§ At three o'clock, when nearly 200 members, previously sworn in by lord Cholmondeley, (lord steward of the Prince Regent's household) in the long gallery, were present, in their own House, they were summoned, by the Black Rod, to attend at the bar of the House of Peers, to hear the Commission read for assembling the present Parliament. The great majority accordingly accompanied the senior clerk, Mr. Ley, to the upper House, and or their return, after a short pause,
The right hon. Sir John Nicholl
rose, and addressing himself to the Deputy to the Clerk of the House (who standing up, 3 pointed to him, and then sat down) spake to the effect following:
—The Message from the sovereign, which has just been delivered, having recommended the choice of a Speaker to the immediate attention of the House, it seems proper that we should proceed without delay to that highly interesting function; a function which is justly considered as the ancient and un doubted privilege of the House, and the proper exercise of which, is of the utmost importance to the character and honour of the House itself, to the rights and liberties of the people, and consequently to the welfare, prosperity, and happiness of this great and extensive empire.
A brief consideration of the principal duties of the office, and of the qualities necessary to their discharge, will in some measure assist in guiding us to a proper choice.
The duties are many and arduous; the principal of them appear to be—to arrange and conduct the various proceedings of the House, in its legislative and inquisitorial capacities—to preside over its deliberations, and enforce the due observance of its order and decorum—to communicate its approbation, to denounce its censures, to guard its privileges, to assert its rights, and to maintain its dignity. Added to these, the private business of the House (as it is called) forms no inconsiderable portion of the labours of the Speaker, in the present increased and improving state of the wealth, and population of the country.
The proper discharge of these manifold duties, requires talents and attainments of no ordinary dimensions, and which are but rarely found united in the same individual,' for there is hardly an eminent quality that can elevate or adorn the human character, which may not, in the execution of this high office, be occasionally called forth into exercise.
To an understanding enlightened and highly cultivated, to learning extensive and various, to an ardent, yet well regulated attachment to the constitution, must be added, a profound and minute acquaintance with the history and laws of the country, and an accurate knowledge of the forms and regulations of parliament, as recorded in its voluminous proceedings, and as existing in unwritten usages and practice of the House.
Nor should we overlook even the subordinate 4 qualities, of punctuality of attendance, and of expedition coupled with correctness in the dispatch of public business.
Among the requisites for presiding over the deliberations of the House, and preserving its order and decorum, may be noticed a soundness of judgment united to a promptness of decision, a firmness that shall repress contention, with a suavity which shall soften asperity and disarm irritation, a temper not to be ruffled by rudeness or pertinacity, a patient vigilance that can bear the fatigue of protracted debate, but above all, a strict impartiality that shall secure the universal confidence of the House.
The Thanks and Honours of the House would lose a part of their high value, if communicated by its organ and representative without dignity of manner and expression; its reprimands and censures would be deprived, in some degree, of their corrective force and effect, if denounced without that tone and demeanour of authority, which commands respect.
In watching over the Privileges of the House, and guarding them against encroachment, in asserting its rights and maintaining its dignity, we must look for independence above controul, and integrity beyond the reach of influence.
With respect to the Private Business, it may be sufficient to observe, that it requires facility of access, urbanity and courteousness in intercourse, frankness in communication, an indefatigable industry in investigating conflicting claims, an attention that can fix itself upon minute details, and an anxious watchfulness to guard the interests of the unprotected and absent.
Nor are the liberal hospitalities and a splendour of life, corresponding with the munificence of parliament, and suitable to the high station of the first and most distinguished commoner of the realm, wholly without their grace or value.
These appear to be the most prominent qualities to be sought in the person, whom the House shall select for its choice.
If in presuming to propose a person for that choice, it had been necessary to be guided by my own uninstructed discernment and opinion, I should have known myself sufficiently to have shrunk from the task, and to have left its execution to some other member, whose superior weight and consideration might better entitle his recommendation to the concurrence of the House.
5 That this great nation sending to parliament the representatives of the Commons of the United Kingdom, chosen, by the happy practice of the constitution, from the most eminent and enlightened of every class of society, should furnish several persons competently qualified for the discharge of this high office, many and arduous as its duties appear to be, it would be improper and unjust to question; but I cannot avoid congratulating myself, and I venture to congratulate the House, that upon the present occasion it is unnecessary to select upon the mere hope and future promise of competent qualification, but that the House may fix its choice upon the secure basis of tried excellence and unerring experience. Those members, who are now present for the first time, may have supposed, while I have been endeavouring to describe the rare qualities which should unite in the person to be designated for the Chair of the House, that I have been tracing the outlines of a picture, which could exist only in imagination; but those, who have sat in former parliaments, will have recognized a portrait, however faintly and imperfectly drawn, of that highly gifted person, who ill the four last parliaments, filled the Chair of this House, in a manner that procured to him the unequivocal test of universal admiration, esteem and confidence. It is unnecessary to propose the name of Mr. ABBOT; and it is no less superfluous to refer back to those qualities, which in earlier life marked him out as an upright and enlightened member of parliament, firmly attached to our invaluable constitution, and zealously engaged in promoting the interests and welfare of the country, and which originally recommended him to the choice of the House.
