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Irish Life and Character 

The Life of Daniel O'Connell 

The Viceroy's Post-Bag 

The Book of Parliament 

Parliament : its Romance, Comedy, and Pathos 

Sir Benjamin Stone's Parliamentary Pictures 












First Published in igi4 



THIS book is based mainly on the parliamentary 
records, original and official, especially as they 
appear in the light cast upon them by scholarly 
editors and commentators, supplemented by my own obser- 
vation of the House of Commons from the Reporters' 
Gallery, a deeply interesting study extending over twenty- 
four years. The principal sources of information from 
which I have largely drawn are, giving them in their 
chronological sequence, the Rolls of Parliament^ the Journals 
of the House of Commons, and the Parliamentary Debates, 
the latter being popularly known as " Hansard." 

The origin of the Speakership is to be found in " The 
Good Parliament " held in 1376, the fiftieth year of the reign 
of Edward III. The Rolls began in 1278, the sixth year of 
the reign of Edward I., and ended in 1503, the nineteenth 
year of the reign of Henry Vll. They consist of reports 
by Chancery officials concerning the petitions, pleas, and 
proceedings of Parliament, and were printed by order in 
six folio volumes during the years 1767 to 1777 under the 
title Rotuli Parliamentum. As the records in the early 
volumes are given in a mixture of Norman- French, Latin, 
and ancient English, the study of them is beset with many 
difficulties. Happily they were unlocked to the general 
student by a copious index in a folio volume of 1036 pages, 
published in 1832 by order of the House of Lords, which 
constitute an admirable guide to the information contained 



in these records. Much that is in them is shadowy and 
obscure. Too often the entries are as brief as brief could be. 
The most important and interesting events are treated with 
an economy of words that is at times disappointing, if not 
exasperating. But it would, of course, be too much to 
expect to find a full and picturesque account of the doings 
of Parliament in these ancient chronicles ; and with all their 
brevity and incompleteness, they are of high value to the 

While the printed Journals of the House of Lords com- 
mence in 1509, the first year of the reign of Henry Vlii., the 
printed Journals of the House of Commons do not begin until 
1547, the first year of the reign of Edward VI. Not only 
have the ofificial records of the Commons before 1547 dis- 
appeared, but in the printed volumes there is a blank 
between 1581 and 1603, the years of the latter half of the 
ten Parliaments of Elizabeth, though fortunately much 
information concerning them is to be found in The Journals 
of all tJte Parliaments during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, 
compiled by the antiquary, Sir Symonds D'Ewes, who was 
a Member of Parliament in the reign of Charles I., and seems 
to have had access to the official records since lost, as well 
as to many private sources of authority. The Commons 
Journals now consist of 166 folio volumes, bringing the 
ofificial report made by the Clerks of the House down to 
the end of the year 1910. The opening volume carries the 
record down to March 2, 1628, the fourth year of the reign 
of Charles I. It has no date of publication. The fly-leaf 
of the copy in the British Museum Library contains the 
written inscription, " Presented by Order of His Majesty, 
January 24, 1772," but it was in 1742 that the Journals were 
first printed by order of the House of Commons. For the 
purpose of this book the Journals are really invaluable. 
They arc official and accurate, and are, besides, plentifully 


interspersed, more especially in the earlier volumes, with 
incidents described in the quaintest circumstantiality, which 
help to present the first elections to the Chair in their 
true colour and atmosphere. 

The Parliamentary Debates down to the end of the year 
1910 fill altogether 680 volumes. The first 36 volumes, 
known as the Parliamentary History, — which we owe to 
the enterprise of William Cobbett as a publisher, — contains 
a narrative of Parliament from the earliest times to the 
year 1803, when the reports of the debates, or "Hansard" 
(so called from the printer), were commenced. The narrative 
is not very accurate perhaps. Since its compilation in the 
opening years of the nineteenth century we have had to 
unlearn a good many things therein recorded, particularly 
about the Parliaments of the Middle Ages, owing to the 
numerous original sources of information of the greatest 
interest and utility which have since become available. 
But the value of the Debates is inestimable. These full 
reports of the speeches and proceedings in both Houses are 
quite beyond price to the parliamentary historian and 
constitutional writer. 

The other authorities to which I am indebted are far too 
numerous to be set forth here in detail. They are mentioned, 
as I quote from them, in the text. 

Michael MacDonagh 





X. "like sad PROMETHEUS" . 







































INDEX . . . . • 







The House of Lords in 1742 : The Speaker at the 

Bar ....... Frontispiece 

From an Engraving by John Pine 


James i. and his Parliament : The Commons presenting 

THEIR Speaker . . . . . .10 

From an Engraving 

The House of Commons in 1742: The Speaker in the 

Chair ....... 80 

From an Engraving by JOHN Pine 

The Speaker's House : Staircase . . . .102 

From a Photograph by Reginald Haines 

The Speaker's House : Dining-room . . . .110 

From a Photograph by Reginald Haines 

Sir Thomas More . . . . . . .156 

From an Engiaving by T. Cheeseman after the Drawing in chalks by 
Holbein at Windsor Castle 

Sir Edward Coke ....... 190 

After the Portrait by Janssen van Ceulen 

William Lenthall . . . . . .212 

From an Engraving after the Painting by S. COOPER 

Cromwell's Expulsion of the Members . . . 224 

From an Engraving after the Painting by Benjamin West 

Sir John Trevor ....... 256 

From an Engraving after the Drawing by T. Allen. (Collection, 
A. Rischgitz) 



AjtiuuK Ohslow ....... 274 

PhmiBi giMMR after ibeftritinebTH. Htsdcg 

Mil Spbakex MANMERS-SmroiT (Viscount Cakterbury) . 300 

Fraa aa Eagranqg after tbe P^indog bj A. E. Chalxtx. R~A. 
(CdkctiaB. A. Ramm i z ) 

The House of Commoks in 1844: Mr. Speaker Shaw- 


Fran aa Eagawimg fay H. Mei.tili.£ after the Dcaviis by T. H. 

Mk. Sfeakkr Brahd (Viscomrr Hamfxnen) -3^ 

Ftqbb a P b utu gi at ih bf Pkai»ixe ft TocHG 

Ms. Speaker Peel and ms Train-bearer . 33c 

Fraai a F Hu t u g iaiii fay J. Rdsseu. ft Sots 

Mr. Speaker Lowther vhth his Train-bearer, Private 
Secketart, Deputy Sergeant-at-Ar>is, and Arch- 

CCMOfOHS . . . -3^ 

Fraai a Fhotogiaph by Sa- Bbxjamik Stoke 


year and Pariiament in wfaidi he W2i 

i -^^- 







III Tim I— II ITiiwffli iffiMil 


iSTI ff«-l 1 

SkFHnrdelalfae . 

1377 CObl) 




Sir Janes FicfaniBg 


i3J« i 



Sv Jdhn GoUynnM^ . 









Sir Jnaes FidDcnag 






SirJoteBn^ . . 




SirJoteClKBef . 


|i3g9«Ocfi. 14.1 

; ^ 




Try, '! 

Sk AntiASmxagt .\ 

f^, .. 


» II 




99 11 

am Amcid Swjige. 




*» l| 

(setnadltem) i 


Sm'^KXtm^Omomr . 


:^ii r>r:^'? 



SarJohBTiplaft . 

r z re 



TloaKE ChinBB . 


: .: " 



VfaSmm Stamttm . 


- •^'- ' - - -~ , 

3 J 


JioIb DoRvood . 





^ Waber Ehngeifiad . 




TVowsClBDMer . 




Sir Rklwl Rnhi^pK . 





Sir Walter WraTJOTy . 





^vnger flower 


1416 fOUL} 






ThoBas Ghaaoer . 

niifiiii^iTii 1 





KlBBBld iMjiiun . 















Year of 


Sir John Russell 



2 Henry VI. 

Sir Thomas Wauton 





Sir Richard Vernon 





John Tyrrel . 





William Alington . 





John T}Trel . 





(second term) 

Sir John Russell . 





(second term) 

Roger Hunt . 





(second term) 

John Bowes . 





Sir John Tyrrel , 


1437 (Jan.) 



(third term) 

William Burley 


1437 (Mar.) 


William Tresham . 





William Burley 





(second term) 

William Tresham . 





(second term) 

John Say 


1449 (Feb.) 



Sir John Popham . 


1449 (Nov. 7) 



William Tresham . 


1449 (Nov. 8) 


(third term) 

Sir William Oldhall . 





Thomas Thorpe . 





Sir Thomas Charlton . 




Sir John Wenlock . 





Thomas Tresham . 





John Green . 





Sir James Strange waies . 




Edward iv. 

John Say . . . 





(second term) 

William Alington . 





John Wode . 





William Catesby . 



Richard III. 

Thomas Lovel 




Henry Vli. 

Sir John Mordaunt 





Sir Thomas FitzWilliam 





Richard Empson . 





Sir Robert Drury , 





Thomas Ingelfield. 





Edmund Dudley . 





Sir Thomas Ingelfield . 




Henry vni. 

(second term) 

Sir Robert Sheffield 





Thomas Neville . 





Sir Thomas More . 





Thomas Audiey . 





Humphrey Wingfield . 




Sir Richard Rich . 





Sir Nicholas Hare. 









Year of 


Sir Thomas Moyle 



8 Henry viii. 

Sir John Baker 


1 547 

I Edward vi. 

James Dyer . 


1553 (Mar.) 


John Pollard. 


1553 (Oct.) 

I Mary 

Robert Brooke 


1554 (April) 

2 ,, 

Clement Heigham . 

West Looe 

1554 (Nov.) 

I Philip and Mar) 

John Pollard (second term ) 




William Cordell . 



3 >> '> 

Sir Thomas Gargrave . 



I Elizabeth 

Thomas Williams . 




Richard Onslow . 




Christopher Wray . 




Robert Bell . 

Lyme Regis 



John Popham 




John Puckering 

Bedford Town 
and Gatton 



Thomas Snagge . 

Bedford Town 



Edward Coke 



8 „ 

Christopher Yelverton . 




John Croke . 




Sir Edward Phelips 



I James i. 

Sir Randolph Crewe 



2 ,, 

Thomas Richardson 

St. Albans 



Sir Thomas Crewe 




Sir Heneage Finch 



2 Charles i. 

Sir John Finch 




John Glanville 


1640 (April) 

4 ,, ("Short 

William Lenthall . 


1640 (Nov.) 

5 Charles i. ("Long 
Parliament ") 

Henrj' Pelham (after 


1647 Quly 30) 

>» »> 

flight of Lenthall) 

William Lenthall . 


1647 (returned 
Aug. 6) 

(" Rump Parliament ") 

Francis Rous 



(" Bare bones Parlia- 
ment ") 

William Lenthall . 



2 Oliver, Protector 

(second term) 

Sir Thomas Widdrington 



3 » 

Bulstrode Whitelocke . 


1657 (Jan.) 

Sir Thomas Widdrington 

1657 (Feb.) 

») >» 


Chaloner Chute 


1659 (Jan. 27) 

Richard, Protector 

Sir LisJebone Long 


1659 (Mar. 9) 

>) >> 

Thomas Bampfylde 


i659(Mar. 16] 

>> u 

William Lenthall . 


1659 (May 7) 

("Rump Parliament") 


William Say . 


1660 (Jan. 13) 

>> >> 

William Lenthall . 

1660 (Jan. 21] 

(" Long Parliament " 



Sir Harbottle Grimston . 


i66o(Apr. 25) 

("Convention Parlia- 
ment ") 




Sir Edward Turnour 

Sir Job Charlton . 
Edward Seymour . 
Sir Robert Sawyer 
EMward Seymour . 
(second term) 
Sir William Gregory 
William Williams . 
Sir John Trevor . 
Henry Powle 

Sir John Trevor . 
(second term) 
Paul Foley . 
Sir Thomas Littleton 
Robert Harley 
John Smith . 
Sir Richard Onslow 
William Bromley . 
Sir Thomas Hanmer 
Spencer Compton 
Arthur Onslow 
Sir John Cust 
Sir Fletcher Norton 
Charles Wolfran Cornwall 
William Wyndham Gren- 
ville .... 
Henry Addington . 
Sir John Mitford . 
Charles Abbot 
Charles Manners-Sutton. 
James Abercromby 
Charles Shaw-Lefevre . 
John Evelyn Denison . 

Henry Bouverie Brand . 
Arthur W, Peel . 

William Court Gully 
William J. Lowther 



Totnes and 

Chester City 
Denbigh Town 




New Radnor 



Oxford University 













Hampshire (N) 


Warwick and 



Year of 


1673 (Feb. 4) 

1673 (Feb. 18) 

1678 (April) 

1678 (May) 



1 701 

1789 (Jan.) 
1789 (June) 










2 Charles I. ("Pei 
sionary Parliament 

3 Charles 11. 

4 M 

James II. 
("Convention Parli 

ment ") 
William and Mary 

2 William ill. 


2 Anne 

3 „ 

4 ., 

5 ,. 

