§ Lord Althorp
said, he was sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he must rise to order. It was against all usage and custom, he believed, to enter upon business. They were not entitled to enter into any discussion except that for electing the Speaker.
§ Mr. Hume
proceeded: He would, then, take that opportunity of referring to the election of the Speaker, and he would call the attention of the House to that subject. That now appeared to him to be a measure of the utmost importance which the House could attend to, and he was well aware that, in calling their attention to it, he was undertaking a duty which was personally unpleasant. It was, however, a public duty, and he craved the indulgence of the House while he stated the reasons why it appeared to him especially necessary that the individual elected to that high and confidential situation should enjoy the complete confidence and good opinion of the House, and of the country at large. He was aware that it had been customary to make arrangements for the election of Speaker by the different parties of the House before the actual election, and that the Ministerial arrangements for that nomination, were generally agreeable to the judgment, and met the approbation of the majority, and that it was a common proceeding for such previous arrangements to meet the concurrence and be supported by the opinion of the House. On that ground it might be 36 considered presumption on his part to offer an opinion on the subject, and much more when he concluded, as he meant to conclude, by proposing an individual whom he conceived capable of filling the Chair with honour, and deserving of the confidence of the House and the country. It might be necessary at times to agree to such a previous arrangement, but it was not proper on this occasion. They had met under peculiar circumstances; they had met at a time when, the public attention was peculiarly directed to their proceedings, more so, he believed, than on any occasion of which he had read in history. They were bound, on the part of the country, to elect a man who should not only be capable of performing the ordinary duties of Speaker, but who enjoyed the confidence of the majority of the House, and whom the House would be ready to support. He ought, as nearly as possible, to represent the opinions entertained by the majority of the House. The Speaker was frequently called upon to inflict censure, or to express approbation in the name of the House; and he, therefore, should be, by his feelings and opinions, connected with the majority of the House, or it could not be expected that he would do justice to their sentiments and wishes. On that principle it was usual for the majority of the House, to nominate some person whose political opinions and feelings were known to accord with those of the majority of the House, and whose opinions were likely to meet with the approbation of the people at large. On no occasion, he would venture to say, did the people take a greater interest in their proceedings—on no occasion had they had so large a share in the representation—on no occasion was it more necessary than on the present, that the gentleman nominated for Speaker should enjoy the confidence of the majority of that House and the country—and on no occasion was the House ever placed in a more difficult situation than at present, with regard to the person to be elected to the high office in question. He would candidly state to the House the grounds on which he made this Motion. He did not state them officially, for he had had no communication with Ministers on this subject, but he was informed, on authority which he had no reason to doubt, that an arrangement had been concluded, to which Ministers had agreed, and in 37 which it was hoped that all, or the great majority of the House would concur, to propose the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton as Speaker. In mentioning the name of that right hon. Gentleman, he felt bound to say that no man ought to speak of him in terms of greater respect than he (Mr. Hume); no man ought to speak, and all had cause for speaking well, in higher terms than he ought, of the urbanity and uniform kindness which he had experienced from that right hon. Gentleman. When he considered the great urbanity of the late Speaker's manners, the attention he had received from him—from one so highly situated as was the Speaker of that House—he should always feel grateful for his behaviour. In undertaking the task which had fallen on him, therefore, he hoped that the House believed that he was actuated by nothing but a sense of public duty. But there were occasions when public duty made men violate private feelings, and certainly, on public questions, all private feelings must yield to that paramount sense of the duty which every Member of that House owed to his country, and his constituency. He had no hesitation in saying, that all private considerations were in favour of the right hon. Gentleman, whose courtesy in giving him his support in public business, both in that House and out of that House, merited his regard: and he hoped that no Gentleman would suppose that what he was about to do was actuated by any feeling of hostility. It was quite the contrary; he was impelled solely by a sense of duty and he hoped and trusted that, whatever might be the result, no difference would take place in the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman towards him. Under the circumstances of the present moment, he must call on the House, not only to consider what had been the practice on former occasions, but what ought to be their conduct on the present occasion. Their acts were all open to animadversion, and every Member ought to be prepared to state the reasons which guided his vote, and be prepared, without hesitation, to justify all his proceedings. It was impossible for him, from the interest he took in those deep-rooted opinions, which were, he believed, directly the opposite to those embraced by the right hon. Gentleman, whose opinions had been openly avowed—and to whom he gave the credit of being honestly convinced 38 that those opinions, and the actions they dictated, were calculated to promote the happiness of the country—it was impossible for him, in giving credit to the right hon. Gentleman, and his party, for the sincerity of their convictions, not to express a hope that they would give him equally credit for the same sincerity in the proposition he meant to make, and that it was made from no other motives than those of the public good. He was one of those who had always advocated Parliamentary Reform, not only as a great and important measure of itself, but as a means to effect those further important changes which were necessary to give that relief to the people which they expected, and for which they had sought Reform. Unless further alterations were made, they would not receive those advantages to which they were so well entitled from the exertions which they had made to obtain their rights. To obtain all these advantages, it was necessary to have a Speaker who should represent the opinions of the majority of the House. If such were not the case—if a Speaker should be chosen who was not an advocate for Reform, how could he (Mr Hume), an advocate for Reform, believing, too, that the majority of that House were Reformers, and prepared to fulfil the wishes of their constituents—how could he believe that the majority of that House would have their feelings and sentiments properly represented by one who was not a Reformer; and how could they feel themselves justified in giving their votes to one to represent them who did not, in fact, represent their opinions. It was possible, among the varied duties which a Speaker might have to perform, which could make it proper that the right hon. Gentleman should represent the opinions of the majority, it was possible, that circumstances might arise, when the Gentleman who filled that situation might have to support the principles of Reform. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Manners Sutton) might express sentiments in accordance with the usages of the House, but not in accordance with the sentiments and views of those who were of opinion that other measures were necessary to secure the benefits of the important change which had been made. He could not bring himself to think that it was not of great importance that the individual who filled the Chair of that 39 House, should not be of the political opinions of the majority of the House, and should not have their full confidence. He considered it most important, when the public were looking anxiously at their proceedings, that the public should be satisfied by their choice, and that there should be no compromise of principle in placing an individual to preside over their deliberations, who did not agree in opinion with the majority of the House. It was proper to elect an individual who entertained opinions coinciding with those of the majority, which would give him a better chance of executing well the difficult duty of expressing what was really the opinion of the House. Otherwise it was possible, on all difficult questions, it might be doubted whether he justly expressed the opinions of the House, and did justice to its proceedings. He challenged any Gentleman present to produce an instance of a large body of men, who assembled to deliberate, placing at their head, and giving power to regulate their proceedings, and to preserve order in their business, a man who was opposed in his opinions to the majority. No instance could be found, of men electing, as president or chairman, an individual who professed opinions directly contrary to the opinions professed by the majority. He meant to make no reflections on the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman, who had manfully maintained his principles; but he could not think it his duty, to place in a situation of confidence, a Gentleman who professed opinions directly opposite to those opinions, which, he believed, were professed by the majority. The times were full of difficulty. He believed that circumstances might arise, which would require a man of no ordinary firmness, and a man entertaining opinions like the majority, as the agent and organ of the House. He contemplated, as possible, a difference of opinion between that House and the House of Peers, and when it would be most important that the rights of that branch of the Legislature, which were the rights of the people should be supported; and would not the House—would not the people think that their rights might be endangered, and the exercise of them impeded, and that confusion might nsue from having as their organ, a man whose sentiments did not accord with the sentiments of the nation. He did not say that this would be the case; he hoped it 40 would not; but when he considered that it was possible—that there was a great probability even, of disputes, arising, he must say that it was necessary to have an individual to fill the Chair, whose opinions accorded with those of the people, while he possessed the other requisite qualifications. The right hon. Gentleman who had so long filled the Chair, was eminently qualified by his talents for that situation. He did not object to him on the score of his abilities, but he was anxious to see if he could not find another individual, as well qualified as the right hon. Gentleman, and who, during the long struggle for Reform, had maintained those principles which the Ministers had propagated, and the people supported. He wished that House, which represented the people, to elect a man who had acted as if he thought the Reform proper, and who had been elected by a large majority; he might almost say, unanimously returned to Parliament, by a constituency who desired Reform. There were such men, men who had not indeed been tried in that situation, but had shown themselves in other situations capable of performing all the duties of the Speaker of that House. On understanding that there was a proposition to re-elect the late Speaker, and thinking, for the reasons he had stated, that it was inconsistent with the duty he owed to a Reformed Parliament to support such a proposition, he had turned round to see in whom he could place confidence, and in whom the House and the country could place confidence, if raised to the dignity of Speaker. At one time, he considered that it would be sufficient if he expressed his dissent from the nomination proposed, leaving the House to decide whether it would or would not support his views, and in case it had supported them, then only proposing the individual whom he thought was likely to obtain the confidence of the House and the country. Looking, however, to the usual practice in such cases, and more narrowly to the qualification of individuals, and judging that it would be preferable to name the individual he thought qualified, to merely negativing the proposition, he meant, before sitting down, to put into nomination one of the hon. members for the county of Stafford. In his opinion, that individual was quite fit for the station, though he would candidly confess, that he did not come, in every respect, quite up to the 41 mark. He hoped, as he had been heard so far, and heard while he expressed au opinion rather unfavourable to the hon. Gentleman, that he might be further heard, while he showed the grounds of his approbation. He would candidly state his opinion, and explain the reasons for it. The experience of the hon. Member, his qualifications, and his high standing, fitted him, both publicly and privately, for the important situation. Besides the hon. Member's high standing, he had had great experience in all the business of that House; he had been concerned in most of its important debates, and he knew no man, who, session after session, and day after day, had so closely attended to those important duties, to understand which was the first qualification to enable any hon. Member to fill the important situation of Speaker in that House. If he might judge from the experience previously obtained by other Gentlemen before they became Speakers, he must say, that he could not find one who had had equal experience in, and who had paid equal attention to, the business of Parliament, both public and private, to the hon. Member for Staffordshire. The hon. Member's services were sufficient to recommend him. As regarded the standing of the hon. Member, he had been sent into Parliament by the almost unanimous voice of a county; and a man representing such a constituency was, in his opinion, peculiarly proper to express the opinion of the people, and be the organ for expressing the opinions of the House. In firmness of mind and experience, he was satisfied that the hon. member for Staffordshire would not be deficient. Finding that many others entertained the same decided notions of his fitness to discharge the important duties of a Speaker, he (Mr. Hume) thought he might be excused if he dwelt no longer on that part of the subject. There was, however, another consideration deserving of notice—the station of the hon. Member in life. As he (Mr. Hume) hoped that no future Speaker would be found to apply for a retiring pension, the fortune and station of a candidate for that office were not indifferent things, when his qualifications came to be estimated. In confirmation of his (Mr. Hume's) views, he might refer to the recorded opinions of the right hon. member for Tamworth, and those of Mr. Bragge Bathurst, who had taken an active part in the election of Mr. 42 Abbot in 1806, and with whose sentiments those of the right hon. Baronet coincided. After having stated their sentiments to the House, he would put it, whether their choice ought not to fall on one of whose political principles they approved. The right hon. Baronet, after alluding to the great importance of the office, and to several of its duties, went on to observe; "But those duties of the Speaker, which are discharged within our walls constitute but a small, and not the most important part of the great functions committed to him. Not only is he selected for the guardian of our own rights; we also select him for the performance of duties in which the people at large are no less interested than ourselves—duties, the execution of which must affect even the remotest posterity. We do not select him merely to make a formal demand of those rights and privileges, which were claimed and asserted by our ancestors, which are as much ours as our lives and general liberties—no, we select him as the sentinel, to guard against all slight encroachments on our privileges, to detect those trivial departures from established forms, which are the more dangerous, because, from their apparent want of importance, they are likely to escape attention, and because the danger to be apprehended from them seems to be too remote to demand an immediate interference. The necessity of providing a check against such contingencies is pointed out by reason and history. It has been well remarked, that in all free, and, of course, complicated governments, at some period or other, cases would occur when the interests of the different established orders of the State would clash, and questions would arise on the particular privileges of each. Without the exertion of unremitting vigilance, it is impossible to guard against encroachments, pregnant with the most dangerous consequences."