun-metal instead of in specie. He had no doubt the Resolutions alluded to by the Secretary to the Treasury were mere departmental resolutions, and did not bind Parliament at all. It might be for the convenience of the Treasury that a certain form of ac- count should be adopted; but was there any Act of Parliament to preclude then adopting the course which had been followed on former occasions, when gun-metal was given for the statue of Lord Hardinge, again for the statue of the Prince Consort; and, thirdly, when the actual cannon taken in the Peninsula were used for the statue of the Duke of Wellington in Hyde Park. For his part, he believed that a mere gift of money would not be satisfactory. Indeed, he went further, and said that the proper material was the actual cannon taken. With the number of cannon mentioned by his hon. and gallant Friend as having been taken by Lord Gough at this moment in the possession of the nation, were they to be told by the Government that though they were willing to make a money grant, they would not give them that miserable grant of eight tons weight of metal? There was a strong feeling about this matter. There had been a very strong expression of opinion upon the subject throughout Ireland, and in the metropolitan city of Ireland a meeting, to which his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel North) had referred, had been attended by men of the highest station and position in the country, and a demand was made, in the strongest terms, that the metal of some of the guns actually captured by Lord Gough should be applied for this purpose. No doubt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now promised to assent to the proposal, if it were made in another form and in another way. The right hon. Gentleman had given that assent after a great deal of pressure from Irish Members on his own side of the House; but it should be remembered that not even a hint of that kind was given in the replies to the committee, when they made applications about this statue. On the contrary, the tenour of the reply was—"Buy the metal for yourselves;" or, "We will sell it you, you finding the money, at the rate of £70 a ton." That was the answer given by the Government to the simple demand of the Irish people. What had the Government done with the cannon? They had given cannon to be placed in the different towns in Ireland. He had seen them rotting in the open air, utterly useless for every purpose except to be looked at. Surely they could afford to give guns for a noble purpose like this. Where there was a will there was a way. It was in the power of the House to out through those Resolutions, and to declare that the recognition of the services of this great man should be made in the manner proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend.

said, he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had not been present throughout the debate, because the right hon. Gentleman had a strong feeling of sympathy with the Irish people, and was always actuated by a generous policy. It was difficult thoroughly to appreciate the peculiar circumstances of the country at this moment. Though every man would pray that we might not be dragged into a frightful and prolonged war, there was no knowing how soon we might be obliged again to resort to that part of the Empire which, in former times, had furnished some of the best of our soldiers. It would be easy, however, to conceive the gratification of the peasants of Tipperary and Connemara, and the readiness with which they would respond to such a call, should they be told that when it was intended to do honour to the memory of the great old Gough, the noble old Irish soldier, there was in the way some wretched cobweb, some piece of red tapeism, over which they not only broke their own noses, but even brought dishonour upon those with whom they acted. They utterly refused a money grant. They were not so poor in Ireland that they could not raise £500 for this object if they required it; but what they wanted was this special mode of honouring a man who had done honour and service to his country and the Empire. If a country did not wish to do honour to its great men the spirit of the nation was gone. He would remind the House that no difficulty was found in the way of supplying gun-metal for the purpose of erecting a statue to the memory of Sir Titus Salt's father, who certainly had done nothing requiring that he should be honoured by the employment of material earned by the blood of British soldiers. In his own city (Cork) there were guns which had been taken from the Russians; and he believed that if these guns were generously given it would be better than 10 recruiting sergeants.

said, he was very sorry to do anything which might put an end to a debate which had led to the exhibition of so much patriotic eloquence. No one who had listened to the earnest and able speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Ball) would have dreamt that it proceeded from one of his profession or judicial character, while the spirit displayed by the right hon. Gentleman had been equalled, if not surpassed, in the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire). His hon. Friend talked with contempt of money; but still gun-metal was money, and to overlook that fact would be a breach of duty on the part of the Government. There were two distinct questions before the House; but there was really no substantial matter between them over which there need be any quarrel. One question was—was it desirable to make a contribution at the public charge to the statue of Lord Gough? and the other was—if so, was it desirable to make that contribution in the form of gun-metal? Now, he felt sure that hon. Gentlemen would not wish the Government to break down a rule which had been one of the most difficult achievements of financial reform during the last half-century—the rule that none of the public property should be disposed of in kind. The effect of that mode of disposing of public property was that when any tiling was given away, the public had no means of knowing when it was given, or of knowing what was given. If there were a corrupt motive influencing the Government their course would be to rush into the arms of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel North), and thank him for his Motion. They might establish all the miles of account they liked; but if the House once allowed a Government to do what it pleased with public property in kind without making any account, they did all in their power to promote a system by which the plunder of public property could be carried on to any extent. As to the Government making a contribution to Lord Gough's statue, he was sorry that the matter had never been brought before himself, or his right hon. Friend near him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), except in the form of an application for gun-metal, an application which their duty absolutely precluded them from complying with. It had been asked what had become of the old cannon captured in the Russian War, and it was urged that a great mistake had been made in distributing these trophies all over the country. He confessed he himself held that opinion, and was sorry that that plan had been adopted. But he did not think that was a precedent which should be referred to. It was only of late years that the old vicious system of dealing with public property in kind had been scotched; but the rule had now been well established. With reference, however, to his hon. and gallant Friend's Motion, it was not necessary that the Government should be asked to break through any rules. He confessed he saw nothing improper in their making a contribution towards the statue of Lord Gough. He was afraid, however, that, having said that, he should shock his hon. Friend the Member for Cork by saying that that contribution must, in the first instance, be a contribution in money. But there was further not the slightest objection to pursuing a very simple operation in stating that a certain quantity of gun-metal should be given, the grant being accounted for in money. He would suggest that the hon. and gallant Member should either withdraw his Motion or consent to an Amendment, for there would be no objection on the part of the Government to an Address praying for the gun-metal to be issued, and adding—"and that this House will make good the cost of the same," by which means they would avoid breaking through the present system of administration.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Another Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that sufficient gun metal shall be issued for the construction of the statue about to be erected in Dublin to commemorate the services of the late Field Marshal Viscount Gough, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., and that this House will make good the cost of the same,"—(Colonel North,)

—instead thereof.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that sufficient gun metal shall be issued for the construction of the statue about to be erected in Dublin to commemorate the services of the late Field Marshal Viscount Gough, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., and that this House will make good the cost of the same.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.