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The Wellington Monument

Volume 203: debated on Wednesday 10 August 1870

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Motion For Correspondence

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Correspondence relating to the Wellington Monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, and to move a Resolution on the subject, said, the circumstances of the present time naturally directed the attention of the country to anything connected with the memory of the late Duke of Wellington, who, after having proved himself the foremost general of his age, afterwards, during the remainder of his life for 35 years and more, was the great conservator of peace. It was not until the Duke of Wellington was laid in his grave that the Crimean War broke out. The monument which that House had voted to the Duke did not stand in its due position in St. Paul's Cathedral, and it was natural that there should be impatience in the public mind at a circumstance so strange. The Papers relating to the monument, although ordered to be printed on the 22nd of July, were not accessible to Members of the House even yesterday. He did not wish to throw blame on any particular Department, or any particular individual, for the delay that had taken place in the erection of the monument; but if he moved a Resolution, it would be to the effect that the correspondence laid on the Table of the House did not furnish sufficient data to warrant the House in expressing any opinion whatever upon the circumstances of the case. It was within his knowledge that on the 6th of August a memorial was presented to the Prime Minister by the sculptor employed, Mr. Stevens, stating his side of the case, which did not appear fairly in the documents submitted to the House; and, as the First Commissioner of Works had informed the House that legal proceedings were about to be instituted against that gentleman and against Mr. Penrose, the surveyor of St. Paul's, he (Mr. Newdegate), in the cause of justice and according to the practice of the House, when judicial proceedings were pending, trusted that the House would decline to express any opinion, in order that the case might not be prejudiced in the public mind, or before the Courts of Law. He had taken up this matter simply in the cause of justice. This much was now known. Mr. Stevens was desired to supply plans for a monument which should cost £20,000; but he was afterwards induced by the then head of the Board of Works to attempt to erect that monument for £14,000. Nor was that all, for the Board of Works required him to erect a full-sized model of the monument at an additional cost of £4,000, a great part of which came out of his pocket. Mr. Stevens, however, actuated by a feeling of honour toward his brother artists, whom he had surpassed in the competition for a plan of a monument specified to cost £20,000, and, perhaps, by other feelings, rather than mar the effect of the monument, resolved to carry out the work even to some extent at his own cost. He (Mr. Newdegate) was credibly informed that Mr. Stevens had already spent £2,000 of his own money on the monument; and, to obtain this money, had been obliged to take other orders, which accounted, in a great degree, for the delay; but it was clear, from the Papers before the House, that the Board of Works had lost six years before they finally directed Mr. Stevens to commence the work. He begged to move for the Correspondence.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Correspondences with respect to the Wellington Monument, as laid upon the Table of this House, does not furnish sufficient data whereby this House can form an opinion upon the circumstances of the case."—(Mr. Newdegate.)

said, the hon. Member would probably have done more wisely if he had adhered to the rule he had prescribed when he commenced his remarks—namely, that nothing should be said to prejudice the case of Mr. Stevens; but, instead of saying nothing on the subject-matter in dispute, the hon. Member had invited him to state the case of the Government against Mr. Stevens in answer to his remarks. He would be more generous to Mr. Stevens than the hon. Member, and, instead of following the hon. Gentleman's remarks, would content himself with referring to the Papers on the Table. From these it would be seen that the hon. Member was in error in almost every observation that he had made. Any hon. Member who chose to read the letters printed in pages 1 and 3 would see how entirely the hon. Gentleman had been misled. He was afraid the hon. Member could not have read the Papers to which he referred, or he would not have made the remarks he had done. The hon. Member thought that this correspondence did not furnish all the information necessary to enable the House to understand the responsibilities of Mr. Stevens to the Crown. The Papers, as far as they went, contained the most accurate information on the subject. The hon. Member had not hinted that any Paper had been kept back, but had informed the House that the Papers laid on the Table came down only to the 23rd of July, whereas Mr. Stevens had drawn up a memorial in the beginning of August which he desired to have added. There would not be the slightest objection to lay that Paper on the Table, and also the letters of Mr. Penrose, which would give all the information up to the present hour. But that would not, in the slightest degree, support the Resolution which the hon. Member had moved, suggesting that the correspondence was imperfect, because the circumstances to which he alluded had all occurred since those Papers had been laid on the Table. If the hon. Member, therefore, would withdraw his Resolution, and move that the further letters of Mr. Penrose and Mr. Stevens be laid on the Table, he had not the slightest objection to offer. But that, of course, would not interfere with the proceedings which were necessary to establish the rights of the Crown.

said, he would be satisfied with that course if all the documents connected with the subject would be submitted to the House.

said, if the hon. Member wished for the anterior documents which had passed between the First Commissioner and Mr. Penrose and Mr. Stevens he was quite at liberty to move for their production also.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Copy ordered, "of all further Correspondence relative to the Wellington Monument between Mr. Penrose or Mr. Stevens with any Department of Her Majesty's Government up to the present time."—( Mr. Newdegate.)