* In the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman had also the following remark:—" Whatever may be his talents and attainments, I consider it absolutely necessary that he should possess the confidence of the House. That confidence, no rank, no talents, no attainments can command; while we bow with ready deference to high integrity, and lofty-minded independence."†urther on, the right hon. Baronet* Hansard, vol. xxxix. p. 5.† Ibid. p. 8.43 said, "If there be any office in the appointment to which it is peculiarly desirable that purity and excellence of private character should be attended to, it is that of Speaker of the House of Commons; an office, the powers of which, are often exercised amidst the warmth of party-feeling; exercised in the approbation of honourable actions, and the censure of base ones; exercised (it ought never to be forgotten) where the votes of the House are so nearly divided, that we intrust to the Speaker the right of giving force and validity to our resolutions, and of imparting the whole weight of law, to what would otherwise be merely waste-paper."* He would ask the hon. Members who were reformers, and who reviewed the conduct of those who were called anti-reformers, whether, after hearing those sentiments, they could support one whose opinions were directly opposed to their own? No man could for an instant dispute the necessity of choosing a person who should have the full confidence of the House and of the country. But it was impossible that the people could feel confidence in an individual who was opposed, though no doubt, most conscientiously opposed, to those reforms which they had so anxiously and still desired, and which they believed essential to their welfare. Was it then, possible that the people of England could have confidence in the proper discharge of the duties of the House, if the House of Commons this day should elect the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton as Speaker? He confessed that for his part, he could not have confidence in it. He judged of others by his own feelings; and if the House elected a decided anti-reformer to fill the Chair, was it to be supposed that the people of England would be satisfied with such an election? It would be impossible for the House to commit itself more against the general feeling of the country, by any step it might take, than by making this appointment; and it was but justice to the right hon. Baronet, to say, that in the speech already alluded to, he had comprised all the duties connected with that high station, and all the views that could be taken of the qualifications necessary to fill it. It would, he repeated, be impossible to satisfy the people by the choice of an anti-reformer as the Speaker, presiding over the Members whom they*Hansard, vol. xxxix. p. 8.44 had returned. They would look upon it as the result of fear of the anti-reformers in the other House, or a compromise between two parties. He could not allow himself to sit in that House, and witness such a compromise, without raising his voice against it. He regretted some of the steps which had been taken by Ministers, to carry into effect some of their measures by the hands of others; and when he saw what took place in some parts of the country, where the whole weight of official influence had been used to oppose these measures, he was sorry that they had not learnt the lesson, which such circumstances ought to have taught them. Would it not excite dissatisfaction, that Ministers by a sort of compromise, should thus give up the only honourable appointment which was in the gift of the people, all other appointments being in the hands of the Crown? The present appointment, then, involved principles of the highest importance, and the great question was, whether, under the Reform measure, the Reformed House of Commons would place in their Chair an individual, whose opinions were known to be against the various and important changes that had been effected, and were in progress towards the relief the country expected. Was it possible to reconcile any man's mind to the sincerity of those, who held out to the hopes of the people their desire to carry into effect all the advantages of the Reform Bill, if they placed in the Chair a person whose opinions were directly opposed to the Bill and to all its consequences? On the contrary, it would be taken for granted that little was to be expected from the Representatives of the people of England, if they permitted one to be placed in the Chair, who, however impartial he might be, was known to entertain opinions hostile to those professed by the great majority of the Members, and on account of which they had been returned to Parliament. He had been told since he entered the House, that if he opposed the re-appointment of the late Speaker, it would be supposed he acted contrary to the principles of economy which he had hitherto advocated, and that, by opposing the election of the right hon. Manners Sutton, he would be saddling the country with an additional burthen, in the pension to be paid to the right hon. Gentleman on his retirement, but which would be saved to the public as long as he sat as Speaker. If be could 45 believe that any such paltry or trifling consideration actuated the mind of any one, when the forwarding or the retarding of the interests of the people was at stake, he certainly should think that Gentleman had formed erroneous notions of the principles of economy. He considered such a principle beneath the notice of any individual Member, and unworthy of the dignity of the House. He had never refused any individual full compensation for the duties he had rendered to his country; but he had always opposed giving idle and useless persons large sums, dragged from the pockets of the people, by excessive taxation; and it must only have been some of those persons, feeling the effect of that line of conduct on his part, who had raised that report. But he had been informed of a difficulty which had arisen, and which, if it were as he had heard it, could not be made too generally known, as it would put the question of economy in the re-election of the right hon. Gentleman quite at rest. He had not seen the late Act, but he had been informed that, according to its wording, if the House should now elect the right hon. Gentleman as Speaker, he would still be entitled to his pension of 4,000l. a-year. The annuity was to cease, only on his getting an appointment from the Crown, but this was an appointment from the people. Let not hon. Members deceive themselves then, by the notion, that in voting for the re-election of the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton they were giving a vote in favour of economy. On the grounds he had stated, he thought the hon. member for Staffordshire was entitled to the votes of the House, in preference to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If they were in all other respects equal, he thought the hon. member for Staffordshire would, on public grounds, be entitled to the votes of a Reformed House of Commons, concurring as he did, in opinion with the majority of its Members. Having, therefore, expressed the view which he had taken of the situation in which the House was placed, he felt it to be his duty, without further observation, to propose" that Edward John Littleton, Esq., be placed in the Chair of this House."
§ Lord Morpeth
said, that in rising to select from amongst the hon. Members who surrounded him an individual worthy to preside over their proceedings, he felt 46 that the situation in which he was placed was one of great delicacy, as well as of great honour, and to which he should never unasked have aspired. He could not, however, consider the request that had been made to him when he was called on to come forward on this occasion, in any other light than as a just compliment to the large body of whom he was, within those walls, the Representative. In approaching, as he would, at once, the object which he had risen to advocate, he felt both what was due to himself and what was imposed on him by a sense of duty in pursuing the course which he meant to adopt, and he was sure that the person whom he was about humbly to recommend to the votes of the House for the honourable situation of Speaker would be the last to grudge him the fair and honest avowal which in the first instance, he felt himself called on to make. He confessed that strong feeling of a public nature had, at one time, induced him to contemplate a different course of proceeding; but the circumstances to which he thus briefly alluded had not arisen; his fears had not been well founded; and therefore he now turned, with pleasure, to the right hon. gentleman who, for sixteen years, and in six Parliaments, had filled the arduous post of Speaker, with so much credit to himself, with so much benefit to the House, and with so much satisfaction to the public. He called on the House, without meaning any disparagement to the claims of the hon. member for Staffordshire—he called on the House again to secure for itself the benefit of the continuance of those services which had been already so fully appreciated, and so warmly recognized, by all parties. The hon. member for Middlesex had himself admitted, with much candour, that the right hon. Gentleman had always been actuated by a conscientious desire to do his duty. That duty was, to preside fairly, candidly, and impartially over the business of that House. That duty, it was admitted on all hands, had been satisfactorily performed; and therefore he thought that the objection, the sole objection, made by the hon. member for Middlesex, that the right hon. Gentleman did not hold the same political opinions with the majority of that House, was on this occasion by no means a forcible or appropriate objection. He was of opinion that that circumstance was rather in favour of the right hon. Gentle- 47 man, since he had shown that, whatever might be his political sentiments, he did not allow them to bias his conduct as a public functionary. It was always irksome to indulge in panegyric in the presence of its object; he, however, felt himself considerably relieved from that difficulty in this instance by referring to what took place shortly before the close of the last Parliament. It would be remembered, that when the Speaker of the House at that time announced the probability of his retirement from the Chair, his able and upright conduct while he filled the office was acknowledged by the special declaration of those who were best qualified to judge of it, and that opinion was re-echoed by the universal acclamations which burst from all parts of the House—as well from those who had been present during his whole career, as from those whose experience had begun at a later period, and been chiefly acquired in long, and painful, and harassing contentions. But one opinion was expressed—but one opinion prevailed—with respect to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. Undeviating regularity, constant attention to the duties of his arduous office, and courtesy, without servility, had ever distinguished his career. These were qualities great in themselves, but they were absolutely invaluable in such an office as Speaker of that House. The whole tenour of his conduct was worthy of the highest praise. Since he had occupied that elevated situation, the bulk and importance of parliamentary business had enormously increased. That which was called "private business," and which came under the immediate cognizance and supervisal of the Speaker, had been immensely enlarged. He might mention, as a proof of this fact, the adoption of the system of rail-roads throughout the country. This actually created a new branch in that department of business. The right hon. Gentleman had, in considering those projects, a difficult and delicate task to perform. He had to look both to the promotion of public improvement, and to the protection of private rights. In all these matters, and in those of graver import, which aroused the feelings, or affected the destiny of nations, he was ever found to be accessible and clear in communicating information. So just were his principles of action, that interest, vanity or party spirit could scarcely repine at his decisions. Intemperance 48 of feeling was rebuked and abashed by his determined but polished firmness. What, then, were the circumstances in which they were placed? The individual thus unanimously judged to be so admirably qualified for the situation of Speaker, to whose merits his opponents bore the most unbiassed testimony, was willing again to assume that important office. They saw amongst them the right hon. Gentleman, ready, with undiminished fitness, to re-assume the post which he had so long adorned. More laborious exertions than those which the right hon. Gentleman had undergone could not, he was convinced, be required from any Speaker, and he felt convinced, that any attempt to facilitate the business of that House must begin by some alleviation of that constant and indispensable attention which was now required from that functionary. He should be unwilling, on an occasion when unanimity was so desirable, to introduce topics, or to touch upon subjects, that could disturb such unanimity; he should, however, observe that, looking to the change which had taken place in the constitution of Parliament, the source of so much hope to some, of displeasure to others, and to all a matter of such extensive speculation, it was most advisable, for expediting the business of the House, for securing regularity, and maintaining order, that they should borrow all the assistance in their power from a Gentleman of long practical experience, and tried ability. He therefore should propose to the House to devote to its service all that valuable experience, and all those enviable attainments, which were now within its reach. He was of opinion that the most skilful repair of the vessel, unless assisted by the knowledge and aptitude of the pilot, would not produce all those beneficial effects which the people were led to expect. He believed that, with whatever defects former Parliaments might be chargeable, few would be found to say that the forms of proceedings which generally prevailed in them were not those calculated to expedite business. If the right hon. Gentleman were again placed in the chair, he would bring into exercise all the advantages afforded by former Parliaments and by long experience. He, therefore, with all deference, had the honour to move—"That the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton do take the chair of the House as Speaker."
