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Dr Livingstone

Volume 218: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1874

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MR. DISRAELI moved, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn till Monday, the 13th April."

Sir, I very much regret that I have not had an opportunity of communicating until a few minutes ago, either to the Government, or to the House, my intention of calling their attention to one subject to which I think it is important their attention should be directed at this time. My only excuse for bringing it forward now is that if anything at all is to be done in the matter to which I refer, it must be done before the date to which it is proposed the House should adjourn. The matter to which I allude is the expected arrival of the body of that great discoverer, Dr. Livingstone, in this country. A very general desire was expressed, when the news arrived of his unfortunate death, that his body should be buried in Westminster Abbey. The authorities of the Abbey expressed their willingness to afford every facility in their power for that purpose. I have, however, just now learned that there are no means whatever of carrying what is the general wish of the country into effect. The family of Dr. Livingstone, of course, have no means whatever by which they could do it; and application has been made to the Royal Geographical Society, where it was supposed some means might be obtained, but they have stated they have no funds whatever which they can apply to that purpose. I cannot help thinking that it will be a great disappointment to very many, not only in this country, but in other countries, if, when the body arrives, nothing whatever is done with a view to carry the general wishes of the public into effect. It would surely be a discredit to us if, after all the honour and glory which our nation has derived from the wonderful works performed by Dr. Livingstone, there should be anything like neglect or disrespect shown at the time the body arrives in this country. The expense will not be large; still I think that expense ought to be furnished from some public source, and I know not to whom to refer, except to the Government. I am quite sure that any expense which might be incurred would be hailed as a very welcome act-by large bodies in this country.

Mr. Speaker, there is a certain inconvenience in questions of this nature being brought before the House without Notice, and I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend will not blame me if I do not give a very definite answer to his proposal. There can be but one feeling in the House of Commons with respect to the claims of Dr. Livingstone on this country, and the reverence due to his memory. At the same time, the House will perceive at once that matters of this kind require investigation and consideration. The body of this illustrious man is being brought to the country at the public expense. What are the circumstances immediately connected with the voyage? and, why the Government undertook the office?—these are questions which probably might be satisfactorily answered if Notice had been given of the question and inquiry made. At present, all I can say is, that what Government has done proves that on the part of the Government there is no deficiency of respect for the name or manes of Dr. Livingstone; and therefore I will ask my right hon. and learned Friend and the House to allow the Government to take note of the conversation of this evening, and give it their best consideration.

Motion agreed to.