I George I. 
I George 11. 
I George in. 


7 ,', 


II ,, 

4 William iv. 
I Victoria 

5 M 

I Edward vii. 





IN the Royal Proclamation dissolving Parliament the date 
is fixed for the meeting of the new Parliament, after 
the General Election. On the day appointed, Members 
returned by the constituencies assemble at St. Stephens, 
Palace of Westminster. But though ithe elected repre- 
sentatives of the people are thus gathered together, the 
House of Commons is not yet constituted. The great 
Chair at the top of the chamber is unoccupied. The 
Assembly is without a President. The House of Commons 
is not constitutionally formed until the Members have 
sworn allegiance, and they cannot subscribe to the oath, 
and are voiceless, so far as public affairs are concerned, 
until the Speaker — the " mouth " of the House — is elected. 
The Clerk of the House of Commons, sitting in his chair 
at the Table, in wig and gown, acts as moderator while the 
Assembly is passing through this transitional stage to final 
completion. But the Clerk cannot do this simply by virtue 
of his office. He is powerless without the Mace, the symbol 
of the Speaker's authority. It seems, indeed, that unless 
the Mace is present there can be no election of Speaker.^ 
Accordingly, the Mace has been brought from the Tower 
of London — where it is deposited for safe keeping during 

' Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 218 (1818 edition). 


the parliamentary recess — and is placed, not upon the Table, 
where it conspicuously rests, as will be seen later, when the 
House is sitting and Mr. Speaker is in the Chair, but below 
the Table, out of view. 

It cannot yet be said, however, that the way is clear 
for the Commons to carry out the election of a Speaker. 
Both the theory and practice of the Constitution require 
that before the Commons proceed to choose a Speaker they 
must have received the assent of the Sovereign. It is 
in the House of Lords that this authorization is given to 
them. Black Rod, the messenger of the Lords, therefore 
soon appears, carrying his ebony rod tipped with gold, and 
conducts the Clerk and Members of the House of Commons 
to the Bar of the House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor 
and four other peers are seated, in their scarlet and ermine 
robes, on a form placed between the Throne and the 
Woolsack. They are the Lords Commissioners appointed 
by the King to conduct, in his absence, these preliminaries 
to the State opening of the new Parliament. Addressing 
both the Lords and Commons, the Lord Chancellor says : — 

'* My Lords and Gentlemen, — We have it in command 
from His Majesty, to let you know that His Majesty will, 
as soon as the Members of your Houses shall be sworn, 
declare the causes of his calling this Parliament ; and, it 
being necessary that a Speaker of the House of Commons 
shall be first chosen, it is His Majesty's pleasure that you, 
gentlemen of the House of Commons, repair to the place 
where you are to sit, and there proceed to the choice of 
some proper person to be your Speaker; and that you 
present such person whom you so shall choose here to- 
morrow, at noon, for His Majesty's royal approbation." 

Then the Clerk and the Commons — without a word 
having been spoken on their side — return to their Chamber, 
where they immediately proceed to the discharge of their 
first duty, that of electing a Speaker. There is usually 
no doubt as to the Commons' choice. The Speaker of the 
last Parliament is again available, and in accordance with the 
now well-established custom of re-electing the same Speaker, 


Parliament after Parliament, so long as he is willing and fit 
to serve, the late Speaker is to be installed in the Chair again. 
The Clerk resumes his seat at the Table. He it is who 
has to guide and direct the House in the election of Speaker. 
But he is not allowed to speak, unless in the case of a contest 
for the Chair, when he has to put the question for decision 
in the division lobbies. Everything else that falls to him 
to do must be done in dumb show. All the arrangements, 
however, have been made beforehand. So, rising from his 
seat, the Clerk points with outstretched finger at the 

Member who is to move : " That do take the Chair of 

this House as Speaker." This motion has to be seconded 
by another Member, and he also is indicated in the same 
manner by the Clerk. The choice of the proposer and 
seconder is regulated by certain recognized customs. In 
the first place, they are such as are agreeable to the Speaker- 
designate. A county and a borough Member are generally 
selected, and selected from different sides of the House, at 
any rate when the Speaker is re-elected without opposition.^ 
Above all, no Minister must be the proposer or the seconder. 
So much is the election or re-election of a Speaker regarded 
as the independent and unfettered action of the House that 
the Government are supposed to have nothing whatever to 
do with it. It has been an unwritten law that no Minister 
shall propose a candidate for the Chair since John Hatsell, 
Chief Clerk from 1768 to 1797, and author of Precedents 
of the House of Commons, warned William Pitt in 1789 
that it would be unfitting in him as Prime Minister to 
nominate Henry Addington. " I think that the choice of 
a Speaker should not be made on the motion of the 
Minister," said Hatsell to Addington. " Indeed, an invidious 
use may be made of it to represent you as the friend of the 
Minister rather than the choice of the House." Pitt was 
anxious to pay Addington the compliment of proposing 
him, but he recognised the force of HatselTs point.- Since 

^ May, Law and Usage of Parliament, 154 (nth edition, 1906). 
^ Pellew, Life of Lord Sidmouth, 78, 79. Addington was raised to the 
peerage as Lord Sidmouth. 


then the candidate for the Chair has always been proposed 
and seconded by distinguished unofficial Members. 

There can be no doubt, however, that though the Speaker 
is never proposed by a Minister, and theoretically the choice 
is left freely to the House, the Government, in practice, 
retain the control of affairs, even when the Speaker of one 
Parliament is re-elected without opposition by another. When 
John Evelyn Denison was re-elected to the Chair for the 
third time, at the meeting of a new Liberal Parliament in 1 866, 
both his proposer and seconder were Ministerialists, and 
Disraeli complained of this departure from the usual course of 
choosing the seconder from the Opposition. What happened 
behind the scenes is explained by Denison in his Diary. Earl 
Russell, the Prime Minister, wrote to him inquiring whether 
he wished to select any person to nominate him for the 
Speakership, or would prefer to leave the arrangements to 
the Government. Denison appeared at the outset to favour 
being proposed by a Liberal and seconded by a Conserva- 
tive. But Gladstone, now for the first time Leader of the 
House of Commons, was opposed to the taking of this 
course, owing to the strained relations between Liberals and 
Conservatives on the vexed question of Reform. He wrote 
" That on this occasion, which was different from the 
last, it would seem fitting that the Government should 
propose the Speaker, and should not attempt to fetter or 
compromise the House by an arrangement beforehand 
with the Opposition side," and with this view Denison 

It is traditional for the proposer and seconder to make 
speeches in the grand manner. The highest note of eulogy 
is struck in the stateliest of diction. The candidate for the 
Chair is a hero, indeed, to his sponsors. They not only 
endow him with every qualification for the office, but they 
present him to the House as a " superman," quite the most 
perfect specimen of the human kind. Sometimes this 
splendid being is purely a thing imagined, the offspring of 
an amiable ignoring of proportion, and good-natured 
' Denison, Notes from My Journal^ 184. 


extravagance of praise. But happily in most cases it can 
at least be said — such is the discernment of the House, or 
the Ministry — that the candidate is the right man for the 
place, the best of all possible selections. The Speaker- 
designate, all the time that pleasant things are thus being 
said of him, sits with the political Party to which he belongs, 
whether it be on the Ministerial or on the Opposition side 
of the House. And as he stands up in his place and 
expresses his sense of the honour proposed to be conferred 
upon him, and submits himself humbly to the House, his 
words are touched with emotion. As there is no opposi- 
tion, the Member proposed is called by the House to the 
Chair without any question being put by the Clerk.^ The 
unanimous call is expressed by cheers from all parts of the 

The Speaker-elect is then taken out of his place by the 
proposer and seconder and conducted to the Chair. It was 
formerly the custom for the Speaker-elect to make a 
pretence of desiring to refuse the crown of bays. It was not 
that he was oppressed by the sense of the petty emptiness 
of things, of the illusions of authority and distinction. On 
the contrary, he was dazzled by the brilliant lustre of the 
glory which it was proposed to confer upon one so utterly 
humble and unworthy. He made repeated protestations of 
his unfitness for the post. He vowed that he possessed 
none of the gifts, mental and physical, necessary for the 
proper discharge of its duties. Therefore, with all due 
acknowledgment of the kind and flattering intention of the 
House, he begged to be excused. But the House, of old, 
cried " To the Chair, to the Chair." Then as he was being 
led to the Chair the Speaker-elect indulged in a show of 
physical resistance. He disputed the ground with his 
sponsors inch by inch and yard by yard. See him in the 
seventeenth century : wriggling his shoulders, as if he were 
struggling against captors leading him to the dungeon or 
the stake ! And when at last he was placed in the Chair, 
he appealed to the House, not for their congratulations on 

^ May, Law and Usage of Parliament, 154. 


having attained to a position of such high distinction, but 
for their condolences on being compelled to accept a post 
of difficulty and embarrassment for which he was most 

This ludicrous comedy of mock modesty was repeated 
at every election or re-election of Speaker for more than 
four centuries. It began very early. Sir Richard Walde- 
grave, the fifth of the long line of Speakers, who occupied 
the Chair in 1381, was the first who thus "disabled " himself, 
according to the meagre and imperfect records of the origin 
of the Speakership. It continued down to the commence- 
ment of the nineteenth century, though, as time progressed, 
it dwindled in absurdity. The first Speaker boldly to decline 
to say he was unfit for the office was Mitford, who was 
elected in 1801. 

In our days the Speaker-elect surrenders himself to his 
sponsors deferentially, but without any of the old pretence 
of reluctance to be called to the Chair. 

They take him each by a hand, and, conducting him 
through the narrow passage between the Treasury Bench 
and the Table, only leave him when he stands on the dais 
of the Chair and faces the House. Here again the Speaker- 
elect expresses his " grateful thanks " and his " humble 
acknowledgments " for " the high honour the House has 
been pleased to confer" upon him. And well may he feel 
proud and elated. He has come into the rich and brilliant 
heritage of a great historical post ; his name has been im- 
perishably added to the long and unbroken line of Speakers 
of the House of Commons, stretching back from the 
twentieth century to the fourteenth. Then amid the 
renewed acclamations of the House he takes his seat in 
the Chair. The Serjeant-at-Arms comes up the floor from 
his place by the Bar and lays the Mace in the position 
it occupies on the Table when the House is ordinarily 
sitting for business. Congratulations to the Speaker-elect 
are offered by the Leader of the House and the Leader of 
the Opposition. The House then adjourns. The motion 
for adjournment is put by the Speaker-elect, and when he 


declares it carried he leaves the Chamber. The first stage 
of the election of the Speaker is completed. 

Though the Commons have chosen one of their number 
to take the Chair as Speaker, the person selected has to 
submit himself at the Bar of the House of Lords for the 
Sovereign's approbation before he can enter upon the duties 
of his office. Until the royal ratification has been signified 
he continues to be styled " the Speaker-elect." 

Thus it would seem as if the Commons cannot elect their 
Speaker without first having got the leave of the Sovereign ; 
and secondly, as if their choice is ineffective until it has 
received the royal approbation. Ever since the institution 
of the office, almost, this has been the custom. Nevertheless, 
there have been several instances of a Speaker having of 
necessity been appointed without either the Sovereign's con- 
sent or the Sovereign's approval. There were the cases of 
the Speakers elected during the Commonwealth, when there 
was no King. There were the cases, also, of the Speakers 
of the Convention Parliament of 1660, which restored 
Charles II. to the Throne, and of the Convention Parliament 
of 1 68 8, which declared the Throne vacated by the flight of 
James II., neither of whom received the hall mark of the 
Crown. There has been one instance of these formalities 
having been dispensed with even when there was a King. 
On the death of Mr. Speaker Cornwall, in 1789, George III. 
was mentally incapacitated from attending to any business, 
and William Wyndham Grenville was elected to the Chair 
without any attempt to assume even the appearance of the 
royal sanction. 

