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Meeting of Parliament-Discussions in the House of Commons on the choice of a Speaker-Re-election of Mr. Manners Sutton-King's Speech at the opening of the Session-Debate of four days in the House of Commons, on the Address-Amendments moved by Mr. O'Connell, and Mr.Tennyson, both lost-Address proposed by Mr. Cobbett rejected -New Regulations for the business of the House proposed and adopted -Case of Mr. Pease-admitted to take his seat on giving his solemn Affirmation as a Quaker, instead of taking the Oaths.
S the meeting of the first House of Commons. Scarcely parliament ap- more numerous were the Conproached, public attention servatives who held that the directed with some anxiety to- democratic part of the constituwards its probable temper and tion had been rendered by far too deliberations. The result of the powerful, and were prepared to general election, so far as the resist the application of this new sentiments of the persons elected power as an instrument for overcould be ascertained, had shown turning other institutions of the that the party which was inclined country, and unsettling the whole to go extravagant lengths in frame of government. The great overturning existing institutions, majority of the house consisted of and which was termed the party members inclined to follow and of the Radicals or Destructives, support the ministry; and would form a minority in the there seldom could be an occasion VOL. LXXV. [B]
on which the two divisions of the opposition, differing more from each other than either of them did from the ministry, could be expected to unite, every thing seemed to promise that the government would be omnipotent in parliament. Their measures might fall far short of what was expected and desired by the lovers of farther innovations, and might go far beyond what the conservatives deemed safe or expedient; but the ministers were sure of being joined by the one of those parties to overcome the resistance or check the fervour of the other. To one danger, indeed, ministers were exposed-a danger, however, which they themselves had created, -their performances must either fall greatly short of what they had promised, and produce disappointment, or they must throw themselves, to support their popularity, into a career of dangerous and unconstitutional change on which they did not wish voluntarily to enter. The public agitation which they had created and fostered in the great mass of the people, for the purpose of carrying the Reform Bill, had produced extravagant expectations, that the meeting of a reformed parliament would necessarily be followed by the redress of everything deemed a grievance, and the cure of everything called an evil-that all taxes complained of would forthwith disappear-that the cornlaws would fall to make way for cheap bread--that the wages of labour would be increased, while the price of all things necessary to the support, or comfortable enjoyment, of life would be reduced that further political changes, too, would be adopted, rendering the House of Commons still more
directly a mere organ for bringing external impulses to act upon the government-that the House of Lords must never more be allowed to exercise an independent voice in the legislature-and that every demand of the larger constituencies now created, or of still larger assemblies which were not constituencies, would be readily conceded. It was substantial advantages like these, which alone gave the Reform Bill any value in the eyes of the great mass of the people; and, in the elections, many members had pledged themselves to measures which no sober government could ever think of proposing. The expectations thus raised, could not be realized; and popular disappointment could not fail to injure the popularity of ministers. But this was a misfortune which they had brought upon themselves-a consequence to which every man must submit, who pampers popular delusions, or flatters popular exaggerations, in order that he may effect an immediate and special purpose. In the House of Lords, which ministers themselves had taught the people to treat with contempt and violent menacing defiance, the majority was still hostile to them, and they were well aware that no measure of dangerous innovation could be carried through it without risking its destruction and a popular convulsion. All, or nearly all, the sixteen representative peers returned by the nobility of Scotland were conservative; and government preceded the opening of the Session by the creation or promotion of seven ministerial peers. The marquises of Stafford and Cleveland became dukes of Sutherland and Cleveland. The marquis of Conyngham and viscount Falkland were made British peers.
The marquis of Tavistock, eldest son of the duke of Bedford, and lord Stanley, eldest son of the earl of Derby, were made barons; and Mr. Western, the defeated ministerial candidate for one of the divisions of the county of Essex, at the general election, was consoled for his disappointment by receiving a peerage under the title of Baron Western.
The parliament was opened by commission on the 29th of January, and the Commons immediately proceeded to the election of a Speaker. When Mr. Manners Sutton, the former Speaker, resigned the chair on the last prorogation of the preceding parliament, an act had been passed for granting him a pension of 4,000l. a year; but ministers had not thought fit to grant him a peerage, a mark of honour usually bestowed on those who had filled the chair of the house for so long a period, during such important discussions, and with such distinguished applause from all parties. At the general election, he had been returned as one of the members for the university of Cambridge; and ministers having obtained his consent to put him in nomination, resolved to support his election to the chair in the new parliament. They thought that the new constitution of the house rendered the aid of an experienced guide peculiarly necessary; and they could gain for themselves the praise of economy, as the country would thus have to pay only the salary of a Speaker actually filling the office, instead of being likewise burdened with the pension of a retired Speaker. On the other hand, the more violent reformers had resolved to oppose the election of Mr. Sutton on the score of his
politics, and to make out that no money would be saved, as they held he would be entitled both to his salary and his pension.