§ Sir Francis Burdett
said, he took the liberty, on this occasion, of rising thus early to address the House, in order that he might, in the first place, have the satisfaction of expressing his entire concurrence in all that had been said by the noble Lord; though, at the same time, the observations of the noble Lord placed him in a situation of considerable embarrassment, since the noble Lord seemed to have touched upon every point connected with the subject in so eloquent a manner as rendered it imprudent for any Gentleman to follow him. The noble Lord had pointed out, with great propriety, those grave and weighty considerations to which the House was bound to attend on the present occasion. The observations of the hon. member for Middlesex also made it difficult to add anything to what he himself had advanced, although he must confess that the hon. Member had taken a position which he had little expected him to occupy. As he viewed the question, he took it that this was a case to be decided on its abstract merits, and not to be disposed of by private regard or partial feeling. The only consideration which ought to weigh with the Members of that House was, who amongst them could they select as the most fit to fulfil the important functions attached to the office of Speaker? At a time of difficulty in the eyes of all—a time of embarrassment and danger in the eyes of many—but to him a time of hope and satisfaction—at such a time, they were called on to say who should fill the Chair of the first Reformed Parliament. Surely that situation should be filled by a person whom they could depend on; not by one of whom they might prophesy what he might be likely to do, but by one of whom, guided by previous experience, they could confidently foretel the future conduct; by one, of whom, for sixteen years, the conduct had been the theme of constant panegyric by every person who had, on any occasion, come in contact with him, and by none had he been more warmly praised than by the hon. member for Middlesex. That was a solid ground of preference to which no untried excellence could lay any claim. The speech of that hon. Member, in which he bore such ample testimony to the merits of the right hon. Gentleman, reminded him of the passage in Scripture, where Balak calls on Balaam to curse his enemies. 50 The prophet proceeded to the top of a mountain, but instead of dealing in curses, he meted out blessings. Then "Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and behold thou hast blessed them altogether." He defied the wit of man to find a more decided proof of the fitness of any man for an office than the panegyric of the hon. member for Middlesex. The right hon. Gentleman, according to the showing of the hon. Member, possessed all those qualifications which were necessary for the efficient performance of the duties of Speaker. The hon. Member admitted that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly qualified for the situation of Speaker, but he meant to oppose him on one point, and on one point only,—namely because he differed in his political opinions from the hon. Member, and from other individuals in that House; but Gentlemen would recollect the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman during the great struggle for reform, when he made no distinction between one Member and another of the House. The hon. member for Middlesex said, he was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman had conducted himself in the Chair equally and impartially—that he was ever ready to aid Members with his advice, privately with reference to private bills, and publicly with regard to public bills, without making any distinction whatever. To all the Members of that House, at all times, whether in or out of the Chair, the right hon. Gentleman was ready to give advice when advice was wanted. Young Members, especially in "private business," could always avail themselves of the right hon. Gentleman's advice and assistance. That which was denominated "private business," though out of sight, formed by far the most important part of the Speaker's duty. It was a vulgar opinion that the Speaker had nothing to do but to preside in his robes, seated in his easy chair, over the debates of that House. Such, in common conception, was the great duty of the Speaker. But those who adopted that opinion knew nothing of the difficulties which were inseparable from the situation. It was necessary that the Speaker should be acquainted with all the forms of Parliament, with all the minutiœ of the various proceedings that came before it. How the various duties of the office were executed 51 by the right hon. Gentleman, the House at large and indeed every individual Member of the late Parliament, were the approving judges. It seemed to him to be trespassing unnecessarily on the time of the House thus to allude to those feelings and sentiments of approbation which were expressed and echoed on all hands. He felt that he was somewhat in the situation of the man who, at a public meeting at Rome, suddenly rose to pronounce a furious panegyric on Hercules. He was, however, cut short by one of the audience, who exclaimed Quis vituperavit? Who has found fault with Hercules? He, in the same manner, would ask, who had found fault with the right hon. Gentleman? Let the merits of the hon. Gentleman whom the hon. member for Middlesex would substitute as Speaker in the place of the right hon. Gentleman—let his merits be what they might, still he was not a fit competitor with that right hon. Gentleman. He meant not to disparage that hon. Member's abilities, but he would say, that neither he nor any other Member of that House could be a just competitor with the right hon. Gentleman, allowing the moral and intellectual qualities of each party to be equal, because the right hon. Gentleman's long practical experience in the situation put all competition entirely out of the question. It would be idle and unbecoming in him to take up the time of the House further than to state the pleasure, the gratification, and the honour which he felt in seconding the nomination of the right hon. Gentleman, and he was sure that the House would not lose the present opportunity of doing justice to themselves and him by electing and placing him in that elevated situation.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that under ordinary circumstances he would have suffered others to speak before him, but standing in the situation of an unwilling candidate, he hoped the House would allow him to address a few observations to it. It was impossible for him to express too strongly the honour which he felt at the manner in which the hon. member for Middlesex had put him in nomination to fill the office of Speaker of that House; he hoped, however, that neither the hon. Member, nor any other individual, would take offence when he begged of the hon. Member to spare him and the House the pain of going to a division on this subject. Had his representations been attended to, he should 52 never have been placed in competition with a Gentleman, whose long experience of sixteen years in office, whose conduct, public and private, in that arduous situation had endeared him to every person with whom, he had any communication. How far a Speaker ought to be the real representative of the opinions of the House, was a question on which he would not enter; but this much he would declare, that never since 1817, when he had supported the election of Mr. Manners Sutton, had that Gentleman ceased to be the continued assertor of the rights and privileges of the Commons. Indeed, he firmly believed that the right hon. Gentleman would rather err in defending than surrendering them. In reference to the question of economy, which had been raised, in support of the re-election of the late Speaker, on the supposition that such an event would be a saving to the country, by the amount of the pension which the munificence of the last Parliament had awarded to his services, he must say, that he agreed with the hon. member for Middlesex, that it was totally undeserving consideration in a question of such great importance as that of determining who was to be Speaker of the Reformed House of Commons. On the right hon. Gentleman's services alone was his claim to their support founded; and he considered that his past services were the best guarantee for his future conduct. Placed as they were, on this occasion, in a House of Commons containing so many new Members, and in which they were likely to have the most constant attendance, it was especially advantageous that they should elect a Gentleman, whom sixteen years constant practice in the discharge of its duties had rendered completely master, both of the principles and practice of his office, and who was not only extensively acquainted with the recorded decisions of that House, but had a perfect knowledge of its forms and usages. The unexampled patience and urbanity of the right hon. Gentleman were the constant themes of praise amongst all his contemporaries, and of gratitude amongst those numerous individuals who at different times were indebted to him for directions and instruction. He took, therefore, the earliest opportunity of entreating his hon. friends, now that they had availed themselves of what, probably, they considered the most convenient mode of declaring the grounds of their political 53 opposition, to concur with the almost unanimous feeling of the House—unanimous, indeed, from personal considerations alone—and place that right hon. Gentleman in the Chair without a division.