Only once has the Sovereign exercised the veto on the 
choice of the Commons for the Chair. This was the case of 
Edward Seymour, who though he had served as Speaker in 
one of the Parliaments of Charles II. failed to receive the 
approval of that monarch when he was re-elected in a new 
Parliament, and another Member had to be chosen in his stead. 
Whether the veto of the Crown on the Speakership is now 
operative is extremely problematical. Perhaps it has gone, 
and for ever, like the veto of the Crown in legislation. The 


last time the royal assent was refused to a Bill which 
passed both Houses was, as is well known, in the reign of 
Queen Anne. That prerogative of the Crown is now 
generally regarded as being as dead as Queen Anne, which 
is as much as to say that it is as dead as dead can be. It 
may be said, in like manner, that the royal veto on the 
Speakership is as dead as Charles II., which should be still 
more the death from which there is no resurrection ; and that 
consequently the choice of the Speaker is the exclusive and 
absolute right of the Commons, uncontrolled by any outside 
authority whatever.^ 



THE ancient forms are, however, strictly adhered to. 
The King gives his consent to the faithful Commons 
to choose their Speaker, and having made their 
selection the Commons, faithful still, submit their nominee 
for the royal approval. The second day sees the observ- 
ance of this formality, which completes the full ritual of 
election to the Chair of the House of Commons on the 
assembling of a new Parliament. The Speaker-elect 
ceremoniously enters the chamber by the main door, under 
the clock, attended by the Serjeant-at-Arms. It is obvious 
that his evolution as " Mr. Speaker " is not yet completed. 
He is still, as it were, in the chrysalis state. He appears 
only half made up, so far as his distinctive or ofificial 
costume is concerned. He wears the usual Court dress 

' Hatsell, writing in 1776, says the Sovereign's consent to the election of 
Speaker and approbation of the choice of the Commons are founded upon pre- 
cedents 'from the earliest accounts of the House of Commons, and remains in 
operation, the instances quoted to the contrary notwithstanding {Precedents, vol. 
2, p. 220). 

On the other hand, Sir William Anson, writing in 1889, says "the approval 
of the Speaker-elect by the King is not seemingly a legal necessity " (Law and 
Custom of the Constitution, vol. i. p. 76, 4th edition). 


— cut-away coat, ruffles, knee-breeches, silk stockings, and 
silver-buckled shoes — but not his full flowing black robe, 
and on his head there is a small bob-wig, instead of the 
customary large and ample wig, the wings of which fall 
over his shoulder, in which he is seen when he presides over 
the House of Commons. 

May's standard and official work on the Law and Usage 
0/ Pa7'liameni says nothing on the subject of the Speaker's 
dress. It simply records that "The House meets on the 
following day, and Mr. Speaker-elect takes the Chair and 
awaits the arrival of Black Rod from the Lords Com- 

Here, then, arises one of many questions which beset the 
inquirer into parliamentary habits and customs, to which 
it seems no definite answer can be returned. What is the 
real significance of this bob-wig, — when was it first worn, 
— was its use originally restricted to Speakers-elect who 
had been "bred to the law"? The inquiry is suggested 
by a curious entry in the Diary of Mr. Speaker Denison. 
Referring to his re-election on February 2, 1866, he 
writes : " I had intended to have gone to the House of 
Lords without my small wig, but it occurred to me that in 
walking through the long courts and passages I should 
catch cold in my head, so I did wear the small wig, to which 
I have no claim or title, not being a lawyer."^ 

It is noticeable, too, that the Serjeant-at-Arms does not 
bear the Mace in the usual fashion, sloped upon his right 
shoulder. He carries it as if it were a baby, resting in 
the curve of his left arm. This is another indication that 
something is still wanting to make ftnal the election of the 
Speaker. The Mace is not to be borne shoulder high before 
the Speaker until his appointment has been approved by 
the Sovereign. The Members of the House of Commons, 
however, stand up in their places with uncovered heads, as 
the Speaker-elect walks slowly up the floor, making three 
obeisances to the Chair, and sits in the Clerk's place at 
the Table. 

^ Denison, Notes from My Jourual , 185. 


The Peers assemble on this, the second, day of the new 
Parliament, at the same hour as the Commons ; and Black 
Rod is at once dispatched to invite the attendance of the 
elected representatives of the people in the House of Lords 
to hear the royal will in regard to their selection for the 
Speakership. Black Rod is never allowed free admittance to 
the House of Commons. As on the first day, so too on this 
the second day, the door of the Chamber is closed and barred 
by the Serjeant-at-Arms, and not until Black Rod humbly 
knocks three times is he given admission. Walking to the 
Table with many lowly bows, he delivers his message, 
desiring the attendance of " this honourable House " in the 
House of Lords, and, having done so, retires backwards to 
the Bar. There he is joined by the Speaker-elect and the 
Serjeant-at-Arms, who still carries the Mace rather awk- 
wardly in the hollow of his left elbow, and they proceed to the 
House of Lords followed by the general body of Members. 

The Speaker-elect stands in the centre of the railed-in 
pen, known as "the Bar," of the House of Lords, with 
Black Rod to his right, the Serjeant-at-Arms to his left, 
and his proposer and seconder immediately behind him. 
Something is missing. Where is the Mace ? If the Commons 
lock their door in the face of Black Rod, the Lords on their 
part do not permit the sight of the Mace of the Commons to 
affront them in their Chamber. So the Serjeant-at-Arms 
leaves the symbol of Mr. Speaker's power and authority 
with one of his messengers at the portals of the House of 
Lords. But elaborate courtesies are exchanged between the 
representatives of the King and Commons. The Speaker- 
elect bows to the Lords Commissioners, who are again 
seated, in all the glory of scarlet and ermine, on the form in 
front of the Throne, and they acknowledge the salutation 
by raising their cocked hats. Then the Speaker-elect them as follows : — 

" I have to acquaint your Lordships that, in obedience 
to his royal commands, His Majesty's faithful Commons 
have, in the exercise of their undoubted right and privilege, 
proceeded to the choice of a Speaker, Their choice has 

^^litu PtmnjnmiJ'fijrgmh. ,'tuu v»i«f .-ifruij^. ja' Z i w y rri h'Ummi mtrm-'-- ..■■uhtuirv, Pn..o<-utjii:iii ..-ijii.-.tmu;^ 




fallen upon myself, and I therefore present myself at your 
Lordships' Bar, humbly submitting myself for His Majesty's 
gracious approbation." 

To this the Lord Chancellor thus replies, addressing 
the Speaker-elect by name : — 

"We are commanded to assure you that His Majesty 
is so fully sensible of your zeal for the public service, and 
your undoubted efficiency to execute all the arduous duties 
of the position which his faithful Commons have selected 
you to discharge, that he does most readily approve and 
confirm your election as Speaker." 

Thereupon Mr. Speaker submits himself " in all 
humility" to His Majesty's royal will and pleasure; and 
entreats that if, in the discharge of his duties and in main- 
taining the rights and privileges of the Commons, he makes 
any mistake, " the blame may be imputed to him alone." 
During the ten or fifteen minutes that the Speaker, 
surrounded by the Commons, stands at the Bar of the 
House of Lords, he holds a significant historical colloquy 
with the Lord Chancellor, not as the President of the House 
of Peers, but as the representative of the Sovereign, which 
has been repeated, with some slight changes of form and 
substance, at every election of Speaker, on the assembling 
of a new Parliament, practically since the fourteenth century. 

For the next duty of the Speaker is to lay claim on behalf 
of the Commons, by humble petition to the King, "to all 
their ancient and undoubted rights and privileges," and, pro- 
ceeding to specify the more important, he adds, "particularly 
that their persons and servants may be free from arrest and 
molestation, that they may enjoy liberty of speech in their 
debates, that they may have access to His Majesty whenever 
occasion may require, and that all their proceedings may 
receive the most favourable construction." 

In the twentieth century this assertion and vindication 
by the Speaker of the ancient rights and privileges of the 
Commons is solemnly reiterated, as if the Sovereign were 
predominant, absolute, and autocratic, still the ultimate and 


supreme arbiter of the country's liberties, and as if the 
Commons had reason still to guard themselves and the 
people against the evil consequences of the royal dis- 
pleasure or caprice. It was for some hundreds of years 
a solemn pronouncement by the Commons on a matter 
fateful to the nation. Without this protestation, on the 
assembling of every new Parliament, it would have been 
difficult to define and maintain the privileges of the repre- 
sentatives of the people over a long period of time, and 
before constitutional liberty was fully and definitely 

But in these days it is far removed from the reality of 
things. Liberty of speech is as valuable as ever it was to 
the elected representatives of the people in Parliament 
assembled, but it is not in the smallest danger of being 
abrogated, except by the action of the Commons them- 
selves. The other immunities claimed in the Speaker's 
petition have either been expressly abrogated or limited 
by statute, tacitly abandoned or dropped into disuse. The 
privilege of freedom from arrest was originally of very ex- 
tended scope. Not only the persons of Members, but their 
goods were protected ; and as this privilege extended also 
to their servants, many abuses and injustices suffered by 
tradesmen went unredressed. Gradually the privilege was 
reduced by legislation within narrow limits. It was abolished 
as regards servants of Members in 1770.^ The freedom from 
arrest still enjoyed by Members themselves does not exempt 
them from the processes of the criminal law. It is limited to 
civil cases, and since the abolition of imprisonment for debt 
generally it has been shorn of most of its utility. But should 
a Member be arrested on a commitment for contempt, 
the Court is required immediately to inform the Speaker of 
the nature of his contempt, and the letter is read on the 
first opportunity to the House. The claim of access to the 
Sovereign has also in practice been considerably modified 
by the development of constitutional Government. Ministers 
can, of course, see the King on public business whenever 
' 10 Geo. III. c. 50. 



occasion may arise, and one of them is usually in attendance 
on His Majesty when he is out of London. 

Why, then, should a declaration which arose out of 
battles long ago continue to be made centuries after these 
conflicts, and the causes involved in them, have been decis- 
ively lost and won ? Has it degenerated into a mere form, 
mechanically repeated by the Speaker without any genuine 
heart-felt emotion? For one thing, that ceremony at the 
Bar of the House of Lords shows how strong is the appeal 
and sway of antiquity and precedent in Parliament. It 
has its uses also. It revives historical memories, proud and 
inspiring, and that must be to the good in stimulating 
Members of Parliament in zeal for the public service. 
Yet different Speakers seemingly take different views of its 
importance and utility. It is cold and empty, as it is said 
by some Speakers, but as said by others it is an epitome of 
the long struggle for constitutional liberty. I have heard a 
Speaker — lacking in the historical imagination, or perhaps 
too self-conscious — gabble through it shamefacedly, as if 
he were oppressed with the ridiculousness of having in the 
twentieth century to pose in quite a sixteenth-century 
role. From his lips the words sounded meaningless and 
dead. But coloured and warmed by the feelings of a 
Speaker of serious mind and intensity of view, and finely 
declaimed with an appealing gravity of tone, this ancient 
demand, shorn of most of its significance though it be, was 
transformed into a still great and still living issue; and to 
the new Members, no doubt, it resounded with that explicit 
fullness and force which constitutional development have 
invested it, giving them their first parliamentary inspiration. 

At any rate, all these claims are readily granted by the 
Sovereign, speaking through the Lord Chancellor. " His 
Majesty," says the Lord Chancellor, " is pleased to grant 
and confirm them in as full and ample a manner as they 
have ever been granted or confirmed by himself or by 
any of His Majesty's royal predecessors." This ends the 
ceremonial. The Speaker and the Commons return to 
their Chamber as they came. But, see, the Mace is now 


borne high on the shoulder of the Serjeant-at-Arms. And 
up through St. Stephen's Hall come the sound of joy bells. 
It is the custom, which has been observed through many 
generations, for the bells of St. Margaret's Church across 
the way — the official parliamentary place of worship — to 
ring a joyous peal immediately after the royal ratification 
of the Speaker's election has been communicated to the 

On his return from the House of Lords the Speaker goes 
straight to his private room. A few minutes elapse, and he 
reappears in the House of Commons. And lo, he is in the 
full dress of his office. He has discarded the bob-wig for 
the full-bottomed wig, and over his Court dress he wears 
the customary long and flowing black silk gown. From the 
Chair the Speaker reports what took place in the House of 
Lords. It is one of the curious customs of Parliament that 
the Speaker always assumes that he has been to the House 
of Lords alone, and that the Commons are in absolute 
ignorance of what has happened there. Without the slightest 
tremor of emotion or the faintest indication of satisfaction, 
at least on the part of the old Members, the Commons learn 
that their " ancient rights and undoubted privileges " have 
been fully confirmed by the Sovereign. The solemn 
announcement hardly evokes even a solitary cheer. But 
there is loud applause upon the Speaker thus finally con- 
cluding: — 

" I have now again to make my grateful acknowledg- 
ments to the House for the honour done to me in placing 
me again in the Chair, and to assure it of my complete 
devotion to its service." 

Thus finishes the ancient and picturesque ceremony of 
the election of Speaker. From this moment the House 
of Commons of the new Parliament may be said really to 
begin its corporate existence. It has got its " mouth," to 
use again the term so often found in the most ancient of 
the parliamentary documents. 

The next business is the taking of the oath of allegiance. 



