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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Spring Rice   [before 7 July 1838]1

To the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Memorial of your Petitioners humbly Showeth,

That your Petitioners have heard with great concern that a recent offer for sale to the British Museum, by Mr. Mansell and Mr. Hawkins, of two valuable collections, illustrating the geology of an important portion of England, has been declined, in consequence of the deficiency of the national revenue for the present year.2

That many of your Petitioners who are conversant with the subject have examined these collections, and consider them not only to be of peculiar value as demonstrating the subterraneous structure of this country, but also of general interest to the scientific world, as throwing new and important lights on many branches of research that are now conducted with unexampled activity in all countries, for the purpose of illustrating the physical history of the globe, and applying such knowledge also to the useful purposes of life.

That with a view to the advancement of such objects, societies and museums have been established in nearly all the large provincial towns of this kingdom, and still more extensive museums provided at the national expense by all the Governments in the civilized world. And as your Petitioners would consider it to be conducive to the honour and scientific reputation of England if these collections were placed in the British Museum, so it would be, in their opinion, both detrimental to science and injurious to the honour of the nation if they were allowed to be broken up and dispersed by public sale, or purchased by any foreign Government.

That the getting together of these collections has resulted from a concurrence of such rare opportunities and extraordinary qualifications in the individuals by whom they have been made, that if the occasion which now offers of securing to the nation the fruits of such rare coincidences be not made use of it must be lost for ever.

And your Petitioners will ever pray, &c.


Wm. Buckland, Professor of Geology, Oxon.

A. Sedgwick, Woodwardian Professor, Cambridge.

John Phillips, Professor of Geology in King’s College, London.

W. Whewill,3 Pres. G. S.

Rod. Murchison, Vice Pres. Geol. Socy.

Charles Lyell, Vice Pres. Geol. Socy.

Charles Stokes, F.R.S., F.G.S., and L.S.

William J. Hamilton, Sec. Geol. Socy.

Edward Norwich,4 President of the Linnean Society, F.G.S.

Richard Owen, Hunterian Professor Royal College of Surgeons, London.

William Clift, Conservator of the Museum, ditto.

Charles Babbage.

J. Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., and F.G.S.

P. M. Roget, M.D., Sec. R.S., and F.G.S.

John Taylor, F.R.S., F.L.S., F.G.S., Treasurer to the British Association.

Northampton,5 F.G.S.

Charles Darwin, Sec. of Geol. Socy.

W. T. Broderip, F.R.S., F.G.S., F.L.S., &c.


The date is established by the fact that the petition was presented to the House of Commons on 7, 26, and 27 July 1838 (Journals of the House of Commons 93: 683, 755, and 764). A similar version of this petition was presented on 15 and 25 March 1839 (Journals of the House of Commons 94: 113, 145).
The reference is to Gideon Algernon Mantell and the palaeontological collector Thomas Hawkins. Mantell made collections of some 20,000 rocks and fossils from Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. They had previously been displayed at the Sussex Scientific and Literary Institution at Brighton (House of Commons papers, accounts and papers, 1837/8, XXXVI, 305).
Edward Stanley, bishop of Norwich.
Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton, second marquess of Northampton.


Express their concern that the offer for sale to the British Museum, by G. A. Mantell and Thomas Hawkins, of two valuable collections, has been declined.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 421F,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)