It is not without being unfeignedly conscious of considerable presumption, that an individual with so little pretension has now ventured to address the House upon this its first meeting, and upon so interesting and important a subject. An apology is unquestionably due; but I must throw myself upon the candour and indulgence of the House, frankly acknowledging that I could not resist the gratification which would be afforded me, by an opportunity of publicly testifying and expressing (though in terms very inadequate to my own feelings, and very insufficient to satisfy those of the House) the strong sentiments of esteem and regard, of veneration and respect, to which the 6 eminent person already mentioned is so I justly entitled. I could not withstand the pleasure and satisfaction of proposing, and I anticipate with perfect confidence the unanimous concurrence of the House in the motion which I now make, "That the right hon. CHARLES ABBOT do take the Chair of this House as Speaker."
Then William Ralph Carlwright
, esq. addressing himself likewise to the Deputy to the Clerk of the House (who standing up, pointed to him, and then sat down) spake to the effect following:
Mr. Ley; in rising to second the motion of my right hon. and learned friend, the only difficulty which I experience, arises from my inability to do justice to the task. I derive, however, some satisfaction in reflecting that the claims which it is my part to support, are such as have been long recognised by the House in the tried talent and known integrity which have been so often and conspicuously displayed by Mr. Abbot. It is my sincere belief, that no man who has witnessed the conduct of that gentleman during the period in which he has filled the important, the elevated, and arduous office of Speaker of this House, can entertain a different opinion, or refuse to join in the unanimous declaration of his peculiar qualifications for discharging its duties with honour to himself, and advantage to the interests of the public. I cannot conceive that there will be more than one opinion on this subject. (A general cry of hear!) Sir, I do not mean to repeat the enumeration of all those high and requisite qualifications truly and ably described by the right hon. mover. It would be difficult to name an individual, in whom a more complete union of them all is to be discovered than in the individual whom he has proposed. All parties concur, or rather, all party is discarded upon this subject. But we ought not to forget that long before Mr. Abbot, was raised to that situation in which be has been so distinguished, his ability, research and industry had been usefully exercised, had attracted the attention and secured the confidence of the House. I confess that I feel no small share of gratification in the distinction of seconding a motion that promises to be so beneficial to the interests of the House, and with respect to which, I can confidently anticipate an entire unanimity of sentiment.
§ The House loudly calling Mr. Abbot to the Chair,
§ Mr. Abbot
stood up in his place and said: "Mr. Ley; in rising to address the House upon the present occasion, it is impossible that I should not be desirous of returning my cordial thanks to my right hon. and honourable friends for the terms, prompted by their personal kindness towards me, in which they have proposed my name to the consideration of the House; and I have also to acknowledge with gratitude the favourable manner in which the House has been pleased to receive that proposition:
"But I can assure the House with perfect sincerity, that if I should be called again to that high station, I should enter upon the discharge of its various and arduous duties, confiding in nothing but the hope and expectation of the same continued indulgnce and support, which I have heretofore experienced in the same situation.
"Long attention to the forms of parliament, and the habits of official life, may be useful, to a certain extent, in regulating the large and growing mass of our public and private business, and also in discharging those other less ostensible, but not less laborious duties, incident to the various public trusts and commissions which of late years have been added to the occupations of the Chair. But these are not the main difficulties of the office which the House is now called upon to supply; for such are the many new,—unlooked for,—and ever-varying occurrences which frequently and suddenly arise in the course of our proceedings here, that unless the House be prepared (for the maintenance of its own authority and dignity) to give a prompt and effectual support to whichever of its members may be placed in that Chair,—all other considerations are superfluous, and his best endeavours will be unavailing.
"With this declaration of my own sentiments, respecting what the House has a right to require, and also what it ought to be prepared to bestow, in the choice which it is about to make, I most humbly submit myself to its disposal, praying only that this first act of its proceeding may never become detrimental either to its interests or to its honour."
Mr. Abbot being then led to the 8 Chair by the Mover and Seconder,—said:
"With a deep sense of the duties which belong to this Chair, and a firm reliance, that so long as these duties shall be faithfully discharged, I may presume to expect the support of the House,—I beg leave to return my humble acknowledgments for this distinguished and repeated proof of its favor and confidence, and to assure the House of my entire devotion to its service."
And thereupon he sat down in the Chair; and then the mace, which before lay under the table, was laid upon the table.
then spoke to the following effect: "I apprehend that till his royal highness the Prince Regent's intentions in calling this parliament together be made known, it will be the pleasure of the House to adjourn from day to day, without entering upon any business. I therefore rise to offer a motion to that effect. But previous to coming to this conclusion, I trust, I may be permitted to enjoy the satisfaction of congratulating the House on seeing that seat again occupied by the right hon. gentleman, whose conduct in it before had secured to him universal respect and admiration. We must, as members of this House, feel it to be a matter of great congratulation to each other, to have an individual returned to parliament whom we can elect to that situation, in which he has already so preeminently distinguished himself, to his own honour, and to the benefit of the House and of the country. It is a matter of congratulation that the first step, we have taken is likely to redound to the public advantage, and to the general good, as well as to the particular interest of this assembly. Marked as this election has been by an universal expression of sentiment that cannot be doubted, you, Sir, must feel that you possess, in the unbounded confidence of this House, the means and authority necessary to enable you to discharge with dignity and effect the important duties deposited in your hands. Under these circumstances, I will not detain the House longer by dilating on the topics so ably and fully opened by the right hon. mover, but conclude by proposing that this House do now adjourn."
§ The House accordingly adjourned till to-morrow.