The Speaker is the first to swear. Standing on the upper 

step of the Chair he declares : " I, , swear by Almighty 

God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His 
Majesty King George v., his heirs and successors accord- 
ing to law." He is required by statute to be in the Chair 
when Members are being sworn, in like manner to bear true 
and faithful allegiance to the Sovereign. By Acts passed 
in the reigns both of Charles II. and William III. it is pro- 
vided that the oath is to be taken by Members at the Table, 
in the middle of the said House, and whilst a full House of 
Commons is there duly sitting with the Speaker in his 
Chair.^ When these Acts were passed the oath was a 
profession of faith as well as a protestation of loyalty, and 
was intended first to keep Papists — and subsequently 
Jacobites as well as Papists — out of the House of Commons. 
It was therefore provided that the oath should be taken in 
as public a manner as possible, so as to avoid any chance 
of evasion. But religious tests at the door of the House of 
Commons were finally abolished in the last quarter of the 
nineteenth century, and the oath was reduced to a simple 
and brief declaration of allegiance. Still, it has to be taken 
while Mr. Speaker is in the Chair. The custom has acquired 
a new value of the greatest utility. At the opening of a new 
Parliament, as each Member is sworn and signs the Roll, 
he is introduced by the Clerk to the Speaker. Thus the 
Speaker is enabled to obtain an acquaintance, by sight and 

^ 30 Chas. II. Stat. 2, and 13 Will. ill. c. 6. This provision is repeated by 
sect. iii. of the Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866. 

On June 5, 1855, some Members took the oath while the Chair was occupied 
by the Chairman of Ways and Means as Deputy Speaker. Doubts were then 
raised in regard to the legality of the oath when administered in the absence of 
the Speaker, and to remove them an Act was passed (18 & 19 Vict. c. 84) to 
establish the validity of these, and other proceedings, transacted while the 
Deputy Speaker was in the Chair. At this time the authority empowering the 
Chairman of Ways and Means to take the Chair as Deputy Speaker was only a 
standing order and had not been confirmed by statute. On the assembling 
of Parliament, consequent on the death of King Edward vii. in May 1910, 
Members took the oath of allegiance to the new Sovereign in the presence of 
the Deputy Speaker (Mr. Emmot), who presided owing to the absence abroad 
of Mr. Speaker Lowther. 


name, with the new Members. That is rather an important 
matter. When the debates begin the Speaker will have to 
call in turn those whom he selects to speak ; and one of his 
most difficult tasks is to be able to associate, at a moment's 
notice, the name of a newly elected Member with his features. 
Therefore the Speaker, as he shakes each new-comer by the 
hand, eagerly scans his appearance for future identification. 



THE procedure, then, that is followed at the opening of 
a new Parliament is that the Speaker of the late 
Parliament is, in accordance with invariable practice, 
re-elected to the Chair. But what is more interesting and 
important is what happens when the Chair becomes vacant 
by death or resignation and a new Speaker has to be 
chosen. It is a curious fact that, in the long history of the 
Chair of the House of Commons, only two Speakers have 
died in harness. The latest instance is so far back as 1789. 
A vacancy in the Chair is caused as a rule by the resignation 
of the Speaker during the progress of a session.^ 

The election of a new Speaker in this eventuality differs 
in certain particulars from the re-appointment of the late 
Speaker at the opening of a new Parliament. The form in 
which the assent of the Sovereign is intimated to the 
Commons is different. The Commons are not summoned 
to the Bar of the House of Peers to hear from the Lord 
Chancellor the King's will and pleasure that they should 
elect a Speaker. 

A Minister, usually the Leader of the House, rises and 

' On the resignation of Peel, Mr. Speaker Gully was elected on the day upon 
which the House adjourned for Easter in 1895, ^"^ ^^ the resignation of Gully, 
Mr. Speaker Lowthcr was elected on the day of the adjournment for Whitsuntide 
in 1905, and in each case the Speaker-elect was presented for the Sovereign's 
approval on the first day of the meeting of Parliament after the holidays. 


states that His Majesty "gives leave to the House to 
proceed forthwith to the choice of a new Speaker " ; and 
when the new Speaker has been elected, the same Minister 
acquaints the House that it is the King's pleasure that they 
should present their choice the next day in the House of 
Peers, for His Majesty's approbation.^ 

How is the Member who is to be nominated for the 
Chair selected in these circumstances ? In the first place, 
no Member can be proposed who has not taken the oath 
and his seat. On the occasion of the election of Mr. Speaker 
Mitford, on February 11, 1801, during the existence of a 
Parliament, Richard Brinsley Sheridan desired to nominate 
Charles Dundas ; but William Pitt, the Leader of the House, 
pointed out that as Dundas had not taken the oath and his 
seat he was disqualified.^ The Chair has always been 
regarded as the legitimate prize of the Party in office or in 
power when it becomes vacant by resignation. The Speaker 
therefore, on his first election, has invariably been the nominee 
I of the Government of the day. The Government select for 
'the Chair a fit and proper person from among their 
supporters in the House, although his formal nomination is 
made and seconded, not by Ministers, but by private 
Members. But while the new Speaker is thus, in fact, 
chosen and appointed by the Government, it has always 
been customary for the name of the choice of the Ministry 
to be first submitted privately to the Leader of the 
Opposition, before being made public, with a view to ensuring, 
if possible, the unanimous call to the Chair of some Member 
acceptable to both sides of the House. 

Rarely, indeed, is there a contest. Only on two occasions 
in the nineteenth century was opposition offered to the 
Government nominee for the Chair when it fell vacant by 
resignation, and on each occasion it was unsuccessful. These 
were the elections of Charles Shaw-Lefevre, Whig, over 
Henry Goulburn, Tory, in 1839, and of William Court Gully, 
Liberal, over Sir M. White Ridley, Conservative, in 1895. 

^ May, Law and Usage of Parliament, 157. 
- Parliamentary History, vol. 35, p. 591. 


When there is a contest a debate takes place on the 
respective merits of the rival candidates, and at its close the 
Clerk puts the question ^ that the first Member proposed — 
the Government nominee — do take the Chair as Speaker. 
In the division the Government and Opposition Whips tell 
on each side, as they do in all divisions on matters of first- 
class Party importance. "According to usage," says May 
in Law and Usage of Parliammt, " the two Members who 
are proposed for the Chair take part in the division, each 
Member giving his vote in favour of his rival." This had 
been the practice until 1895 when a new departure was 
made, and a precedent set which will probably be followed 
in any future contests. At the contested election for the 
Speakership in 1895, neither Court Gully nor White Ridley 
took part in the division. While the House was dividing, the 
candidates remained together in one of the rooms behind . 
the Speaker's Chair. ^ 

When a Speaker-elect, chosen during the existence of a 
Parliament, presents himself at the Bar of the House of 
Peers to receive the royal approbation no deeply moving 
historic memories are revived by his address. On such an 
occasion it is the custom to omit the prayer for liberty of 
speech and freedom from arrest, which, having been granted 
at the commencement of the Parliament, holds good, accord- 
ing to constitutional authorities, until the Dissolution. 

In 1566, Richard Onslow, being elected Speaker in the 
middle of a Parliament, omitted the petition for liberty of 
speech, freedom from arrest, and access to the Sovereign. 
On February 5, 1673, Sir Job Charlton, chosen in similar 
circumstances, claimed all the privileges. But, in expressing 
the view that this course was wrong, Hatsell in his Precedents 
draws attention to the action of the House, which in 1695 
itself directed Paul Foley not to make the usual petitions, 
"it being said that those petitions were demands of right, 
and ought to be made but once, at the beginning of a 
Parliament." Therefore a Speaker appointed to the Chair 

' On thcFe occasions it is always recorded in the Journals of the House of 
Commons that the Clerk put the question by *' order of the House." 


for the first time in the course of a session simply expresses 
a hope that if, in the discharge of his duties and the main- 
tenance of the rights and privileges of the Commons, he is 
led into inadvertent error, the blame may be imputed to 
him alone ; whereas, at the next meeting of a new Parlia- 
ment, when he is re-elected, he formally lays claim, on behalf 
of the people's representatives, to all their ancient and un- 
doubted rights and privileges. 

What is the tenure of the Speaker's office ? A Speaker, 
when elected by the Commons and approved by the Crown, 
continues in office during the whole of the Parliament. The 
tenure of the office of Speaker does not, however, expire 
with the Parliament. An Act of William iv., and another 
passed early in the reign of Queen Victoria, provide that in 
case of a Dissolution the then Speaker shall be deemed to be 
the Speaker until a Speaker has been chosen by the new 
Parliament.^ But the provision is only for the purposes of 
these Acts. And what are their purposes ? The first of the 
statutes was passed to authorize the quarterly payments of 
the Speaker's salary out of the Consolidated Fund ; and the 
second relates to the lodgment of the fees formerly paid to 
various officers of the House of Commons in the Bank of 
England and the rendering by the Collector of a full and 
true account of the moneys he receives to the Speaker. It 
therefore follows that while the occupancy of the office does 
not expire with the Parliament, the Speaker continues to be 
Speaker from the Dissolution until the assembling of a new 
Parliament practically only for the purpose of drawing his 
salary, and that in the interval he has no authority to per- 
form any of the duties that fall to him when Parliament is 
not sitting, save that of requiring an account from the 
Collector of fees in the House of Commons. For instance, 
he is unable to issue writs for the filling of seats which may 
become vacant after a General Election and before the new 
Parliament meets. 

Such is the statutory tenure of the Speakership, But 
whether the Speaker is first designated by the Government, 

1 2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 105 ; 9 & 10 Vict. c. 77. 


and generally accepted, or is carried by the majority of the 
Government, in a division challenged by the Opposition as 
a protest against some feature or element of the selection, 
once he is elected the Chair is his by right unchallenged 
so long as he chooses to retain it. He is re-elected without 
question on the assembling of every new Parliament, even 
though the Party to which he belongs and the Government 
on whose nomination he was originally appointed to the 
Chair have sustained defeat at the polls. Only once was 
this principle of the continuity of the office violated in the 
course of the nineteenth century. In 1835 the Whigs set 
aside the Tory, Charles Manners-Sutton — first appointed 
Speaker in 1817 — and chose a Whig, James Abercromby, in 
his place. The Whigs had re-elected Manners-Sutton to 
the Chair in 1832. They dismissed him in 1835 on the 
ground, as they alleged, that in the conflicts over the Reform 
Bill, and after, he had laboured to thwart their policy. On 
every other occasion since then, when a General Election 
has effected a shifting of the balance of Parties in the House 
of Commons, the Speaker of the old Parliament has been 
re-elected in the new. By a curious coincidence the Whigs 
or Liberals were in office every time the Chair became 
vacant from the passing of the Reform Bill to the opening 
of the twentieth century. In fact, only three of the nine 
Speakers of the nineteenth century were chosen from the 
Conservative Party — Sir John Mitford (1801); Charles 
Abbot (1802), and Charles Manners-Sutton (1817). Still, 
the Conservatives, on each of their returns to office, during 
this period refrained from making a Party question of the 
Chair and reappointed the Liberal Speakers then in possession 
— Charles Shaw-Lefevre in 1841, Henry Bouverie Brand in 
1874, Arthur Wellesley Peel in 1886, and William Court 
Gully in 1895. ^Y the appointment of James William 
Lowther in 1905, on the resignation of Gully when the 
Unionists were in office, a Conservative occupied the Chair 
after an interval of seventy years. 

