Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 18, 1705-1709. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1767-1830.
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Die Veneris, 15 Martii.
Debentures on Irish Forfeited Estates, Bill.
Hodie 2a vice lecta est Billa, intituled, "An Act to enlarge the Time for registering unsatisfied Debentures upon the forfeited Estates in Ireland; and for renewing of other Debentures, which have been lost, burnt, or destroyed."
Cotton Library, Report.
The Lord Halifax, from the Lords Committees appointed to consider of the Methods of keeping Records and Public Papers in Offices, and how they are kept; and to consider of Ways to remedy what shall be found to be amiss, having taken into Consideration the Cottonian Library, reported:
"That the Committee, having received several Proposals from Sir John Cotton, and likewise a Report from the Surveyors General, ordered the same to be laid before the House, together with their Opinion, That, in Consideration of the Usefulness the said House and Gardens may be to the Public, and to the Two Houses of Parliament, Her Majesty be humbly desired to order the same to be purchased, for the Use of the Crown, and the Advantage of the Family that have given so great a Benefaction to the Public."
Sir J. Cotton's Proposal for Sale of the House to keep it in.
"Whereas the late Sir John Cotton, his Grandfather, did, in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Year of the Reign of the late King William, of Glorious Memory, procure an Act of Parliament, for settling and preserving his Library, which had been purchased at a very great Charge and Expense, by vesting the same in Trustees, for the Benefit of the Public, according to the Purposes mentioned in the said Act; with which the present Sir John Cotton hath been, and still is, desirous to comply, provided the Library be not removed, contrary to the Intentions of his Grandfather, expressed in the said Act: And whereas the Mansion-house and Gardens, together with the said Library, are, by the same Act, vested in Trustees, to the Use of the Heirs Males of the Family and Name; and since, by reason of the Straitness of the Place, and ruinous Condition of the Building wherein the Library is now kept, and the inconvenient Passage to the same, it is thought that the good Intentions of the said Act cannot be conveniently performed; and therefore it hath been proposed, that some Method might be found out, consistent with the former Act, (which the present Sir John Cotton thinks himself indispensably obliged to follow in all respects, as the Will and Directions of his Grandfather.)
"If therefore it should be conceived for the Advantage of the Public, he is contented that the Mansion-house and Gardens (for which Offers have been made by some who would willingly build thereon) should be leased to Her Majesty, under such a Yearly Rent as shall be agreed to, payable according to the Limitations of the said Act.
Surveyors Report about it:
"We have, in Obedience to your Lordships Commands of Saturday last, discoursed with Sir John Cotton about the Purchase of Cotton-House and Gardens, at Westminster; for which Sir John, in the Paper annexed, presented to your Lordships, seems to expect a Rent of Four Hundred Pounds per Annum.
"The better to enable ourselves to judge of the Reasonableness of Sir John's Demand, which seems to be founded on a Prospect of Improvement by new building, we have viewed the Premises, and considered what Improvement of that Kind the Ground is capable of; and are of Opinion, there is Room for erecting Sixteen Houses, which may possibly afford a Ground-rent of Ten-pounds apiece, that is, One Hundred and Sixty Pounds per Annum; yet, in regard to the convenient Situation of the Premises for Accommodation to the Two Houses of Parliament, and that new Tenements to be erected thereon would somewhat darken and incommode the said Houses, or the Approaches thereto, we think Two Hundred Pounds a Year may be accounted a reasonable Rate. Sir John also assuring us, he hath been offered that Sum as a Ground-rent, by Builders: We humbly conceive, if Her Majesty shall be advised, and inclined to do any Thing in this Matter, it will be better to purchase the Fee-simple (the Value whereof we estimate at Four Thousand Pounds), than charge the Crown with a Rent, payable to a Subject. But, as the Estate stands entailed, such Purchase must be authorized by Act of Parliament.
Sir J. Cotton's Second Proposal.
"Sir John Cotton being desired to give in Writing a more particular Estimate of his House and Gardens at Westminster, called Cotton-House; and having, according to your Lordships Directions, employed some Persons, jointly with Sir Christopher Wren, to view and survey the same; he is advised, that the said Ground is capable of great Improvements, by the near Situation to the Two Houses of Parliament, where Conveniencies might be made for the Accommodation of Members, by building a Square, which might contain Four and Twenty House, to which the Avenue, or coming, would be of wonderful Convenience to Gentlemen of the House of Commons; and would go directly out of the Parliament-house into their Lodgings: Yet, though such Offers have been made to him, and though the House has now continued in his Name and Family near One Hundred Years; yet he is willing to part with it, for the better providing for the Library therein, left by his Ancestors to the Public, and for such other Uses to which Her Majesty may think fit to convert the same; being sensible, that its Situation between the House of Lords and House of Commons would have cut off all Communication between the Two Houses, had not Sir John Cotton's Ancestors consented to permit a Gallery and other Conveniencies to be built upon this Ground of his, for the better Meeting of the Two Houses in the Painted Chamber; and being likewise sensible of the great Prejudice that might accrue to the Public, if it should fall into other Hands, or should be converted to other Uses, than what it serves for at present; and that no Improvement can be made to the Conveniencies of either Houses, without this Spot of Ground; and because that, Sir John being yet unmarried, it is now absolutely in his Power to dispose of it by Lease, to the Satisfaction of Her Majesty and both Houses:
"Upon all which Consideration, the Parties concerned hope that it will not be thought unreasonable, by the Right Honourable Committee, to allow Sir John Cotton and his Family, that have been such considerable Benefactors to the Public, Four Hundred Pounds per Annum for the same."
"Whereas it has been thought very much for the Advantage of the Public, that the said Sir John Cotton should (as far as in him lies, and is consistent with the former Act of Parliament) convey to Her Majesty the Cotton-house and Garden, that better Conveniencies may be made for the Cottonian Library: Now the same Principle, which generously moved his Grandfather to bestow the most valuable Collection of Antiquities (now any where extant) to the Public, has excited him to concur in every Thing for the better Advancement of his Grandfather's Intentions; therefore he shewed his Readiness to enter into any Treaty in that Behalf, and thereon made Proposals for an Yearly Rent to be paid, according to the Limitations in the said Act: But, finding that a Consideration to be immediately paid down will be more convenient for the Public; and the Ground being, on a Survey, allowed to be worth at least Four Thousand Pounds, besides the Buildings thereon; he now proposes the Sum of Five Thousand Pounds, being resolved to do his utmost that the Library may be forthwith made (as was first designed) most serviceable and useful to the Public; and offers further, to do every Thing in his Power, so as the Will and Intentions of his Grandfather about the said Library, confirmed in the said Act, be at all Times punctually observed, which he shall ever think himself indispensably obliged to perform in all Particulars. The Value here computed is no more than it would yield to a private Purchaser, without any Regard to its Situation for the Service of the Public; and, he believes, your Lordships will be of Opinion, that this Sum is the lowest Rate he can reasonably accept, for the Buildings and Grounds belonging thereto.