said, he must object to the proposition of the last speaker, that the Motion should be withdrawn without a division. It was of great importance that the people of England should know who were the parties to this transaction, and who were opposed to it. He considered this as another instance of that paltry truckling on the part of the present Administration towards their ancient enemies, which had already afforded such frequent subjects of complaint. He concurred with his right hon. friend the member for Middlesex, that this was a contest of principle—a contest between the principle of Reform on the one hand, and the principle of Toryism on the other. If the elevation of Toryism were a subject of such trifling importance as the hon. Baronet seemed to consider it, he knew not to what purpose the long and busy life of that Member had been devoted. The whole object of that life, he understood, had been to put down Toryism; and yet now they found him advocating, in his place in Parliament, the doctrine that it was immaterial whether the chief officer of that House was a Tory in principle or not. On that single ground he rested the question. He admitted the extreme fitness of the right hon. Gentleman proposed by the noble Lord to be Speaker of an Unreformed House of Commons. Personally he felt himself much indebted to that right hon. Gentleman for the courteous assistance which he had received at his hands. When he first took his seat in Parliament, indeed, assailed on the one hand by the open opposition of those who then occupied the Treasury Benches, and the perhaps equal but more concealed hostility of those who sat on that side of the House; he must confess that he did not receive so much support from that right hon. Gentleman as he thought himself entitled to. His explanations were cut short; but he had forgotten it all in the subsequent treatment which he experienced. The useful information and assistance which the right hon. Gentleman was at all times ready to give him in the discharge of his parliamentary conduct, more than compensated for any grievance such as that to which he had alluded. He 54 agreed with the hon. Baronet, and with the noble Lord, in their remarks on the personal qualities of the right hon. Gentleman; and for the Speaker of an Unreformed House of Commons, he thought no man could be more fit. He was an accomplished, intelligent Gentleman, who had great—almost miraculous facility, in expressing the sentiments of that House on every occasion, however arduous, and who was perfectly ready to meet any demands that might be made upon his time. But the credit of his Majesty's Ministers was at stake in this matter. The public were much disappointed when it found them seeking every opportunity of thrusting their political enemies into places and offices of great power and importance. They should stand by their friends, and leave their enemies to shift for themselves. It was once said of one of our Monarchs, that he treated his enemies like friends, and his friends like enemies. It appeared as though the present Ministers were following that mischievous example. However, they should have future opportunities of talking on that subject at greater length; for he doubted not, from the disposition they had already evinced, that his Majesty's Government would give abundant cause for similar censure. He put the present question entirely on the Toryism of the right hon. Gentleman, and he would say, that if it was contended on the one side that the fitness of the right hon. Gentleman had been admitted, even by his friend the member for Middlesex, on the other hand, no one had ventured to utter one word impugning the extreme fitness of the hon. member for Staffordshire. He would defy any one to state a single ground of objection to that Gentleman's qualifications. He was possessed of great parliamentary experience, and was well acquainted with all the routine of private business. Touching the orders and proceedings of that House he was full of knowledge, which he was capable of communicating with a readiness, clearness, and ability, which he exhibited on all occasions. He also possessed one eminent quality—that of candour. He had known him entertain one opinion on entering the House, but his good sense had subsequently induced him to yield conviction to the arguments of those who had viewed the question in a different light. Thus he was convinced at he had one quality of great minds—that of perfect candour, in addition to 55 the other high qualities of which he was possessed. No man existed who was in all respects more qualified to sit as Speaker of the House of Commons. There was a considerable degree of fitness and equality in both the Gentlemen; and the true question, therefore, was, whether they were to have for the Speaker of the Reformed House of Commons a Tory or a Reformer? He had considered that the grand advantage of the Reform Bill was to put down Toryism in England—that vile and abominable system, which existed by the plunder of the people, and by the usurpation of their rights. No family had enjoyed the fruits of that system more than the family of the right hon. Gentleman. They had possessed several rotten boroughs; they had numerous nominees in the House; and he should like to know of what use the Reform Bill would be, if Tories and Tory connexions were still to be predominant; and if the principles which directed old Parliaments were still to guide the councils of the new. If, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman had reformed himself—if, like many Tories, who, at the late election, had their reforming principles for the first time awakened on coming before a real constituency—if the right hon. Gentleman had found out that he had been a dormant Reformer all his life-time—then all objection would be at an end. His opposition was not personal, but to the right hon. Gentleman's principles; the effect of his election under such circumstances being to make Toryism triumphant. What large sums of money had not his family received for the performance of very small services. In speaking of small services he, of course, did not allude to the right hon. Gentleman himself. He had rendered actual services—his duties were of the most arduous nature—he worked harder than an unfortunate labourer, or even a child in a cotton factory. No man could come down to that House more honestly and fairly, or animated by a purer spirit to perform the duties of his office more fully and fairly than the right hon. Gentleman. But he referred to his family as one, than which none had received more of the public money for less service. There was one individual of that family who had occupied a high office in Ireland for twenty years, to the utter dissatisfaction of every human being in that country, and for which he had received 250,000l. That 56 individual, by force of his connexions, was raised to the office of Solicitor General; but so deficient was he in talent, that notwithstanding the great power of his family they could not raise him to a higher office than that which was generally considered a retreat for incapables, the office of Puisne Baron of the Exchequer. Bad as he was, however, he was thought good enough to be made Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and so he continued for 20 years. It was stated that fifty per cent of the decrees of Lord Manners had been reversed; he was aware that the amount had been denied, but such was, he believed, the fact. This was the system which he wanted to put down, and the Reformed Parliament would be good for nothing if it did not put it down. Were they still to continue in the ancient state of drudgery—were the Ministry to nominate the Speaker—arrange who should second—and then shout down all who presumed to oppose them? If there were no other objection than that this was a Ministerial arrangement, that circumstance would have great weight in his mind [a laugh]. He was glad to hear the Treasury laugh. It sounded in the same tone as the laugh which used to proceed from the Treasury Benches of an Unreformed Parliament, when any man dared to assail the then Lords of the Ascendant, and venture an opposition to their high behests. The object of Reform, however, was to dethrone these Lords, and make them simple Members of the House, counting man for man with the rest of its Members. How far the placing a Gentleman of Tory principles in that Chair was likely to satisfy the public might easily be anticipated. The people had been struggling almost to rebellion and revolution to get rid of the Tory faction, and now the Reformed House of Commons was about to take it up. The Ministry—the Reforming Ministry—had made the regular arrangements. They were, of course, afraid that the right hon. Gentleman would be proposed by the Tories. They sent the offer of the situation, which, of course, was quite unexpected, and which, when offered, was politely accepted. And then they went out of their way, not to promote a friend, but a political enemy. They were sure to get the votes of the Conservatives on the occasion to swell their numbers, and the newspapers of to-morrow would blazon forth the grand Ministerial majority. The 57 strength of Ministers would be promulgated on the Stock Exchange, and the Jews would rejoice in anticipation of a rise of two or three per cent. Ministers might felicitate themselves on such a coalition; they might felicitate themselves on their successfully dictating to the House; they might flatter themselves on such a mode of gaining a majority, but he should not be doing his duly, did he not protest against it in limine. With regard to the laugh which had been raised against his hon. friend, when he deprecated the introduction of economy into this discussion, as if he were deserting his principles, he begged it to be remembered that the laugh proceded—from whom? Why, from the Treasury Benches—from the very men who proposed to grant the pension of 4,00l. per annum for the life of the right hon. Gentleman, with a reversion of 3,000l. per annum to his son. That grant was an enormous abuse of the public money; and he hoped the time would shortly come, when a parliamentary inquiry would be instituted into the right of an Unreformed House of Commons to vote away the money of the people to Members of the House itself; and that an inquiry should also be instituted into what sums of the people's money the great Oligarchical families had been suffered to put into their pockets. The public demanded this of the Reformed Parliament; and in the name of the people he would require it at their hands. But reverting to the question of economy—the right hon. Gentleman's pension had, according to the Act of Parliament, already commenced, and he was entitled to have received two quarters—one on the 1st of October, and the other on the 5th of January. It had commenced, therefore; and having once commenced, the Act of Parliament was express, that it must continue during the term of his natural life. There was a proviso, in the eighth section that the one-half of the pension was to be forfeited if the right hon. Gentleman accepted any office under the Crown. The appointment of Speaker of that House was, however, not an office under the Crown; for the acceptance of any such office, as was well known, invariably cost a Member his seat. Probably Ministers might believe—indeed, he himself believed—that the right hon. Gentleman himself would be inclined to make sacrifices. Still, as the laws stood at present, the re-election 58 of the right hon. Gentleman would not save the country one farthing of his pension; and, therefore, his supporters had no right to twit the member for Middlesex, or those who took part with him, with any want of economy. The question, therefore, stood before them, purely on the merits of the respective candidates. He objected to the right hon. Gentleman, as unfit from his political sentiments, to be Speaker of a Reformed House of Parliament. The hon. member for Staffordshire yielded nothing to him in point of talent. In his judgment indeed—perhaps it might be impugned—the hon. member for Staffordshire seemed to display a greater degree of intellect, and to possess a higher order of mind than the right hon. Gentleman, whilst his principles were most undoubted. The noble member for Yorkshire boasted—perhaps a little vanity of that kind was pardonable—of the number of his constituents. He believed, though he was not certain that he was quite accurate, but he believed that he represented the feelings of as large a portion of the population of this Empire as the noble Lord himself, and in their name he protested against this step as an abandonment of reforming principles, as a relapse into Toryism, as a following up of one of the worst practices of the Unreformed Parliament—that of the Ministerial party making their own arrangements—and then voting down the people by the aid of a Conservative majority. He would venture to prophesy that was not the last time they would see that combination. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Reports had long been going about, that a junction was to be formed to put a stop to the progress of Reform, and to the amelioration of our institutions. Amelioration—did he say—he begged pardon. The right hon. member for Lancashire had declared the Reform measure to be final; and the noble member for Northamptonshire had also pronounced a similar decree. [Lord Althorp denied this.] He begged pardon, he only spoke from the statements which he read in the newspapers. The noble Lord was there represented as upholding the finality of the Reform Bill, and in order to facilitate that event, the principle of Toryism was to be consecrated, by placing a Tory in the Chair of that House.