The circumstances of the election of William Court 
Gully as Speaker have given both to the principle that the 


Chair is above the strife and the prejudices of Party, and 
the precedent of the continuity of the office, an accession of 
strength which makes them decisive for all time. Gully had 
sat in the House as a Liberal for ten years when, on the 
retirement of Mr. Speaker Peel in May 1895, he was 
nominated for the Chair by the Liberal Government. The 
Unionist Opposition proposed Sir Matthew White Ridley, 
a highly respected Member of their Party, and a man of 
long and varied experience in parliamentary affairs. On a 
division Gully was elected by the narrow majority of eleven. 
The voting was : Gully, 285 ; White Ridley, 274.^ It was 
publicly declared at the time that, as the Unionist Party 
disapproved the candidature of Gully as the Government 
nominee in a moribund Parliament, they held themselves 
free to dismiss him from the Chair should they have the 
majority in the next new Parliament, to which all the indica- 
tions pointed. x'\ few weeks later the Liberal Government 
was defeated in the House of Commons, and a Dissolution 

It is the custom to allow the Speaker a walk-over in his 
constituency at the General Election. But Gully's seat at 
Carlisle was contested in 1895. Since the Reform Act of 
1832 there is only one other instance of a Speaker having 
been opposed when s.eeking re-election to the House of 
Commons on the Dissolution of Parliament. This was the 
previous case of Mr. Speaker Peel, to whom opposition was 
offered in the General Election of 1885, the year after his 
appointment to the Chair. In the General Election of 1880 
he was returned as a Liberal for the borough of Warwick. 
By the Redistribution Act of 1885, Leamington was in- 
corporated with Warwick, and the explanation of the 
Conservatives, in opposing Mr. Speaker Peel, was that they 
desired to test the political opinions of the new constitu- 
ency. Peel was elected by a majority of 372. In this 
contest he refrained from touching upon political questions. 
In 1886 he was returned unopposed, and by the forbearance 
of both political Parties in the constituency he was not 
' Parliamentary Debates (4th series), vol. 32, pp. 1369-96. 


asked for any public expression of his views on Home 
Rule, the question upon which the General Election was 

Why, then, was the seat of Mr. Speaker Gully contested, 
in violation of precedent? His opponent received from Mr. 
Arthur Balfour, the Leader of the Unionists, a letter warmly 
endorsing his candidature and wishing him success. 
Speaking at a public meeting in Carlisle during the General 
Election, Mr. Asquith denounced the opposition to Mr. 
Speaker Gully as " a departure from the finer and better 
traditions of English public life." ^ Two days later a letter 
appeared from Mr. Balfour, in which the reasons for 
opposing the Speaker were set forth. The Liberal Govern- 
ment had not consulted the Opposition on the choice of a 
Speaker when they nominated Mr. Gully. They forced 
their man on the House by the narrow Party majority of 
eleven. Mr. Gully's seat at Carlisle was insecure. Not to 
oppose him would mean the making to the Government the 
present of a safe Unionist seat. It was for the Government 
to provide the Speaker with a constituency in which there 
was an undoubted Liberal majority. So wrote Mr. Balfour.^ 

In his address to the constituents Mr. Gully made no 
allusion to politics. He was Speaker of the House of 
Commons, and as such he could have nothing to say to 
Party controversy. Like his predecessors, he recognized 
that a Speaker cannot descend into the rough strife of the 
electoral battle, not even to canvass the electors, without 
impairing the independence and the dignity of the Chair of 
the House of Commons. But he addressed a public meeting 
in Carlisle, and gave the following reasons why the Speaker 
should not be opposed when seeking re-election : — 

" The first reason was that the English people were in 
the main lovers of fair play, and that it had struck them as 
being a somewhat unfair spectacle to see some one who, in 
the public interest, was disabled from protecting himself by 
the ordinary weapons of political warfare, exposed to an 
attack and unable to defend him.self A Speaker could not 

' The Times, July lo, 1895. - Jbid., July u, 1895. 


withdraw from the political arena. On the contrary, he 
must be a Member before he was a Speaker, but he was 
disarmed. It had occurred to our fathers and forefathers 
that it was unfair to put a man disarmed in the middle of a 
ring, and that the proper course was not to subject him to 
the conditions of a contest. That appeared to some people 
of the present day to be a quixotic piece of generosity. He 
hoped there would be some generosity left still in public life."^ 

Happily, the contest ended in his re-election by a 
substantial majority. In the previous General Election he 
polled 2729 votes, or 143 more than his Unionist opponent. 
In the General Election of 1895 he increased his poll to 
3167, and his majority to 314. 

The Unionists came back triumphant from the country. 
There was a feeling still in the Party, though, indeed, it did 
not prevail to any wide extent, that the Speaker of the new 
Parliament should be chosen from its ranks. It was pointed 
out that for sixty years there had not been a Conservative 
Speaker, and, apart altogether from the legitimate ambition 
of the Conservatives to appoint a nominee to the Chair, it 
was argued that in building up the body of precedents which 
guide, if they do not control, the duties of the Speakership, 
Conservative opinion ought to have its proper share, if these 
precedents are truly to reflect the general will of the House 
as a whole. But the influence of the tradition and practice 
of the continuity of the Speakership was too powerful to 
be overborne by those who wished the new Speaker to be 
selected from the Unionist ranks. At the first meeting of 
the new Parliament, in August 1895, Gully was unanimously 
re-elected to the Chair. This historical incident in the 
history of the Speakership was characterized by magnanimity 
and graciousness on the part of the Unionists. Sir John 
Mowbray, the oldest and perhaps the most influential 
private Member of the Conservative Party, who had stood 
sponsor for Sir Matthew White Ridley in opposition to 
Gully in May, now proposed Gully ; and when the motion 
was unanimously endorsed by the House, Mr. Arthur 

^ The Times, July 12, 1895. 


Balfour, as Leader of the House, heartily congratulated 
Gully, and paid a graceful and well-deserved compliment 
to the dignity, tact, and impartiality — the three chief qualities 
of a Speaker — which he had displayed even during his brief 
occupancy of the Chair in the last Parliament.^ Thus was 
marked homage paid to the tradition that the Speaker is not 
the choice of a Party, or even of a majority, but of the whole 
House, and that, once he has been elevated to the Chair, he 
is re-elected as such without respect to the political opinions 
he may have advocated before he donned the wig and gown 
of the Speakership. 

All this goes to show how the splendid principle has 
been established in the House of Commons that the man 
who occupies the high office of Speaker is outside and above 
all Party conflict. Like the Sovereign, the Speaker, as such, 
has no politics. It is true that he is returned to the House 
of Commons originally as a political partisan. It is true also 
that it is as a party nominee he is first appointed to the 
Chair, for the Speakership remains one of the principal 
prizes of political life. But as he is being ceremoniously 
conducted by his proposer and seconder from his place on 
the benches to the Chair he severs the ties that bind him 
to his Party, he doffs his vivid Party colours, be they buff 
or blue, crimson or yellow, and wears instead the white 
flower of a neutral political life ; and once in the Chair he 
is regarded as the choice of the whole House, from which 
his authority is derived and in whose name it is exercised. 
It is said that after his appointment he never enters a 
political club. He migrates from the Carlton or the Reform 
to the Athenaeum. " So anxious is he to appear absolutely 
impartial," wrote the Quarterly Reviezv in 1878, "that 
though in the House of Commons necessarily chosen from 
one of the great Parties in the State, we believe we are 
accurate in saying that no one of the three most recent 
occupants of the Chair ^ has ever entered the political club 
of his Party after accepting his high office." ^ 

^ Parliamentary Debates (4th series), vol. 36, pp. 3-10. 

' Shaw-Lefevre, Denison, and Brand. * Quarterly Review, vol. 146, p. 190. 


It may now be regarded as settled that the Speaker is 
to be free from the storm and stress of a contested election. 
In 1905 there was talk of opposing Mr. Speaker Lowther for 
the representation of the Penrith division of Cumberland. At 
a meeting of the Mid-Cumberland Liberal Association, held 
before the General Election, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, M.P., a 
distinguished Liberal, strongly urged the taking of this 
course of action. He expressed his great personal regard for 
Mr. Lowther, and said a better Speaker could not be found 
in the ranks of the Tories, but for the sake of paying a well- 
deserved compliment to a friend they should not neglect 
their duty as Liberals. The suggestion, however, found no 
support. The gentleman who had been selected to contest 
the seat for the Liberals, before Mr. Lowther's appointment 
to the Chair, declined to go forward in the altered circum- 
stances, or, as he said, to imitate the example of the Tories 
in opposing Mr. Gully at Carlisle.^ Accordingly Mr. Lowther 
was returned unopposed in January 1906. He rode into 
Penrith for his nomination in pink on his way to a meet. 
The forbearance and courtesy due to the Speaker was also 
recognized by the Liberals of Penrith at subsequent General 
Elections. An interesting suggestion was made in the 
constituency at the General Election of January 1910. It 
was that a division returning a Member who is elected 
Speaker should be allowed to send another representative 
to the House of Commons. Mr. Speaker Lowther, following 
precedent at each General Election, offered himself as a 
candidate in a written communication in which he refrained 
from touching on political questions. In the course of his 
first address to the electors of Penrith after his appointment 
to the Speakership he said : — 

" More than ten years ago I was unanimously adopted by 
the House of Commons to preside over its deliberations in 
Committee as Chairman of the Committee of Ways and 
Means ; during two Parliaments it was my privilege and 
good fortune to discharge the duties of that office, and on 
June 8, 1905, I was unanimously elected to be the Speaker 

1 The Times, September 27, 1905. 


of the House of Commons, one of the most distinguished 
and dignified offices open to one of His Majesty's subjects. 

" I trust that you will consider my record and qualifica- 
tions to be of such a character as to justify you in continuing 
to return me as your representative, an honour of which I 
have been deeply sensible in the past, and for which in the 
future I shall be very grateful. The Speaker, as you know, 
has no politics, and I forbear therefore from entering upon 
a discussion of any of the current topics of political 
controversy, but I hope and believe that in my hands your 
interests will be safe, and I can promise that my best 
endeavours will be put forth to serve you." ^ 

Thus it is that Mr. Speaker sits high above the Party 
conflicts that are waged on the floor of the House of 
Commons. Such is his indifference, or impartiality, in 
regard to politics, that it is impossible to say to which 
side of the question under debate he is inclined. But can 
he really divest himself so completely of the deep-seated 
influences of the political associations and teachings of a 
lifetime ? He may retain his political opinions, he may have 
his prejudices still — even in the wig and gown of the Speaker 
what is there but a man ? — but in his general decisions or in 
his treatment of individual Members no trace of them, as a 
rule, are to be found. 

In fact, to act fairly as between all Parties is so much the 
ruling motive in the breast of every Speaker that there is 
little or no room left for political bias. The greatest and 
most honourable tradition of the Chair of the House of 
Commons is its absolute impartiality. It is the rock, broad 
based and deeply set, upon which at once the influence of 
the Speaker and the confidence reposed in him are founded. 
And that being so, the Speaker remains Speaker, with the 
concurrence of both sides of the House, until he decides to 
resign or is removed by death. 

* The Times, January 9, 1906. 




" T_T ATS off!— Way for the Speaker!" With these 
X 1 words the opening of every sitting of the House of 
Commons is heralded. They strikingly emphasize 
the supremacy of the Speaker, and the deference paid to his 
exalted position, which are so noticeable in the proceedings 
at St. Stephens. The command is uttered in the Lobby, 
or ante-chamber of the House, by the inspector of the police 
of the House of Commons, just as the Speaker emerges from 
the corridor leading from his residence to the chamber at 
the hour appointed for the meeting of the House. 

This approach of the Speaker to the House is marked 
by a ceremonial of simple dignity, which has been witnessed 
from day to day through the sessions of Parliament, and 
from year to year for some centuries, with unerring uniformity. 
First comes an usher. Then the Serjeant-at-Arms, in Court 
dress with a sword by his side, carrying the great silver-gilt 
Mace on his shoulder. He is followed by a couple of door- 
keepers apparelled, like the usher, in low-cut waistcoats, 
short jackets, knee breeches, and silk stockings. Next 
comes the Speaker in his big wig and his flowing black robe, 
— which is held up by a trainbearer, — and carrying his 
three-cornered beaver hat in his right hand. He is accom- 
panied by his Chaplain in cassock and bands. Behind 
these are two more doorkeepers. The stately little procession 
slowly wends its way across the bright tessellated pavement 
of the Lobby, while the spectators stand with heads respect- 
fully uncovered. Its sombre hue — all the figures in it being 
garbed in sober suits of solemn black — is brought out by the 
ornate frame in which it is set — the richly moulded grey 
walls, the wonderful oak carving, the stained-glass windows ; 
the fretted roof, with its multi-coloured grooves and its 
dependent electric-light chandeliers in heavy brass ; all of 
which help to make this famous vestibule of the House of 


Commons one of the most beautiful architectural features 
of the Palace of Westminster. The procession disappears 
through the open portals of the House, the Members in the 
Lobby crowd in after it, and the cry of the principal door- 
keeper, " Speaker at prayers," is echoed through corridors 
and rooms by policemen on duty. 

As the Speaker slowly walks up the floor he sees before 
him his big carved-oak seat, prominently set on its dais at 
the head of the Table, and between the two Front Benches. 
He bows his head three times, and as he makes these re- 
verential obeisances to the Chair there is in his eyes a serious- 
ness amounting almost to devotion, and in his whole 
demeanour is reflected the traditional glory of his office. 
Then mounting the two steps of the platform he stands by 
the Chair during the recital of prayers by the Chaplain, and 
gives the responses in the appeals to the Almighty that the 
outcome of the deliberations of the Commons may be the 
public wealth, peace, and well-being of the Realm.^ 

While the Chaplain retires backwards, bowing to the 
Chair, to the Bar, where he turns round and disappears through 
the swing-doors, the Speaker takes his seat, places his feet 
on the sloping footstool, and arranges his robe around him. 
The Chair partakes rather of the character of a throne. 
It is of brown oak, carved with lightness, taste, and grace. 
Over it is an awning which serves the double purpose of a 
sounding-board and a shade from the glare of the electric 
light which falls through the orange-tinted glass ceiling of 
the Chamber. On either side are spacious arms or ledges 
for books and papers, which are further provided with ink- 
holes, rests for pens and pencils, drawers for writing materials, 
and there is also a switch for turning on or off a jet of 
electric light set in the recess of the Chair. 