As the intention of ministers had not been kept concealed, Mr. Hume took the lead against them, by moving that Mr. Littleton, one of the members for Staffordshire, should take the chair. Admitting the preeminent qualifications of Mr. Sutton for the office, he objected to him that, as he had been an opponent of the Reform Bill, the house, if he were elected, would have a Speaker entertaining sentiments at variance with its own. It was of the highest importance, he argued, that the Speaker should concur in the same general political sentiments with the majority of the members. The people had enjoyed a greater share in electing the present parliament than any of its predecessors; they thus were immediately connected than formerly with the appointment of, the Speaker; and it was therefore more necessary than heretofore that the Speaker should have opinions in common with the majority of those who were to elect him. It was fair to assume, that a majority of the house was decidedly favourable to reform. Ought they not, then, to have one presiding over them whose general political opinions were in unison with their own? Was it possible for any reformer not to believe that circumstances might occur, in which, without being conscious of it himself, a bias might exist in the mind of an individual presiding over that house which might be prejudicial to the success of measures of reform-a bias arising from his own conscientious objections to reform? He was
far from imputing any thing like unfairness to the former Speaker; but he put it as a general proposition, that a man holding conscientiously political opinions quite opposed to those of the body over whom he presided could not expect to enjoy the confidence of that body. No man could dispute the necessity of choosing a person who should have the full confidence of the house and of the country. But was it possible that the people could feel confidence in an individual opposed, however conscientiously, to the reform which they so ardently desired, or in the house properly discharging its duties, if it made such a choice? He, for his own part, could not have confidence in it; and if the house elected an anti-reformer to fill the chair, the people of England would look upon it as the result of their fear of the anti-reformers in the other house, or as a compromise between the two parties. Dissatisfaction could not fail to be excited, when ministers thus gave up the only honourable appointment that was in the gift of the people; all other appointments being in the hands of the crown. It was impossible to reconcile any man's mind to the sincerity of those who held out to the people that they would carry into effect all the consequences of the Reform Bill, when 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 representatives who could make such a selection. In Mr. Littleton the house would find talent, experience, and great aptitude for business. It was only necessary to appeal to the
manner in which he had discharged his duties in the house, session after session, to ascertain whether he was qualified or not. No candidate, on the four or five last nominations of a new Speaker, could have boasted of previous experience equal to that with which Mr. Littleton would enter on the office. His station in life, too, and his fortune, were important things to be looked at, as they gave a guarantee against pensions. As to the economical view of the case, Mr. Hume considered any such paltry and trifling consideration beneath the diguity of the house, when the furthering or retarding of the public interests was at stake. Besides, although he had not seen the act regulating the retiring allowance of the late Speaker, he had been informed that, according to its wording, if the house should re-elect Mr. Sutton, Sutton, that gentleman would still be entitled to his pension of 4,000l. The pension was to cease only on his getting an appointment from the crown; but this was an appointment from the people.
Mr. O'Connell, who seconded Mr. Hume's motion, at once denounced the intention of government as "another instance of the paltry truckling of the present administration.' The question was nothing else than this-were they to elect a tory Speaker, or a Speaker favourable to reform? There was a considerable degree of fitness in both the gentlemen proposed, and the question was, whether a reformed house of commons was to have a reformer or a tory for its Speaker;-of what advantage was the Reform Bill if it did not put down toryism in England? The bill was intended
to destroy toryism, and to protect the public property, of which no body of individuals had received more than the family of Mr. Sutton, which at one time had commanded he knew not how many rotten boroughs. The late Speaker himself had given good service for his salary, which was certainly a large one, but then he had been tasked harder than a factory child. Still, however, there was no family in the kingdom, different members of which had received so much of the public money for no service whatever. Would it not then be the triumph of toryism to place in the chair a gentleman who supported such principles? Ministers had sent their letters abroad, and the situation had been offered before it was asked. The people had been struggling, almost to rebellion, to get rid of the tory faction; and yet the House of Commons was about to place a tory in its chair, as the first step towards the extinction of tory principles. He protested, therefore, against this relapse into toryism, carried by a conservative majority; and he would venture to prophecy, that this would not be the last time the house would see such a combination to resist principle. Neither was the proposal even the proposal even economical. He believed that Mr. Sutton had already received two quarters of his pension; and the pension, having once been recognized, would go on till he received an office from the King. Mr. Sutton might make a voluntary sacrifice of it; but, as the law stood, he might retain it, as well as draw the salary.
On the other side, Lord Morpeth moved, and Sir Francis Burdett seconded the motion, that Mr.
Sutton should take the chair. They insisted on the admitted fact that, in so far as the possession of all the qualities required for the office was concerned, the house would be a gainer, if Mr. Sutton were again called to preside over its deliberations. 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 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 such long practical experience and tried ability. The only objection stated was, that he did not hold the same political opinions with the majority of the house. This circumstance was rather in his favour, since no man could even insinuate that that gentleman's political sentiments had ever been allowed to bias his conduct in presiding candidly and impartially over the deliberations of the house. It was only necessary to recollect the great struggles regarding the reform bill, during the whole course of which the Speaker had never made any difference between one member and another. It was no disparagement to Mr. Littleton not to be preferred to such a competitor. Neither he, nor any other member, be their merits what they might, could be a just competitor with Mr. Sutton, because, allowing the intellectual and moral qualities of each party to be equal, the long practical experience of the latter put all competition entirely out of the question. At a time of diffi culty in the eyes of all, the chair ought to be filled, not by one of