§ Lord Ebrington
said, that he could not help regretting that upon such an occasion as the present, the hon. member for Dublin 59 should have indulged in the topics which appeared to be something like personal reflections on the connexions of the right hon. Gentleman who had been now proposed for their choice, and he was sure that the House would pardon him in saying that, whatever might have been the public conduct of the persons in question, such conduct could not be laid to the account of the right hon. Gentleman, and such topics had no relation whatever to the question now before the House; and, to say the least of it, it would have been more in accordance with good taste and propriety to have omitted them. With regard to the immediate question now before them, he would confess that upon no occasion had he ever felt less difficulty in coming to a conclusion, and that conclusion he need scarcely add, was in favour of the Motion for the re-election of the right hon. Gentleman the member for the University of Cambridge. It would be quite unnecessary for him to trouble the House with any observations in support of the propriety of that re-election, but having been a Member of the House of Commons during the sixteen years which that right hon. Gentleman had presided over it, and having had, for several years previously, (for so long he was sorry to say, had he been a Member of that House), an opportunity of comparing the right hon. Gentleman's conduct with that of his predecessor, he could not refrain from expressing his cordial concurrence in everything which had fallen from the noble Lord and from the hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Burdett), respecting the merits and the qualifications of the right hon. Gentleman. He was happy to bear his humble testimony, in conjunction with theirs, as well to the ability with which that right hon. Gentleman had discharged the important duties of his office, as to the uniform candour, strict impartiality, and undeviating courtesy which he had always evinced—qualities which had secured for him upon all former occasions, as well as upon the present, the applause and approbation of all parties in that House—of his political opponents as well as of his political and personal friends. He could not, therefore, avoid congratulating this, the Reformed House of Commons, upon the opportunity which it had of selecting for its President, as he hoped it would, a person who, by long experience, was so admirably fitted to fill the situation, and who had, while occupy- 60 ing it, conciliated the respect of all who had seen him in it. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would, if advanced to the high honour which he (Lord Ebrington) trusted would be again conferred upon him—namely, that of being chosen to preside over an assembly of the real Representatives of the people, discharge the duties of his office with advantage to the House and to the country; and he was confident that the conduct altogether of the right hon. Gentleman in that situation would do as much honour to himself, and as much credit to the House of Commons, as it had previously done to other and former Houses very differently constituted from that to the Chair of which the right hon. Gentleman was now he trusted about to be called. He could not sit down without offering the humble tribute of his praise to the merits, and—compared with those of any other individual except the right hon. member for the University of Cambridge—he would say the unequalled merits of his hon. friend the member for Staffordshire, and his fitness for the situation of Speaker of that House; but he was sure that his hon. friend would be the first to acknowledge, that he detracted in no way from the respect which he entertained for his public character and public merits, when he postponed his claims to those of an individual who had for so long a period, and in such an efficient manner, presided over the House; and he was equally certain that his hon. friend cordially concurred in the opinion of, he believed, the great majority of the Members of that House as to the propriety of that right hon. Gentleman's re-appointment.
confessed, that since he first had the honour of a seat in that House, he had never found himself placed under circumstances of greater pain and difficulty, and embarrassment, than he was upon the present occasion, for though he concurred in all that had fallen from his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, he could not support his Motion; and though he felt as strongly impressed as any Member present with the great merits and valuable qualifications of the right hon. Gentleman whose re-election to the office of their Speaker was now proposed, he could not but regret that they should be driven to such an alternative. As he could not support the Motion of his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, he hoped that the House would allow him to state the rea- 61 sons which had induced him to come to a different determination from his hon. friend. He certainly agreed with his hon. friend that it was desirable that, in a Reformed House of Commons, such as we now had, the individual who presided over it should be one whose sentiments in a great degree harmonized with the sentiments and the general public opinion of the people of England. His hon. friend had said, that a Speaker of a Reformed House of Commons should be one who entertained sentiments that harmonized with the majority of the Members of that House, and of the people of the country at large; and he (Mr. Tennyson) perfectly coincided in the justice of that observation; but he would beg to remark, that as yet they did not know what were the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the member for the University of Cambridge, and they were in ignorance as to whether his sentiments harmonized or not with the sentiments and opinions of the people of England. He should be as anxious as his hon. friend the member for Middlesex to place in the Chair of a Reformed House of Commons an individual whose opinions agreed with those of the people at large, and he would wish to know what was the reason that such an opportunity had not been afforded to them upon the present occasion? He would wish to know whether there was any truth in those reports and rumours which had been glanced at by his hon. friend the member for Dublin—whether it could be true that the Ministers of the Crown had presumed to negociate with any one as to who should preside over that free Parliament? He could not bring himself to believe such rumours, for if he did, he should feel himself obliged to withdraw from his Majesty's Ministers that general support which it was his intention to give them; and, for his part, be would say, that he did not know any offence, that would better deserve impeachment than such an interference on the part of the servants of the King as to who should be the person to preside over the deliberations of that House; and he was quite sure that no man would agree in that opinion with him more readily than the right hon. Gentleman who sat below him, and who had so lately and so worthily filled the Chair of that House. He (Mr. Tennyson) should like to see the Ministers of the Crown distinctly disclaim the truth of such rumours. He should like to have 62 heard that the right hon. Gentleman whose re-appointment they were now discussing had ere this been elevated to a still higher and more honourable situation—a seat in the other House—which the long services of a laborious life had amply earned for him, and he should have felt grateful, in common with all those who had witnessed them, to that right hon. Gentleman for the impartiality, the courtesy, and the firmness which had uniformly marked the discharge of his public duties. It certainly, under all the circumstances of the case, struck him (Mr. Tennyson) with great surprise that that right hon. Gentleman should have appeared again in that House, but, finding him there, he (Mr. Tennyson) found it impossible to compare the qualifications of any untried Member with those which that right hon. Gentleman possessed for filling the office of Speaker of the House of Commons. He could not say that he wanted confidence in the right hon. Gentleman; he had, on the contrary, the most perfect confidence in him. He was quite sure that that right hon. Gentleman would embody the sentiments of that House, as it would be his duty to do, even though they should be repugnant to his own. He had always seen that right hon. Gentleman stand forward to support the rights and privileges of that House, and he was quite sure that such would continue to be the conduct of that right hon. Gentleman if he should be again called to fill the high office of Speaker of that House. He should like to know how far his hon. friend the member for Staffordshire deserved to be proposed, as his hon. friend the member for Middlesex had proposed him, for the selection of the House, as a Gentleman, who in his mind, represented the feelings of the people of England? He believed that his hon. friend, the member for Staffordshire, was as much opposed as the right hon. Gentleman could be to those measures which he (Mr. Tennyson) and his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, and others, held to be necessary for the perfecting of the measure of Reform; for the hon. member for Staffordshire was one of those, he believed, who held that the Reform Bill was to be a final measure; and, entertaining that opinion, it was not to be expected that his vote would be in favour of any of the measures required, as the people considered, for completing that measure. Under such circumstances, he should have 63 no difficulty in choosing between the two individuals now proposed for selection as the Speaker of that House. It would be difficult to find any individual so eminently qualified as the right hon. Gentleman was to fill that office, and, if personal merits should alone decide the question, there was no one who had higher claims upon them than that right hon. Gentleman. He remembered that, at the conclusion of one of the late Sessions of Parliament, he happened to be placed in collision with that right hon. Gentleman upon a point of order. Perhaps he had then exceeded the bounds of order, but, at all events, this he would say, that he was sure that neither party feeling nor political bias influenced the decision which was on that occasion made by the right hon. Gentleman, but that it was one which was solely prompted by a conscientious sense of his duty. He should, as he had already said, vote for the re-election of the right hon. Gentleman; at the same time, he could not avoid expressing his regret that his Majesty's Ministers had not adopted a course which would have been only just towards the right hon. Gentleman, and would have enabled the House to come with propriety to another conclusion.
§ Lord Althorp
I rise in consequence of the call which has been made upon me by my right hon. friend, and of the charge which has been made against his Majesty's Government, I shall, therefore, briefly state the reasons which induce me to give my vote as I shall do on the present occasion. My right hon. friend, and also the hon. member for Dublin, imputed to the King's Government the exercise of undue influence in the election of a Speaker. As far as my own knowledge is concerned, no influence has been used at all. With respect to the case, it is simply this:—I am perfectly ready to admit, and I agree with those Gentlemen who say, that if they found two Gentlemen of equal ability proposed as Speaker—with one of whom I agreed in opinion generally, and from the other of whom I differed—I should most assuredly give the preference to the former. But when I found that the right hon. Gentleman had again been returned as a Member of the present Parliament, I really am quite astonished that every Gentleman does not feel, as I did, the great advantages which must result from our possessing the benefit of his experience; and knowing, as we do, how he has per- 64 formed the duties of Speaker, I think we cannot but admit that his qualifications are pre-eminent, and that he is infinitely better fitted for that high situation than any other Member of the House can possibly be. I ma perfectly ready to say that, looking at my hon. friend the member for Staffordshire as an untried man, I have every reason to believe that he is perfectly qualified. But it is impossible to put in competition with a person of whose excellent conduct we have had such ample experience, one of whom we have had no experience at all; and I should have been guilty of the greatest dereliction of my duly if I had allowed any private consideration to influence my mind, and induce me to give my vote to any Gentleman who was not possessed of the same experience. Certainly, therefore, I avow to my right hon. friend, that I did write to the right hon. Gentleman to know, if he were elected Speaker, whether he would undertake the office; telling him that, if he would undertake to do so, he should have my support. I certainly did do so. The hon. and learned member for Dublin seems to think that this is dictating to the House. If we are now to talk of Ministers of the Crown dictating to a British House of Commons, I can only say, that we have wasted two years in bringing about Reform. I hope and trust that the measures which his Majesty's Ministers will bring forward may be such as to meet the approbation of the House, and of the people. It is my intention that they should do so, and there is one sentiment in the speech of my hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, in which I concur most completely: namely—that the Reform Bill was the means and not the end. I have been taunted with having spoken of the Reform Bill as a final measure. If I used the word final, it was not in the "sense supposed by the hon. and learned member for Dublin. If I said that the Reform of Parliament itself was final—I never meant that no other Reform was to be introduced, and that no advantages whatever were to accrue from it? Certainly not. I considered it final, and I supported it as final, as far as regarded the Constitution of the House itself, and as a means by which to effect other improvements, and other Reforms. The hon. and learned Member seems to think, because I made use of the word final, 65 that I ma opposed to those very Reforms of which I consider the Reform Bill only the foundation. In this respect, therefore I can only say, my language has been misinterpreted. I have laid the circumstances connected with the nature of my vote this day before the House; and I trust that it will consider that I have not done anything disrespectful or contrary to my duty. The right hon. Gentleman's great experience is such, that no other Gentleman can be put in comparison with him. No objection has been raised against him, except that he differs in politics with the majority of the House; and it is put by my hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, as if this was the first instance of a Speaker having been selected who differed in opinion from that majority. Why, in the very last Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman differed as completely from the majority as in the present. No Member, referring to his experience in that Parliament, can say that he suffered any inconvenience in consequence. I am sure the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly impartial, and the cause which we were then advocating met with not the slightest interruption. I confess I see no difficulty in the choice. As I said before, if the qualifications of both Candidates were equal, that might be a reason for preferring the Candidate whose opinions more nearly coincided with my own. On the score of economy, I entirely agree with the hon. member for Middlesex, that this question is one of too much importance to allow any such consideration as that of economy to have any influence. I cannot, however, admit the position which has been taken, that no saving will be effected; and I must say (though, perhaps, it is presumptuous in me to do so), that I differ from the hon. and learned member for Dublin in the interpretation of the Act of Parliament. The Act says, that the pension is not to commence till after the right hon. Gentleman ceases to be Speaker:—It points out the period of quitting the office, as that of the commencement of the pension; I therefore, think that, under the Act, the right to the pension will not accrue so long as the right hon. Gentleman shall continue to be our Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman himself takes the same view of the case. The mistake seems to arise from considering that the right hon. Gentle- 66 man ceased to be Speaker on the prorogation of Parliament, whereas he did not cease to be Speaker till the dissolution; and upon his being restored to the Chair, all claim to the pension is suspended.