The Speaker holds a copy of the Orders of the Day — the 
agenda of proceedings — in his hand. He is ready for 
business as the guide as well as the mouth of the House 
of Commons. He is to some extent responsible for the 

' In ihe temporary absence of the Speaker's Chaplain those prayers are read by 
the Speaker. 


arrangement of the proceedings. He is consulted by both 
the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition, 
and by their Whips, when their plans are in the making, and 
communications pass between him and other sections of the 
House continuously, it being part of his task to make the 
parliamentary machine run smoothly in the interest of all 
with due observance of the customs and regulations. He 
has nothing to do with the initiation of Government policy 
or legislation. In these matters the Leader of the House 
is supreme. But in the control of business, once it is laid 
before the House, so far as it is affected by the Standing 
Orders, the voice of the Speaker is supreme, and to it even 
the head of the Government must bow. The Speaker may 
decline to submit to the House a motion — no matter by 
whom it is moved — which he deems to be out of order, and 
in the decision of the question whether or not a motion is 
in harmony Mfith the rules and usages of the House he alone 
is the judge. \ The Speaker, in a word, is the helmsman of 
the Commons. The direction in which the ship is to go is 
laid down by the Leader of the House, but its guidance is in 
.the hands of the Speaker, 

The Speaker is always accessible. He is the friend of 
every Member and every section of the House. His ex- 
perience and counsel are at the service of all in doubt or 
difficulty about a point of order, a motion or a Bill. 
Questions may be publicly ad dressed to the Speaker regard- 
ing the practices and privileges of the House, but the giving 
of notice of such inquiries — such as having them printed on 
the Notice Paper, as is done with questions addressed to 
Ministers — is not permissible. In like manner, appeals can 
only be made to the Chair on points of order as they arise 
in the course of the proceedings. But if a Member is in 
trouble about anything he can go at once to the Speaker 
and privately get his advice. Constantly during a sitting 
Members may be observed coming to the Chair for a 
conference with the Speaker on points of procedure, or as to 
the action properly to be taken in some matters of business, 
or as to their claims to be called upon to address the House 


in a particular debate, which they can only do if they are 
permitted by the Speaker to catch his eye. It may be 
noticed that they generally approach the Chair deferentially 
and with an apologetic air. Gladstone in an autobiographical 
note, referring to his early parliamentary experiences in 
1833, but written in the late days of his life, says : " The first 
time that business required me to go to the arm of the Chair 
to say something to the Speaker, Manners-Sutton — the first 
of seven whose subject I had been — who was something of a 
Keate,^ I remember the revival in me bodily of the frame of 
mind in which a schoolboy stands before his master." ^ Such 
is the traditional awe of Mr. Speaker ! Yet it may also be 
observed that Members retire, after the consultation with 
the Speaker, obviously satisfied by their wreathed smiles and 
many bows of thanks. In truth the Speaker, with his air 
that at once seems to invite confidence and to expect sub- 
mission, is like a good old father confessor. He listens to 
everything, and gives excellent advice. 

All this time the debate is in full swing. The Speaker 
must follow it with the closest attention. It is his duty to 
confine the talk within the limits of relevancy without inter- 
fering with the freedom of discussion. He does not himself 
take part in the debates. As " Mr. Speaker " he speaks only 
as the mouth of the House. He never addresses the House 
except from the Chair, in the discharge of his presidential 
duty. The chief function of the ofifice is to secure to the 
House the twin blessings of order and free speech. It is 
with this object in view that he controls and guides 
debates, that he keeps the discussion strictly to the subject 
at issue, that he decides points of order, that he enforces the 
rules of the House by which all its proceedings are re- 
gulated ; and that he selects, often from many competitors 
who claim to be heard in debate by rising in their places 
the Members who are to speak. 

Debate arises only when a question has been put from the 
Chair by Mr. Speaker. If there is no question before the 

' The famous whipping Headmaster of Eton. 
'Morley, Life of Gladstone , vol. i, p. 100. 


House there can be no discussion. At the close of the 
debate the motion — if it is not talked out at the hour 
appointed for opposed business to cease, or is not otherwise 
disposed of by withdrawal with the leave of the House, or 
resolved in the affirmative or negative by general agreement 
— is determined by a division. Therefore, at the end of the 
discussion, the Speaker rises from the Chair and puts to the 
House the question for its decision. On April 9, 1866, Mr. 
Speaker Denison, on returning to the House after an illness, 
said he should claim the indulgence of sitting while putting 

the question : ^ "The question is that " In 1614 it was 

agreed " that nothing pass by order of the House without a 
question." 2 It was an ancient practice for the Speaker, 
when he thought fit, to frame out of the debate the question 
for the decision of the House.^ This was open not only to 
misconception, but to abuse. Speakers were not above 
putting the question in a form they thought would help the 
side which they favoured. The last instance of the custom 
was on February 15, 1770, by Fletcher Norton, on the 
Sudbury Election petition.^ Since then the motion is framed 
by the mover, and the duty of the Speaker is confined to 
reading it to the House at the end of the discussion. 

The Speaker has to perform many other duties which 
lie outside the regulation of debate. He issues the warrants 
to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery in Great Britain, and 
to the Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper in Ireland to make 
out new writs for the election of Members to fill vacancies 
caused during the sitting of Parliament by death, bankruptcy, 
elevation to the House of Lords, or the acceptance of an 
office of profit under the Crown. This is done on the 
application of one of the Whips of the Party by which the 
seat was held. The motion, however, must be endorsed by 
the House. By the statute 10 Geo. III. c. 41 — passed in 
1770 — the Speaker was empowered to issue warrants for 
the making out of new writs for the filling of vacancies 
caused by death during a Parliamentary recess — without, 

^ Commons Journal, vol. I2I, p. 197. ^ Ibid., vol. I, p. 464. 

' Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 1 12. ^ Cavendish Debates, vol. i, p. 458. 


of course, the immediate authority of the House of 
Commons — so as to secure the speedy election of Members 
of Parliament. By the 15 Geo. III. c. 36 — passed in 1775 
— he was empowered to act likewise in the case of vacancies 
created by elevations to the peerage, on a certificate signed 
by two Members of the House of Commons, and after 
fourteen days' notice published in the London Gazette. 
These statutes were confirmed by the 24 Geo. III. c. 26, 
passed in 1784, and the Speaker was further authorized to 
appoint, at the commencement of every Parliament, a panel 
of Members of the House of Commons, to issue warrants 
for the filling of seats that have been vacated in similar 
circumstances, should he himself happen to be out of the 
realm, or in the event of his death, during a recess of 

These powers of the Speaker were enlarged as time 
progressed. By an Act passed in 1812 — 52 Geo. III. c. 144 
— he was authorized to issue during a recess warrants for 
the filling of seats of Members declared bankrupts by a 
Commission of Bankruptcy, and by the 21 & 22 Vict, 
c. no, passed in 1858, his authority in that respect was 
extended to seats vacated by the acceptance of office in the 
Government, or the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, 
a nominal post at the disposal of Members who desire to 
resign, though in regard to the latter he may reserve the 
matter for the House in any case which appears to him 
doubtful. The certificate of two Members is required also 
in these instances, and, in addition, the official announce- 
ment of the appointment in the London Gazette. But by the 
26 & 27 Vict. c. 20, passed in 1863, six days' notice was 
substituted for the original fourteen days' notice in the 
London Gazette of the intention to issue the writ in regard 
to a seat vacated for any of the prescribed causes during 
a parliamentary recess. By the Bankruptcy Act, 1883, 
section 33, similar powers are given to the Speaker in the 
event of a seat becoming vacant during a recess by the 
bankruptcy of a Member. In this case the Speaker acts 
upon the certificate of the Court of Bankruptcy. 


These powers of the Speaker are operative only during 
a recess caused by an adjournment or prorogation of 
Parliament. As I have already indicated, when dealing 
with the question of the statutory tenure of the Speakership, 
no provision has been made to authorize the Speaker to 
issue warrants for the filling of vacancies after a Dis- 
solution in the interval between the close of the General 
Election and the meeting of the new Parliament. 



THE Speaker also communicates the thanks of the 
House when it is voted to an eminent public servant, 
or to a great soldier or naval commander who has 
asserted the power of the nation in war. More frequently 
has he to convey the censures of the House. The person 
adjudged guilty by the House of a false and scandalous 
libel on Members, or of a breach of its privileges, stands 
at the Bar to receive the judgment of the House as 
expressed by the Speaker. If the delinquent is in the 
custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms he is reprimanded. If he 
is not in custody, appearing in answer to a summons, he is 
only admonished. On these occasions, when a person is at 
the Bar, with the Serjeant-at-Arms by his side carrying 
the Mace, no Member can speak, only the Speaker.^ It is 
the Speaker who issues warrants for the bringing up of 
persons who refuse to attend on a summons to the Bar, or 
to appear to give evidence before a Committee of the House 
sitting upstairs, and warrants for the commitment of 
prisoners of the House — whether Members or strangers — 
to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, or the keeper of a 

The authority of the Speaker to issue such warrants has 

^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, 25. 



been established in the courts of law. Gale Jones, as 
president of a political society in 1810, published resolutions 
passed by the society in reference to the proceedings of the 
House on the Expedition to the Scheldt. For this he was 
summoned to the Bar of the House, and committed to 
Newgate for breach of privilege. Sir Francis Burdett, the 
well-known Radical Member, in a letter published in 
Cobbett's Weekly Register, denied the power of the House 
to commit to prison any one but its own Members. The 
answer of the House was to direct the Speaker to issue a 
warrant for Burdett's imprisonment in the Tower. Denying 
the legality of the Speaker's warrant, Burdett refused to 
surrender to it. The Serjeant-at-Arms, aided by the police 
and military, broke into his house in Piccadilly, arrested him, 
and conveyed him to the Tower, where he was kept in 
custody until the prorogation of Parliament set him free. 
He then brought an action against the Speaker and the 
Serjeant-at-Arms in the King's Bench, and the Court gave 
judgment for the defendants. The question was carried by 
Writ of Error to the Court of Exchequer, and afterwards, 
on appeal, to the House of Lords, and in each case 
the verdict for the Speaker and Serjeant-at-Arms was 

There are also ceremonious occasions on which the 
Speaker appears as the representative of the Commons 
outside the walls of St. Stephens. He goes to Buckingham 
Palace in his State robes — a more elaborate dress than the 
gown he ordinarily wears — in a great gilded coach, accom- 
panied by the Serjeant-at-Arms vrith the Mace, his Chaplain, 
and the Clerk, and attended by a single trooper of the 
Guards as escort. When a joint address is presented to the 
Sovereign by both Houses of Parliament, the Lord Chancellor 
and the Speaker advance side by side towards the Throne, 
followed by Lords and Commons, and the address is read 
by the Lord Chancellor and presented by him to the 
Sovereign on bended knee.^ But when an address is pre- 
sented by the Commons separately, the Speaker reads it, 

* May, Law and Usage of Parliament , 455 {ilth edition). 




and presents it, kneeling on the right knee.^ The Sovereign 
reads his reply, which the Speaker, again kneeling, 

In 1858 the House of Commons voted an address to 
Queen Victoria, to be presented by the whole House. On 
the day appointed Mr. Speaker Denison asked for a copy 
of the address which he was to read to the Queen. He 
got a paper commencing, " Resolved, netnine contradicente." 
" I cannot take up such a thing as this to the Queen," said 
he. " We have voted an address to be presented by the 
whole House. I must present an address, and not a 
resolution that an address should be presented." The 
officers of the House assured him the resolution was the 
correct form ; but just then Lord Eversley — who, as Shaw- 
Lefevre, preceded him in the Chair — appeared, and he agreed 
that there must be an address. Denison accordingly had 
the resolution altered into an address, beginning, " Most 
gracious Sovereign, we, your Majesty's dutiful and loyal 
subjects . . ." " I went," says Denison in his Journal, " in 
gold gown, and — as the Court was in mourning, without 
ruffles — black buckles and bands." " I read the address 
; in this form to the Queen," he continues, " and presented it 
kneeling on the right knee to the Queen on the Throne. 
The Queen read her answer, which, again kneeling on the 
right knee, I received." On coming down the stairs of 
Buckingham Palace, Denison met the Lord Chancellor, who, 
on learning that the Speaker had presented an address 
while he had presented a resolution, exclaimed, " What 

^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, ii. 

