Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/117

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109
SKETCH OF SIR JOHN LUBBOCK, BART, M. P.

terested in the subject that every archaeological society in the kingdom petitioned for its passage. It was, however, strongly opposed by other interests, with arguments of the most puerile character, such, for instance, as that the people who erected the monuments were savages, about whom no one cares or should care; that the monuments themselves are ignoble and destitute of all art and of everything that entitles them to preservation; and that to preserve them was to interfere seriously with the rights of property.

Replying to these objections in 1875, Sir John asked the honorable members of the House of Commons to look at the ancient monuments in their own districts mentioned in his bill, and tell him which of them they would see destroyed without regret. "Was it Silbury Hill, the grandest sepulchral monument, perhaps, in Europe? Was it Avebury, the most remarkable of the so called Druidical structures? Was it Stonehenge, enigmatical and unique? Was it Arthur's Round Table, or the Rollrich Stones, Kitscoty House, or Wayland Smith's Forge, dear to all readers of Sir Walter Scott?" Then, after referring to similar monuments in Scotland and Ireland, he concluded: "Those monuments have passed through great dangers. They have been spared by Roman soldiers, by Britons, Saxons, Danes, and Normans; they were respected in days of comparative poverty and barbarism; in these days of enlightenment and civilization, of wealth almost beyond the dreams of avarice, they were in danger of being broken up for a profit of a few pounds, or removed because they cumbered the ground. If the House allowed them to be destroyed, they could never be replaced. It was said that the bill would interfere with the rights of property. What rights? The right of destroying interesting national monument. That was the only right that would be interfered with. It was not incidental to the bill, it was no drawback in the bill, it was the very object of the measure. It was really, however, the rights of destruction, not the rights of possession, which it touched. It was now for the House to determine whether it would exercise on behalf of the nation the right to preserve those monuments; whether it would maintain the right of individuals to destroy, or the right of the nation to preserve." Sir John himself bought two of the sites mentioned in his speech, to save them from threatened destruction: Avebury, whose temple was nearly perfect in the time of Charles n, who visited it, but which was now about to be sold for building-lots after most of its stones had been broken up or carried off; and Silbury Hill, said by "Nature" to be "the grandest tumulus in Great Britain, if not in Europe."

Sir John Lubbock's political career may be said to have begun in 1865, when he stood for a seat in the House of Commons for West Kent, at the request of the Liberal Committee, and was defeated by only fifty votes. In 1868 he was nominated as a Liberal candidate for the representation of the University of London, backed by a committee