§ Mr. W. Cobbett
spoke as follows: It appears to me that since I have been sitting here, I have heard a great deal of vain and unprofitable conversation. It seems to be thought that this is a mere question as to the greater or less fitness of the one Member or the other, to fill the office of Speaker of this House; but, in my opinion, there is another point which in a still greater degree requires our most serious consideration: I mean how the people will think on the subject, what regard they will consider has been paid to them in our choice, and what opinion they will form of us from our first act—the appointment of a Speaker. It has been very much the fashion to talk of the fitness of the Member proposed in other respects—of his experience, and all that; but in this case we ought to look among ourselves for one who may deserve to be considered by the people as an epitome of us. When we put a Speaker once in that Chair, we tell the people, in effect, to "look on that man, he is the chief of us." He ought, in fact, to be the best of us all; he will be considered the man whom we have chosen as the ablest and wisest among us; the most public spirited; and, in short, as I said before, the epitome of the House. In making our choice, we say to the people of England—" Look upon this man as our Representative, as we are Representatives of you." With respect to the Act of Parliament (but I suppose I must not say a single word about law)—with regard to the Act of Parliament which granted a pension to the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton, I must say I think the noble Lord (Althorp) is completely mistaken, and that the right hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly entitled by law, if re-elected Speaker, to continue to draw his pension as well as his salary. Now I will ask, is there any lawyer here, any merchant, or any literary man, who hears me, who does not know that if a quarter of his time were spent in the business which devolves upon the Chairman of this House, that business would not only be done effectually, but it would be done much better than it ever was yet? But the Speaker has not only an ample salary, 67 he has also a house besides, as well as allowances for clerks, and numerous other perquisites. Can any one say, under these circumstances, that the services of the Speaker are not amply paid by the salary which he receives while he holds the office? Is there any man who thinks that a salary equal to that which the United States consider sufficient for their President, is not sufficient for the President of the House of Commons? The right hon. Gentleman has been for sixteen years in the office of Speaker; he has received every year a salary of 6,000l.; he has thus taken from the starving people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, sixteen times 6,000l.; he has had besides very considerable emoluments over and above all this. Has the House, then, calling itself the Representative of the people of England, Scotland and Ireland, any right to saddle this country with a salary superior to that of the President of the United states—a salary greater than the income of the Chief Magistrate of a nation containing 10,000,000 of freemen? Yet it is a fact that the President of the United States has no greater salary than that of the late Speaker of the House of Commons. It is my opinion, that if these things were well sifted (and I shall take care that they be well sifted shortly)—it is my opinion that this House alone, with its attendants, officers, door-keepers, and so forth, costs this country more than the whole of the civil and political government of the United States of North America, even including its ten ambassadors to the different Courts of Europe. Let me call the attention of the House to the newness of the position in which they are at this moment placed, and to the effect which will probably be produced on the public mind, should their first act go to throw an additional burthen on the country. We may well believe, that the opinion of the country will not be very favourable to us, if such should be the case, when we take into consideration what the people have said on the subject of pensions in every one of their petitions on the subject of Reform; and it will not be very gracious to set out, in the face of the people's reiterated prayers, by saddling the country with one pension more. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Burdett) who has seconded the nomination of the right hon. Charles 68 Manners Sutton for Speaker, knows very well the nature of the petitions on the subject of Reform, for he had to do with a good many of them. I can safely declare, that in all my life, ever since I began to pay attention, in any considerable degree, to political matters of the kind (and that is a good while ago), I can safely say, that I do not remember one single petition, from first to last, on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, to which a petition for the Abolition of Pensions was not appended. I defy any Member to produce one petition in which this was not the case—one petition, I say, on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, in which the petitioners omitted a reform of expense, as the object of the former Reform. I defy the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) to point Out one such petition, presented during the last five-and-twenty years. Financial Reform was never forgotten; when it was prayed that the abuses which had crept into the Constitution should be removed, that prayer was invariably coupled with one for the removal of those burthens, which had been unjustly imposed on the people of this country—I mean every single pension which is not fully merited by services to the country. This is, in fact, what the people had uppermost in their minds, when they spoke on the subject of all other Reform. It would be ill answering their expectations, if a Reformed House were to commence its labours by imposing an additional burthen. What! will a Reformed House of Commons continue to make the poor man pay forty times as much for articles of consumption as the rich man, in proportion to his means? According to Cocker—I will bring them to Cocker—let them apply to Cocker, and Cocker will tell them that the poor man pays forty times as much tax on some sorts of articles as the rich man does. But not only does the right hon. Gentleman seek to take this pension of 4,000l. himself, but to continue to his son too a little pension of 3,000l. for his life also, all for services performed during sixteen years, for which services the father has already been fully and amply remunerated. During these years, the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton received about 100,000l. for the performance of his duties as Chairman of the House of Commons; and now the country has to pay pensions for two lives, which, reckoning these lives to last a reasonable time, may enable them (father and 69 son) to receive 200,000l. more. With their pockets already crammed with the people's money, they must pocket twice as much more. Depend upon it, Mr. Ley [the Clerk of the House, who presides before the Speaker is chosen], that if the people of this country are to be peaceable and quiet, they must learn to love us as children love their parents. We must be both kind and just to them. Is this, then, the way in which the House is to show the people that they can depend upon them? Are we about to tell the overtaxed people—the people who are in a state of starvation and of suffering, as my hon. colleague will show the House hereafter, such as cannot be described—a state that no one could believe unless he saw it, while the people are paying 5s. per pound, instead of 1s. 3d., for tea;—are we about to tell that people that no relief is to be expected from us, as we shall in effect do, if the first Act of this House be the placing that man in the Chair, who has already received such large sums of the public money? The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) has talked as if it were in the power of Government to cause the payment of this pension to cease, He spoke as if he could drive a bargain with the right hon. Gentleman, and make a contract with him, that should he be reelected his retiring pension should cease. The late Parliament bestowed 4,000l. a-year on their Speaker, at his retirement from office, and 3,000l. a-year for his son, or any male heir, I suppose. It was an Act of Parliament that bestowed these pensions, and nothing can rescind it but another Act of Parliament; and, in my opinion, the noble Lord is quite mistaken as to the meaning of that Act. I will ask the hon. member for Ireland (I don't recollect the particular place, just now, that he is Member for, and I call him, therefore, the member for Ireland),—I ask, then, the hon. member for Ireland (Mr. O'Connell), who is a lawyer, whether there must not be another Act of Parliament before the pension can be rescinded? It is a bargain—he has got a contract; and nothing can take the pension away but another Act of Parliament. How much honesty, moderation, and merciful consideration of the people there was, in a transaction by which he was rewarded for filling his late situation for sixteen years, by losing 6,000l. a-year on his retirement, and receiving 4,000l. instead, for doing nothing, I will not now stop to consider. He 70 has got his hand in the people's pockets, and he will not soon draw it out. The noble Lord thinks the pension will cease on his being re-elected; but depend upon it it will not cease. What is the situation, then, in which the House is now placed, with respect to this appointment? If the right ho. Charles Manners Sutton should be re-elected, as apparently he will be: (I know nothing of the right hon. Gentleman's qualifications, for I never saw him in his Chair in my life, and know nothing at all about him),—if he be reelected, the House tells the people that their hopes will be disappointed, because the people will judge of their future conduct from their appointment of a man who has driven such bargains with the money of the people. Such an appointment shall not receive ray assent; and there are, I have no doubt, a good many others who will not agree to it. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman to be appointed Speaker of this House; if the House chose, it could not then undo the appointment. The right hon. Gentleman might go immediately and sell his pension, which he may do if he chooses—he may go this afternoon and sell it as an annuity for life, if he chooses to do so. Will the House consent to injustice so flagrant? Are we going to say to the nation, look up to this man, with his pockets crammed with the people's money, as the Speaker of the Reformed House of Commons—as the first Commoner of England? Is this the way in which you are to tear the leaves out of the accursed Red Book? You are clapping new leaves in. In conclusion, I must protest against the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman as Speaker of the House of Commons, because such an appointment will be, in my opinion, an open declaration of war against the people of England.