- On these occasions the Lords attended the King in levee dress ; but the 
Commons, in assertion of their privilege of free access to the Throne, wear 
ordinary attire, — "hodden gray, an' a' that," as Robert Burns would say. They 
are not, however, permitted to enter the royal presence with sticks and 
umbrellas. The Speaker and the Commons were also entitled by privilege or 
custom to approach Buckingham Palace in their carriages by the royal central 
drive of the Mall of St. James's Park. But the substitution of one broad drive 
in the new Mall — over which all and sundry have free access — for the centre and 
two side drives of the old Mall, which were abolished about 1905, brought to an 
end, unlamented or, indeed, unnoticed, one of the "ancient and undoubted 
rights " of the House of Commons. 


a horrible blunder I have made." Denison adds joyously, 
" I condoled with the Lord Chancellor." ^ 

Mr. Speaker Denison also records that he was invited 
to be present at the opening of the International Exhibi- 
tion on May i, 1862, as one of the Royal Commissioners 
representing Queen Victoria. He wrote to Lord Eversley 
inquiring how he ought to dress for the occasion, and got 
the reply, " plain black gown and wig," which he wears in 
the House of Commons. He decided, however, to go in his 
" gold gown," but not to ride in the ancient State coach, 
which could only lumber along at a foot's pace. " I borrowed 
a good London coach of Lord Chesham," he says ; " I put 
my coachman and two footmen in their State liveries ; I 
added good cloths and bows and ribbons to my horses' 
furniture." So he went to Buckingham Palace, taking the 
Serjeant-at-Arms with the Mace and his Trainbearer in the 
carriage with him. He lead the procession from the Palace 
to the Exhibition. " Royal processions," he points out, 
*' move in the inverse order of precedency, the lowest in 
rank going first." The carriage went at a fair trot. He 
asks : " Where should I have been in my gold coach, leading 
the way at a foot's pace?" In the building a procession 
was arranged. " I was to walk first, as I led the way in 
my carriage," says Denison. "Lord Palmerston was desired 
to walk by my side. He said, ' No, the Speaker should 
walk alone ; I will follow.' I said, ' Of course, as you please ; 
but I should think it a great honour if we might proceed 
together.' Lord Palmerston said, ' Oh, if you wish it, 
certainly.'" ^ 

Denison was also present at the marriage of the Prince 
of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, on March 
10, 1863, at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. "I went in 
my black velvet suit," he says. "The Lord Chamberlain 
said that was the proper dress. He told this to the Lord 
Chancellor, who, however, would go in his gold gown and 
his wig. The Lord Chamberlain said we had no function to 
perform, we had no part to play in the ceremony, we were 

^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, lo-ii. - Ibid,, 1 14-15. 



invited guests like others. I followed the advice of the 
Lord Chamberlain ; the Lord Chancellor went in his gold 
gown. '■ 

The Speaker is also inspector of standard weights and 
measures. This is a duty which falls to few Speakers, as it 
is discharged but once every twenty years. The legalized 
imperial standards of weights and measures are in safe 
keeping at the Standards Office, Old Palace Yard. As a 
precaution, copies are kept at other places, including the 
Houses of Parliament, so that in the event of the originals 
being lost or injured new standards can be authentically 
provided. The Parliament copies are placed in a cavity in 
the wall on the right-hand side of the second landing-place 
of the steps leading to the committee rooms of the House 
of Commons, which is marked by a brass tablet with the 
inscription : " Within this wall are deposited standards of 
the British yard measure and the British pound measure." 
The receptacle is opened every twenty years, in the presence 
of the Speaker and the President of the Board of Trade, and 
the copies are taken out and compared with the originals, 
which are brought from the Standards Office. The 
ceremony last took place in April 1892, when Peel was 

One duty which the Speaker discharges at the prorogation 
of Parliament is of high constitutional significance. That is 
the special presentation of Money Bills, on behalf of the 
Commons, at the Bar of the House of Lords for the Royal 
Assent. Government Bills, other than Finance Bills, after 
they have passed the House of Lords, remain in that House 
for the Royal Assent. But arising out of disputes between 
Lords and Commons on the subject of taxation in the 
seventeenth century, it was established in 1628 that the 
preamble of a Bill granting aids and supply to the Crown 
should be : " We, the Commons, have given and granted to 
Your Majesty " ; and ever since all Money Bills, on passing 
the House of Lords, are returned to the hands of the Speaker, 

* Denison, Notes from My Journal, 129. 

^ H. J. Chancy, Our Weights and Measures (1897), 9, 10. 


who presents them personally for the assent of the 

An ancient duty or custom of the Speaker at prorogation 
has, in this connexion, fallen into disuse. At the close of a 
session the Speaker, on presenting subsidies or Finance Bills 
at the Bar of the House of Lords, by immemorial usage, 
addressed the Sovereign on the merits of the legislative 
measures which had received the sanction of Parliament.^ 
This speech was delivered only when the Sovereign was 
present. The prorogation of Parliament by the Sovereign 
in person was a common occurrence up to the middle of the 
nineteenth century. It may now be regarded, perhaps, as 
a thing of the past. Parliament is always prorogued by 
commission. Queen Victoria, in the early years of her 
reign, adhered to the long-established practice of proroguing 
Parliament in person ; and on each occasion the Speaker 
dilated upon the work of the session before Her Majesty 
read her Speech from the Throne. 

The last time that Queen Victoria was present at 
prorogation was on August 12, 1854. Mr. Speaker Shaw- 
Lefevre then delivered the usual address. It was the end of 
a long series of sessional speeches by the Speaker, stretching 
back, as we have seen, through many centuries, for it was the 
last occasion that Parliament was prorogued by the Sovereign 
in person. Is the practice ever likely to be restored ? The 
point is an academic one. But even were the Sovereign 
to determine at any time to revive the ancient custom of 

' The Jour tt ah of the House of Comvions contain the following account of the 
dissolution of the second and last Parliament of Edward vi. in 1553 : " Between 
the hours of five and seven in the afternoon the King's Majesty, in his royal 
seat in the waiting chamber in his Palace of Westminster, after the ornate 
oration by Mr. Speaker, exhibiting therein the subsidy, the King gave his Royal 
Assent to seventeen Acts and dissolved this his Parliament" (vol. i, p. 26). 
The custom had been in operation long before this. The Rolls of Parliament 
which preceded ihc Journals record little else than the laws that were made, — as 
has been pointed out already, — and omitted matters of form and ceremony. It 
was the practice also to insert those speeches in the Journals. The address of 
Mr. Speaker Arthur Onslow to King George il., on May 2, 1745 {Commons 
Journals, vol. 25, pp. 8, 9), was llie last prorogation speech to be entered at 
length in [.he Journals. 


proroguing Parliament in person, instead of by Royal 
Commission appointed for the purpose, it is doubtful 
whether the Speaker would consider there was an obligation 
upon him also to revive the procedure of telling the Sovereign 
of the work of Parliament during the session, a matter upon 
which enlightenment has not been needed, at least since the 
coming of the parliamentary reporter. 



OF what may be called the higher duties of the Speaker, 
the principal are the guardianship of the ancient 
privileges of the House, the maintenance of its 
authority, dignity, and honour, and the protection of the 
rights of minorities. The Speaker is the judge of breaches 
of privilege. Amendments made by the Lords in a Bill sent 
to them by the Commons are submitted to him by the 
Minister if they are regarded as infringing on the exclusive 
right of the Commons to impose a charge on the tax-payers 
or rate-payers, and upon occasions he calls the attention of 
the House to such amendments himself, and declares them 
breaches of privilege. He also gives judgment upon 
breaches of privilege by outsiders which are brought to his 
notice in the House. 

Then there are the rights of Members. Spencer Compton, 
who was Speaker from 17 15 to 1728, was once appealed 
to by a Member who met with considerable interruptions 
to obtain him the hearing which he asserted was his by 
right : " No, sir," answered the Speaker ; " you have a right to 
speak, but the House have a right to judge whether they 
will hear you." In this, says Hatsell, " the Speaker certainly 
erred. The Member has a right to speak, and the House 
ought to attend to him, and it is the Speaker's duty to 
endeavour for that purpose to keep them quiet." ^ 

^ Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 107. 


Mr. Speaker Lowther also emphatically dissented from 
this ruling of his predecessor. In September 1908 he was 
presented with the freedom of the city of Carlisle, the capital 
town of Cumberland, for the Penrith division of which he 
sits in Parliament ; and in the course of a speech acknow- 
ledging the honour, he said that Parliament, as its name 
implied, was a place where one spoke one's mind. He 
therefore considered it was his first duty to see that all 
Members of such an assembly were free, subject to the rules 
of the House, to speak their mind without let or hindrance, 
" however disagreeable their sentiments might be to their 
fellow-members." " I do not think," said Mr. Lowther, after 
quoting the declaration of Spencer Compton, "that is the 
function of the Speaker." Having called upon a man to 
speak because he believes him to be entitled to give his 
opinion to his fellow-members, the Speaker's function and 
duty is, said he, " to do all he can, by every fair and proper 
means, to make sure that that man shall have a fair and 
impartial hearing. For freedom of speech is what has made 
our Parliament the greatest Parliament in the world." ^ 

That is well said. But the fact remains, I think, that 
Spencer Compton was right after all. Some of the most 
illustrious Members of the House have been howled down. 
Edmund Burke met that fate on April 17, 1769, in the angry 
debate on the famous motion for declaring Colonel Luttrell 
Member for Middlesex instead of John Wilkes. He was 
making a powerful speech against the motion in the midst 
of a continuous noise, when he stopped in the course of his 
argument to exclaim angrily : " I will be heard. I will 
throw open the doors and tell the people of England that 
when a man is addressing the Chair on their behalf the 
attention of the Speaker is engaged." Sir Henry Cavendish, 
in his report of the speeches, gives the explanatory note : 
" There was at this time a great noise in the House, and 
some Member was whispering to the Speaker." ^ The 
Speaker was Sir John Cust, and apparently he was 

' The Times, Seplember 23, 1908. 
* Cavendish Debates, vol. I, p. 399. 



unable or — as Burke imagined — unwilling to stop the 

During my own experience in the Reporters' Gallery I 
can recall at least four instances of Members having been 
shouted down. In each case, despite all the exertions of the 
Speaker to restore order and obtain him a hearing, the 
Member was finally compelled by the clamour to give up the 
attempt to speak. The most celebrated case occurred on the 
night of May 22, 1905, when the Liberal Opposition refused 
to hear Mr. Lyttleton, the Colonial Secretary, demanding 
that Mr. Balfour, the Prime Minister, should speak instead ; 
and Mr. Lowther, who happened to be in the Chair as 
Deputy Speaker — owing to the illness of Mr. Speaker Gully 
— was compelled, owing to the great disorder, to declare the 
sitting at an end, as he was empowered to do by the 
Standing Orders. The truth is, that even a small section of 
the House, organized and determined, may by continuous 
cries of " Vide, Vide, Vide " prevent a Member, whose speech 
or interposition in the debate is obnoxious to them, from being 
heard. In each of the other instances I refer to the Member 
was denied a hearing by the Nationalists, and the appeal of 
the Speaker or Chairman of Committee on his behalf was 
unavailing, for it fell, not upon deaf ears, but upon closed 
minds. Indeed, the limitation to the powers of the Speaker 
in such a case is recognized even by Hatsell, for he thus 
qualifies the declaration as to the duty of the Chair which I 
have quoted : " But where the love of talking gets the better 
of modesty and good sense, which sometimes happens, it 
is a duty very difficult to execute in a large and popular 
assembly," and he goes on to say that if a member finds the 
House disinclined to hear him, it would be prudent in him 
to submit to its pleasure and sit down.^ 

The calling on a Member to speak seems simple enough, 
and yet it is really one of the most delicate tasks which the 
Speaker has to discharge. At times there is quite a fierce 
competition to catch the eye of the Speaker, that most 
elusive of all organs of vision. A number of Members 

^ Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, pp. 107-8. 


jumped to their feet, each leaning forward towards the Chair 
in an attitude of urgent appeal and expectation. Which 
shall be chosen ? The answer lies with the Speaker. He 
selects one of the number to continue the debate by calling 
him by his name. This power of selection, or recognition, 
vested in the Speaker, is the practical method by which, 
in a body of 670 Members, dozens of whom may be 
simultaneously desirous of speaking, it is determined which 
particular one of the competitors shall be heard on the 
question at issue and in continuation of the debate. 

It is not an absolute or arbitrary power. It is set aside 
when a Minister rises, or a prominent Member of the front 
Opposition bench. These men of office and leadership may, 
as a rule, speak when they please. That is, the Speaker sees 
them and calls upon them, in preference to other Members 
seeking to catch his eye. There is discrimination also in the 
exercise of his power of recognition in regard to the competing 
occupants of the back benches. The Member who rises first 
does not necessarily always catch the Speaker's eye. In 
other words, the Speaker does not always call upon the 
Member whom he first observes among those who have risen 
in their places to speak. A new Member is, as a matter of 
courtesy, called upon to make his " maiden speech " in pre- 
ference to others rising to speak at the same time. In case 
the Speaker might not be aware that there is a new Member 
among the competitors to catch his eye, there are usually 
cries of " New Member " to direct his attention to the fact. 
This privilege will not be conceded by the Speaker unless 
claimed within the Parliament to which the Member was 
first returned. On March 25, 1859, during the discussion 
of the Representation of the People Bill, several Members 
rose at the same time to address the House. Among them 
were Mr. Cardwell, an ex-Minister, and a private Member 
named Beaumont who had not made his maiden speech. 
The Speaker called " Mr. Cardwell." Thereupon there were 
cries of " Beaumont," and Mr. Bentinck, rising to order, asked 
the Speaker whether it was not the practice of the House to 
give precedence to a new Member ? Lord Palmerston then 


rose and inquired whether, when Mr. Speaker had called 
upon a Member to address the House, it was regular for any 
Member to prevent his proceeding and insist upon another 
Member being heard ? Mr. Speaker Denison does not seem 
to have replied to either question. He again called upon 
Mr. Cardwell, and that gentleman addressed the House.^ It 
was, however, understood that the Speaker declined to give 
precedence to Mr. Beaumont to make his maiden speech, on 
the ground that he had sat in the previous Parliament, and 
that the privilege lapses with the Parliament in which a 
Member first sits. 