§ Mr. Warburton
could not, by any means, assent to the opinion of some hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on this question, when they affirmed that the fitness of the candidates to fill beneficially the office for which they were to be appointed, was only a secondary consideration, and ought to weigh but little with the House, when put in competition with weightier matters. At the same time, he must agree with those hon. Gentlemen who had made political character the most essential qualification, so far as to say, that when the pretensions of the candidates, in point of fitness to fill 71 the situation efficiently, were equal, the preference ought to be given by a Reformed House of Commons to that candidate, whose opinions agreed most nearly with those of the majority of that House. It was by no means of little importance, that the man who filled that Chair should be such a one as they might look up to with pride, and say, "Behold the man whom the people delighteth to honour!" He had risen to state a few points, which he observed, had been either wholly omitted, or but partially noticed by the preceding speakers. On no former occasion had a pension been granted to a retiring Speaker, until that Speaker had actually ceased to fill the Chair. That in this case could not possibly have taken place with the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton, for he continued Speaker until Parliament was dissolved. It was wrong to imagine that a prorogation put an end to his official character. There was no former instance of a Speaker who had received a pension before his retirement. He was satisfied, however, by the whole conduct of the hon. Gentleman, that he would never allow his political opinions to bias, in the slightest degree, his conduct as Chairman of the House of Commons; but the precedent was decidedly bad, as far as regarded the voting of a pension to him before his retirement, as it took away one of the guarantees which the House possessed for his good conduct in the Chair; and if the right hon. Gentleman should, as he believed he would, be again re-elected their Speaker, the least that could be expected from Government was, that either they themselves or some of their supporters in that House should make a Motion, in order that the vote of the last Parliament on this subject might be rescinded at the earliest possible period of the ensuing Session; so that the House might again have in its own hands that security for his good behaviour, which, however unnecessary in the present case, it was always desirable that the House should hold. The noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) had said, that, cœteris paribus, the House ought undoubtedly to elect that Member for Speaker whose political opinions most nearly coincided with those of the majority of the House. Now, from the experience which he (Mr. Warburton) had had of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct while formerly seated in that Chair, he was ready and anxious to pay him those compliments, 72 which his great merit and unimpeached impartiality so eminently deserved. No person who had ever any dealings with him, either in his public or private capacity, would refuse to acknowledge thus much; but on an occasion like the present, when the question was about performing the first act in a House of Commons from which the people expected so much—when the debate was about performing an act, to which there was every probability that the people were now directing their attention, as expecting to find in it the first earnest of their success, or the first indication of coming disappointments—on an occasion like that, a man might be allowed to drop the language of compliment, and unbosom himself freely and fully, and without regard to considerations of mere politeness. He would, therefore, speak to one point, which, in his mind, would go a great way to reduce the candidates more nearly to a level, in point of ability, to perform the duty of the office in question. He would therefore beg, as delicately as possible, but at the same time plainly, to observe, that the due performance of his duties required physical as well as mental qualifications. On many occasions during the last Parliament, he had observed with pain, the extreme ill health under which the Speaker was labouring, while seated in the Chair; and he would, therefore, now call the attention of the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) who proposed, and of the hon. Baronet (Sir Francis Burdett) who seconded the nomination, to this subject. For his own part, he (Mr. Warburton) could not help entertaining doubts as to his (Mr. Charles Manners Sutton's) ability to go through the arduous duties which must devolve upon a Speaker of a Reformed House of Commons. At all times, as difficult as they are important, the duties of the man who should next fill that Chair, would be infinitely more difficult, and infinitely more important than at any time heretofore. In balancing, therefore, the merits of the two Gentlemen who had been put in nomination (his opinion might be thought an odd one; but in so important a matter, as he had before said, it was desirable that hon. Members should unbosom themselves with perfect candour)—in balancing the qualifications of the Members proposed, he considered that the physical requisites of both candidates should be taken into account; and ill that case he certainly thought 73 that the vigorous frame of the hon. member for Staffordshire afforded more promise of continued efficiency than the ill health under which he was sorry to observe that the right hon. Gentleman had laboured during the last Session. He should now sit down; but he would observe, in conclusion, that if no Member should be found on an early occasion, to propose that the vote of the last Parliament should be rescinded, he would himself propose, that all that part of the vote of the House of Commons by which a retiring pension of 4,000l. for his own life, and of 3,000l., for that of his son, be conferred on the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton, should be repealed.
§ Mr. Manners Sutton
was understood to express the considerable embarrassment under which he rose on the occasion, for he hardly knew how, on the one hand, to avoid the imputation of unwarrantable vanity if he gave vent to the feelings inspired by the kind opinions which had from all parts of the House been given of his exertions to perform the very arduous and most important duties of that office in the House of Commons which he had filled for sixteen years, and, on the other, how to shun the appearance of culpable indifference if he failed to express the satisfaction and gratitude he felt. Whatever sentiments he had heard expressed with respect to his fitness in other particulars, he heard no opinion mentioned on any side unfavourable to his impartiality; and whatever other claims his friends might flatter themselves that he possessed to the high honour of presiding in the House of Commons, to this, at least, he would lay claim—he would take credit to himself for the strictest impartiality in his decisions. On this, as on every occasion, he felt it to be his duty to submit implicitly to the decision of the House. No man could more deeply or more painfully feel than he, the difficulty of duly performing the arduous duties which he was again willing to take upon himself if it should please the House to re-appoint him. He knew well, better than most men, the responsibility which that man must incur in all cases who consents to fill that Chair. Proud and grateful as he was for the compliments which had been so liberally bestowed upon him from all quarters of the House, he could not be so far led away by them as to imagine that the House of Commons could not easily find 74 among their Members a better occupant of that distinguished seat. As to capacity and fitness, he could lay claim to but a very moderate share; but he at least possessed long experience. He would again, however, obey the commands of the House, if it should be its pleasure again to impose them upon him. Among the qualifications which every man ought to bring when he ventured to occupy the Speaker's Chair, that which he had before mentioned was certainly of paramount importance—he meant the strictest impartiality; and to that he would appeal again to the House whether he might not justly lay claim. This was, indeed, no merit to lay claim to. It was only claiming the character of an honest man; for it was very difficult to draw a distinction between honesty and the strictest impartiality, in filling an office like that in question. Surely it could not now be supposed that he would suffer a political bias to sway his judicial decisions. For sixteen years had he performed the duties of Speaker of the House of Commons; for sixteen years was it admitted that he had suffered no political feeling to outweigh his sense of duty; for sixteen years he had taken care not to allow his perceptions to be dimmed by prejudices; and was it credible that he would be so blinded now, as to suffer them to draw their mist over his eyes? Should the House withdraw its confidence from him now, he should at least have this consolation—that the six successive Parliaments in which he had sat as Speaker of the House of Commons would be sufficient to do him justice. If it should be the pleasure of the House of Commons, to elect the hon. member for Staffordshire, whatever assistance in the discharge of his duty sixteen years' experience would enable him to render that hon. Gentleman should most cheerfully be given to him, or to any other Member of the House who might be appointed. In conclusion he would say, that, notwithstanding his sense of his own imperfections, and of the difficulties of the task which he should have to undertake, if it should be the pleasure of the House to re-appoint him, he would exert himself to the utmost, as he had done before, to discharge his duty to the House, to the country, and he would say, as an honest man, his duty to himself.
§ Mr. Methuen
observed, that he considered himself to be standing there as the Representative of the people of England, 75 and on their part, he thought it his duty to call upon Ministers for some explanation respecting their intentions with regard to the continuance of the pension of 4,000l. to Mr. Manners Sutton, in the event of his re-election. He thought it extremely desirable, indeed absolutely necessary, to have that question answered before they should proceed to a division. Admitting that the right hon. Gentleman was possessed of all the qualities requisite in the man who was to fill the Chair, although he should be sorry to vote against him, he could not vote for his again obtaining an office by which he would receive 6,000l. a-year in addition to the pension of 4,000l. before granted him. An opportunity of settling this point had already been afforded, and he was surprised that it had not been more early taken advantage of. It would be more to the credit of the Government, of the House, and of the right hon. Gentleman himself; it would, above all, be more satisfactory to the people of England, if that explanation should be given before they came to a decision—if the question were at once answered, whether it was or was not intended that the right hon. Charles Sutton, if re-appointed Speaker of the House of Commons, should hold the pension of 4,000l. in addition to his salary as Speaker?
§ Mr. Manners Sutton
said, he would answer the question of the hon. Member in one short sentence. He conceived that, according to the law of England, and according to the intention of the Legislature in the Act of Parliament in question, the person holding the office of Speaker of the House of Commons could not receive 1s. of the pension spoken of so often. That, he added, was his firm belief with respect to the law on this point, and that was his conviction with respect to the intention of the Legislature; but whatever might actually be the law, or whatever the intention of the Legislature might be supposed to be, it was his firm determination, if re-elected to the Chair, not to receive 1s. of the pension while he had the honour to fill the Chair.
§ Major Beauclerk
must apologize to the House as a new Member, for proceeding to address it on such an important subject, but he wished to propose a resolution for reducing the salary of the Speaker, from 6,000l. to 4,000l. a-year. The hon. Member sat down on being informed that 76 it was not then the time for discussing such a resolution.
§ The House divided on Mr. Hume's Motion, that Mr. Littleton do take the Chair: Ayes 31; Noes 241—Majority 210.
|List of the AYES.|
|Baldwin, Dr. H.||Lloyd, J. H.|
|Beauclerk, Maj. A. W.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Bowes, J.||O'Connell, Daniel|
|Bulwer, E. L.||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Butler, hon. P.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Cobbett, William||O'Connell, John|
|Dykes, F. L. B.||Potter, Richard|
|Evans, George||Roche, William|
|Ewart, William||Roe, James|
|Faithful, G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Fielden, W. J.||Romilly, John|
|Grote, George||Sutton, rt. hon. CM.|
|Gaskell, Daniel||Strutt, Edward|
|Hume, Joseph||Vigors, N. A.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Watburton, Henry|
§ The Question put, that the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton be appointed Speaker of that House.
§ Mr. Cobbett
agreed with the hon. member for Surrey, that some resolution on the subject of the Speaker's salary should be adopted. The enormous salary, and the other great pecuniary advantages enjoyed by the Speaker of the House of Commons should make the Representatives of the people take it into their consideration. He begged to ask the House what fitter instance or opportunity could be taken for establishing a precedent by the reduction of the pensions with which the people were burthened than that to which he had now alluded more than once—namely, the pension so improperly given to the Speaker by the Act of the last Session? Here was a man for the last sixteen years, nay, almost from his infancy, receiving by thousands the public money; and who, out of doors, would not say it was highly improper such a man should be set up as the subject of their election, or as a sample of the House itself? If they were farmers, and used the language of that class, they would cry out, "As is the sample, so is the sack," Would it not be clear that the present House was, like the last, despite of the Reform, disposed to persevere in eternally putting its hands into the pockets of the poor people of this country, and taking from thence as much as it well could? If that right hon. Gentleman should be elected, he would be taken by the people to be a sample of the House 77 itself, and bad would they pronounce it to be. By such an imprudent act would they decide their own character with the people. For these reasons he was as much inclined to oppose the Motion now before the House as he was the former—an opposition which nothing he had yet heard would neutralize.
§ Mr. Faithful
said, that he came down to the House prepared to support the proposition for appointing the right hon. Gentleman Speaker of that House; but what he had since heard restrained him from immediately giving his countenance to that appointment. It was undoubtedly true that the right hon. Gentleman had himself stated, that if he were re-elected, he had no intention of availing himself of the Act, by which a pension had been granted to him. But it must strike every one, that a question of this great importance ought to be determined upon grounds abstracted from individual considerations; and ought not to be left to the decision of the acceptance or non-acceptance of any single person. He begged, therefore, to ask any of his Majesty's Ministers who were present, whether, in the event of Mr. Manners Sutton being re-elected to the Chair of that House, they were prepared, immediately after his re-election, to bring in a Bill for the express purpose of repealing the existing Act, by which a pension was conferred on that right hon. Gentleman? If his Majesty's Ministers would not pledge themselves to the production of such a Bill, he should not feel justified, in the discharge of his parliamentary duty, in relying on the mere assurance of an individual.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
must repeat his firm conviction, that there was no man, without exception, in that House, who could be put in competition with the right hon. Gentleman now proposed to fill the Chair, in all those qualities which were necessary to the discharge of the high and important duties attached to the office. To those hon. Members who had objected, on the ground of the retiring pension which had been conferred upon the right hon. Gentleman, Ministers had explained the opinion which they entertained of the Act of Parliament in question. But the opposition which was made to the re-appointment of Mr. Manners Sutton by those who were the advocates of public economy, was the most extraordinary, and exhibited the Strangest view of the case conceivable. 78 For how was it possible that any saving could be effected for the public, unless by the re-appointment of the right hon. Gentleman? The argument of economy, therefore, which in such an important case, however, was only of a straw's weight, was directly opposed to the opinion of the economists; for the only means of making a public saving was to re-appoint Mr. Manners Sutton to the Chair. If the Act by which the pension had been conferred on that right hon. Gentleman was as binding as it had been alleged to be by the hon. member for Oldham, and other hon. Members, undoubtedly it could not be repealed without the right hon. Gentleman's consent. But that consent he had understood the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to give. Let it be recollected that the pension had been already earned. He (Sir Francis Burdett) was persuaded, that the people at large would not think that the right hon. Gentleman had been overpaid for his eminent services. He should very much like to see any one of those who thought that the duties of the Speaker of the House of Commons might be more cheaply purchased, and that that officer was overpaid, placed for a time in the Chair, in order to ascertain whether, with half the salary, or with a quarter of the salary, or with no salary at all, the public would be so well served, or so well satisfied, as when the deliberations of the House had been under the direction of the accomplished individual in question.
§ Mr. Warburton
observed, that the question, whether in the present instance the right hon. Gentleman, if re-elected, would draw not only his salary as Speaker, but the pension guaranteed to him by an Act of Parliament, had been decided by the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, that even if the Act would allow him to accept the pension, he would not accept it. But the much greater question was, the dangerous precedent of voting a pension to the Speaker of that House before his final retirement from the Chair. If this precedent were established, what was to prevent any future Minister from proposing to vote a pension to a Speaker, after long service, but before he left the Chair of that House? Nothing could be more dangerous than such a precedent. Although he was quite sure, that the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in the Chair would not vary one tittle in consequence of the pension which had been voted to 79 him, yet as he strongly felt the danger that would attend any precedent of that kind, he hoped the Act by which that pension had been conferred would be repealed.
§ The Solicitor General
said, that as an appeal had been made to him for his opinion upon the law of the case, he would not hesitate to express it. His opinion was, that the right hon. Gentleman, if reelected, could not receive under that Act his retiring pension for services. The right hon. Gentleman had not discontinued to be Speaker in consequence of the dissolution. He was and would continue, for many purposes, Speaker of that House, and he was then Speaker until an election of another Speaker took place, for the purpose of receiving a salary as such Speaker. In addition to the incapacity by law to receive the retiring pension if he were re-elected, the House had the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman himself upon the subject of his having no intention to assert a right to claim the retiring pension.
Mr. O' Connell
was free to admit, that the learned Gentleman's conclusion was perfectly just, if his premises were valid. But he could not admit their validity, for he had yet to learn how there could be a Speaker to a Parliament not in existence. Were they to understand from the learned Gentleman that at a dissolution every circumstance connected with the practical existence and privileges of the House of Commons was at an end—or at least in abeyance—excepting the office of the Speaker? And yet the learned Gentleman's doctrine was, if it meant anything, to that effect. For his own part, he knew of no Act of Parliament which preserved the political existence of the Speaker during the dissolution of the Parliament.
§ Lord Althorp
The learned member for Dublin must be aware that in the event of the demise of the Crown, after the dissolution of an old Parliament, and before the meeting of a new Parliament, the old Parliament must re-assemble, with its Speaker at its head. Although the Parliament was constitutionally defunct, yet the Speaker continued to receive his salary and exercise the privileges of his office till the appointment of his successor in a new Parliament.
Yes; but then Parliament itself, by express statute, also preserves its existence under certain conditions.
§ Mr. Hume
The learned Solicitor General's argument would hold good if either he or the noble Lord could show a single case in which a Speaker of that House received his salary for a period during which Parliament was in a state of dissolution. The hon. member for Brighton's question, therefore, in the absence of the proof of such a case, was well deserving the attention of the House; nor, indeed, could he see any valid objection that could be raised to its being explicitly answered. Let them consider the force of the question. At present, if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Manners Sutton) were elevated to the Chair without a revision of the Act conferring on him a pension, he would be placed in a position so wholly independent of the esteem and good-will of that House, that, supposing his conduct should be of such a character as to compel the House to expel him from his office, he could fall back upon his pension wholly regardless of the House's censure or reluctance to appropriate the public money to the payment of that pension. By an act of the Legislature the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to a pension of 4,000l. from the moment he ceased to preside in that House, and no mere declaration of any Minister could counteract that statute. The noble Lord might express in that House his reluctance to propose a vote for the payment of the pension under the supposed case just put, but a Court of Law would soon convince him that only an express statute of the Legislature could repeal or modify one of its own solemn acts. The House, therefore, should pause ere it re-elected the right hon. Gentleman, and should bear in mind that it was suddenly called upon to elect a man who was, as a pensioner of the State, wholly independent of the people and their Representatives. He trusted, therefore, the first act of a Reformed Parliament would not be the establishing of a precedent so bad in principle as that of electing to their Chair a Gentleman who was above the need of adapting his conduct to the obtaining their approbation. The hon. member for Brighton was right, therefore, in asking Ministers whether they intended to bring forward a Bill for repealing the Speaker's Salary Act of last Session, and placing the right hon. Gentleman where he was before the passing of that Act—namely, dependent upon his own good conduct for the reward which Parliament was wont to confer upon those 81 who honestly and ably discharged the important duties attached to the Chair of that House. He (Mr. Hume), for one, would not have permitted that Pension Act to have passed if he could have anticipated a case like the present. Indeed, the principle of electing a person over whose conduct they possessed no efficient control to their Chair was so objectionable that hon. Gentlemen, he was convinced, would not for a moment assent to the Motion till Ministers had announced their intention to repeal an act which thus placed the individual candidate above their control.
The Attorney General
would admit that the hon. Member (Mr. Hume) was perfectly correct in stating that no mere declaration of a Minister could reverse the provisions of a legislative enactment, but he more than questioned the accuracy of the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the Speaker's Pension Act of the last Parliament. He would take it upon him to declare that that Act most explicitly provided that the pension should not be paid till the right hon. Gentleman had ceased to be Speaker, and he would further take it upon him to declare that the right hon. Gentleman was, by the laws passed for regulating the office and salary of the Speaker, actually Speaker of the House of Commons, and as such entitled to receive the salary attached to the office till within the last few hours—in point of fact, till the commencement of the present discussion. No hon. Member could deny that, in the event of the demise of the Crown, though the Parliament was virtually dissolved, the Speaker contiued to receive his salary and exercise the functions of his office till a successor had been appointed in the new Parliament; and no honourable Member who carefully read the Act which thus continued his salary could deny that Mr. Manners Sutton was entitled to receive, at the quarter-day, the salary of Speaker, till, as he had stated, within the very few last hours. Besides, the letter, no less than the spirit, of the Act of last Session, expressly provided that the pension should not come into operation till the right hon. Gentleman had entirely ceased to exist as Speaker—that is, the right hon. Gentleman had not more than some two hours claim to his pension.
The Attorney General
.—The fair interpretation of the Act was, that the salary and pension could not co-exist in the same quarter. The right hon. Gentleman did not, on the 5th of January (the last quarter-day), demand his pension.
The Attorney General
had already explained that the quarter-day fell within the period during which the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to receive his salary as Speaker.
An Hon. Member
on the Opposition side of the House, was against the re-appointment of the late Speaker. Did they intend to let it be inferred by the public that they were forced to re-elect a Tory Speaker, because they had not amongst themselves a Whig candidate for this high office?
§ The Solicitor General
begged leave, for the information of the House, and to put an end altogether to the legal cavils of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, to read from the Act for regulating the salary of Speaker, which he held in his hand, the provisions under which, in the event of a dissolution of Parliament, the individual holding that office was entitled to receive the salary attached to it, "till a Speaker is chosen in the new Parliament." Under this provision, therefore, Mr. Manners Sutton, the Speaker of the last Parliament, was and would be entitled to his salary till his successor be appointed; and, under the provisions of the Act of last Session, by being thus entitled to his salary, he was not, and could not be, entitled to claim or receive his retiring annuity.
§ The question was then put by the Clerk—" That the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton do take the Chair of this House as Speaker," and was agreed to with all but unanimous acclamation.
§ The right hon. Gentleman was accordingly led to the Chair by Lord Morpeth and Sir Francis Burdett, his proposer and seconder, and immediately addressed the House to the following effect:—" I am deeply grateful to the House for the high honour which they have just conferred upon me. I have now only to express my hope that, by a constant attention to the rights 83 and privileges of the House, by a strict adherence to those rules and orders by which alone our deliberations can be advantageously conducted, by the utmost courtesy to every individual Member of the House, by readily affording every information which it may be in my power to communicate, and by doing all I can to facilitate the transaction of public and private business, I may be so fortunate as to experience from the present Parliament the same confidence which I was so fortunate as to experience from the six Parliaments which have preceded it."
§ Lord Althorp
said, that in rising to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and to congratulate the House on what had just taken place, he could not but advert with the greatest satisfaction to the fact, that during the previous discussion there was not one hon. Member who had spoken, and who, like himself, had had experience of the right hon. Gentleman's great qualities, who had not borne his warm testimony to them. With respect to what had fallen from one hon. Member, of the political tendencies of the right hon. Gentleman, his (Lord Althorp's) experience justified him in assuring that hon. Gentleman, and all those hon. Gentlemen who were new to the House, that those tendencies never exhibited themselves in the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in the Chair. For much the greater portion of the time during which he (Lord Althorp) had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had differed from the opinion of the majority; but, during that period, he had been treated with just as much courtesy by the right hon. Gentleman, and had received just as much parliamentary assistance from him as since he had sat on the Ministerial side of the House. Although he entertained political opinions different from those of the right hon. Gentleman, he had never found that difference influencing the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in the Chair.