The Speaker may also be guided in his selection by the 
weight and interest of the opinions of a particular Member on 
the subject of debate. Shaw-Lefevre was asked how, when 
twenty Members started to their feet, he singled out his man. 
" Well," he humorously replied : " I have been shooting rabbits 
all my life, and I have learnt to mark the right one." The 
Speaker does his best to give the ear of the House to those 
Members whom the Plouse is most desirous of hearing. He 
is sometimes guided by the Whips of the different Parties in 
the House. This means that on the occasion of an important 
debate the chief advocates on each side are, as a matter of 
convenience, selected beforehand by agreement between the 
Liberal and Conservative Whips, and that these Members 
are usually called by the Speaker when they rise in the order 
thus previously arranged. In like manner, if the Irish Party 
or the Labour Party have selected a spokesman to express 
their views, his name is given to the Speaker, and he is called 
when the appropriate time comes for him to address the House. 

On February 26, 1872, observations were made concerning 
this " Whips' List " by which the choice of the Speaker was 
said to be governed, with the result that independent Members 
were deprived of a hearing. Denison had just retired from 
the Chair, and his place was taken by Brand. The matter 
was raised by Mr. J. Bentinck, who called attention as a 
question of privilege to the statement, in TJie Alorning 
Advertiser of February 5, that a list of Members who were 
1 Parliamenia>y Debates (3rd series), vol. 153, p. 839. 


desirous of taking part in debate was drawn up by Mr. Glyn, 
the Chief Liberal Whip, in consultation with the Chief Con- 
servative Whip, and that, furthermore, the Liberal Members 
on the list were selected by the Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone. 
" This list," the newspaper went on to say, " is given to the 
Speaker, with injunctions that no Member is to speak whose 
name is not upon it." They could not conceive — they 
added — a greater mockery than a House of Representatives in 
which freedom of speech was practically not allowed. Mr. 
Speaker Brand, who had acted as Liberal Whip for years, 
said he had never seen such a list. " I shall endeavour on 
all occasions," said he, " to call upon hon. Members to speak 
according to their respective claims, in a spirit aitd with a 
desire of fairness and impartiality, and with a view of eliciting 
the several opinions which prevail in the House on the 
subject before it." Such a list was also disclaimed by 
Gladstone, on behalf of himself and the Liberal Whip. 

Curiously enough, when the subject was subsequently 
raised at the same sitting by Mr. Bentinck, both Mr. Glyn 
and Mr. Noel, the Government and Opposition Whips, are 
represented as having admitted what seems to have been 
denied by Gladstone, that they had been in the habit of 
supplying Mr. Speaker Denison with such lists for his assist- 
ance. But they disowned the intention of using the lists to 
gag independent Members, and insisted that the Speaker's 
selection of Members to take part in a debate was not in 
the least controlled or even influenced by the Hsts.^ What- 
ever may have been the custom in 1872, it has long been a 
well-known practice for the Whips to draw up such lists for 
submission to the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees on 
important occasions when many Members desire to speak and 
the time available is limited. It is found to be a convenient 
practice for all Parties. But the discretion of the Speaker 
remains quite unfettered. He has the right, of course, to alter 
these arrangements as he thinks best. He can neither be per- 
suaded nor intimidated into calling any Member in particular. 

Apart from this action of the Whips in submitting to the 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd scries), vol. 209, pp. 1032-4, and pp. 1036-9. 



favourable consideration of the Speaker a selection of their 
followers who desire to join in a debate, it is not unusual for 
Members themselves to intimate personally to the Speaker 
their wish to be afforded an opportunity to express their 
views on the subject at issue. The occasion may not be of 
sufficient moment to call for the preparation of a Whips' 
List, or, if it be so, these Members may perhaps be out of 
favour with the Whips, on account of independence of spirit 
or idiosyncrasy of temperament. But it is undoubtedly the 
fact that every effort to meet their desires is made by 
the Speaker, having regard to the exigencies of time and 
the claims of others. Yet it has been asserted in the House 
of Commons, that the action of the Whips, favoured as it 
is by the Speaker, has the effect of placing a gag on 
independent Members. 

The complaint gave rise to a remarkable and wholly 
unprecedented scene in the House of Commons. At the 
assembling of the Liberal Parliament, on January 31, 191 1, 
Mr, J. W. Lowther was proposed and seconded as Speaker 
for the fourth time, and, thinking that the proceeding was 
to take its customary formal and ceremonious course, he 
rose from the seat he occupied as a private Member — on the 
second bench above the gangway on the Opposition side — 
to submit himself to the House, when Mr. Laurence Ginnell, a 
Nationalist Member, sitting below the gangway, unexpectedly 
intervened, and broke the calm and harmony of the occasion 
by a speech acrid in spirit and harsh in tone. It was an un- 
mitigated attack on the system of " Whips' Lists " as sub- 
versive of the rights of independent Members. The hon. 
Member had differences with his colleagues oa questions 
of policy which led to his exclusion from the Irish Party. ^ 
Consequently his name was absent from any lists v/hich may 
have been sent to the Speaker and Chairman of Committees 
by the Nationalist Whips during the previous Parliament. 
Here is an extract from his speech : — 

" The election of Speaker and of the Chairman of Com- 
mittees itself had become one of the greatest shams. (' No, 
no.') No man was fit for either of those positions who did 


not firmly maintain the absolute right of every Member, from 
the greatest to the humblest, to an impartial opportunity of 
addressing the House within the limits of time and order. 
The right of a private Member to speak was a right which it 
was the special function of the Speaker and of the Chairman 
to maintain. Mr. Lowther in practice and effect denied the 
right of a private Member to an impartial opportunity of 
addressing that House. (' No, no,') Having been himself 
denied that right for five years, and not having been allowed 
to open his lips in debate during the whole of the last 
Parliament (loud and prolonged laughter and ironical cheers), 
he was bound to enter his protest against that public scandal. 
(Renewed laughter.) It was very unfortunate that the Party 
system, which might be admirable if worked for legitimate 
Party purposes, had been perverted into a number of more 
or less rival machines devoid of scruple, devoid of conscience, 
devoid of honour, and turned from public and even from 
Party purposes to the suppression of free opinions, to the 
gratification of personal spite, and to the sordid personal 
advantage of the machine workers. (Cries of ' No, no.') 
The Speaker of the House of Commons allowed himself to 
be controlled by this vile mechanism. (* No, no.') " ^ 

As the interruptions to which the hon. Member was 
subjected clearly indicate, his bitter reproaches of Mr. 
Lowther offended the sense of the House. They were 
repudiated subsequently by Mr. John Redmond, the leader 
of the Nationalists. By^universal admission, Mr. Lowther, 
as Speaker, was dignified and urbane, firm yet courteous, 
with the rarer gift of being able instantly to dissolve a 
dangerous parliamentary situation into genial laughter by a 
remark of healing humour. He met this onslaught with his y . 
customary tactful urbanity. " In so far as the criticisms of the y^/ 
\\,Hon. Member are deserved I will note them," said hcr'^trtv 
""hie most curious feature of the incident, perhaps, \ras that 
there was no one to call Mr. Ginnell to order for this attack 
upon the impartiality and independence of the Chair. The 
duty of Sir Courtenay Ilbert, who as Clerk of the House 
presided, was confined to pointing with his finger at the 
Members who proposed and seconded the election of the 

' 77ie 7'/mtn, PYbruary i, 191 1. 



Speaker and joined in the debate. The rules of order were 
not, however, inoperative, because the Speaker, incarnating 
the authority of the House, had not yet been elected. Sir 
Reginald Palgrave, a famous Clerk of the House, held that 
the House was vested with inherent power to check or 
punish disorder during the election of a Speaker, and that if 
a resolution were moved for that purpose he, as Clerk, would 
be entitled to put it to the House, just as he would put the 
question in the event of a contest for the Chair. 

The Speaker's call, as between two Members rising at the 
same time, may be disputed by a motion that the other 
Member " be not heard." This has been done in the past 
when in the opinion of a section of the House there was 
another Member up before the Member called upon to speak, 
or when they considered some other Member had the first 
claim on the attention of the House. There was a curious 
instance of questioning the decision of the Speaker on March 
12, 1771. The subject of discussion was the proceedings 
instituted by the House against the printers of newspapers 
for publishing its debates in breach of its privileges. Two 
Members rose, Colonel Barre, Whig, and George Onslow, 
Tory, and the Speaker, Sir Fletcher Norton, called upon the 
latter. The House had just divided on a motion by Barre, 
who had intimated that after the division he would go on 
with another part of the question. Accordingly he contended 
he had the right to speak first. " I stood up, and, in the 
common acceptation of the term, I was in your eye," he said 
to the Speaker. " How I got out of your eye, and the hon. 
Member in, I cannot conceive." Then he put this poser to 
his opponents: "Now, having proved that 1 was in the 
Speaker's eye, it is incumbent upon the gentlemen on the 
other side to show how the hon. Member got into it." It 
was, however, the Speaker that answered. He said : " I give 
the hon. Member my word of honour too that he was not 
so much in my eye as the other gentleman " ; and added, " I 
wish my action to be under the control of the House, If 
I do not see gentlemen as I ought to see them, I hope the 
House will express their sense upon it." 


In order to take the sense of the House, William Burke 
— the intimate if not the kinsman of the great Edmund — 
who was on the side of Barre, moved the curiously worded 
question : " That Mr. Onslow, not being first up, do now 
speak." Edmund Burke, speaking in support of the motion, 
asserted that the decision as to who was first up lay solely 
in the House. " The novel doctrine of the Speaker's eye, 
now growing up into an order, is," said he, " improper, 
irregular, and unparliamentary. The Speaker may have his 
eye upon one side of the House rather than the other." 
This opinion was ridiculed by Colonel Luttrell. " The eye 
of the Speaker is the eye of the House," said he. " He 
decides for individuals who cannot decide for themselves. 
Some gentlemen are near-sighted, some might decide through 
partiality: no man can see behind him. You, sir, from your 
place in the Chair, are more able to decide who was first 
up than the House collectively could possibly do." Ulti- 
mately the motion was withdrawn and Onslow was left in 

The most interesting modern instance — and the latest — 
occurred on April 22, 183 1. It was the historic day on which 
King William iv. went in State to Westminster to prorogue 
Parliament with a view to a Dissolution and an appeal 
to the country by the Whig Government on the question 
of Reform. There were tumultuous proceedings in both 
Houses while they awaited the coming of the King. In 
the House of Commons a petition for the Reform of 
Parliament was being debated. Sir R. Vyvyan, the Member 
for Cornwall, who was speaking, sat down when the report 
of the guns announcing the arrival of His Majesty re- 
sounded through the Chamber. The scene which followed 
was most extraordinary. Sir Robert Peel, the Leader of 
the Opposition, and Sir Francis Burdett, the eminent Radical, 
rose at the same moment to continue the debate. Peel 
was received with " loud shouts, groans, laughter, and cries 
of ' Bar ' " from the Ministerial benches, which were responded 
to from the Opposition benches by shouts of " Order " and 
' Cavendish Debates, vol. 2, pp. 385-8. 


" Chair." Lord Althorp, the Leader of the House, was now on 
his feet, competing with Peel and Burdett for a hearing. The 
Speaker also rose and, after a long interval of confusion, 
succeeded in restoring order sufficiently to enable him to 
explain the position of affairs. Peel had caught his eye, 
and thereupon Lord Althorp moved that Burdett be first 
heard. It therefore remained for him to put the question 
" That Sir Francis Burdett be now heard," and upon that 
motion he ruled that the Leader of the Opposition had an 
undoubted right to speak. Peel accordingly proceeded to 
address the House, but he spoke with difficulty, so clamorous 
were the Ministerialists, and in a few minutes the scene was 
terminated by the knocking of Black Rod at the door to 
summon the Commons to the House of Lords.^ 

The decision is now left to the Speaker, as, indeed, it 
must be, if order is at all to be maintained. It sometimes 
happens, especially towards the close of a big debate, when but 
little time is left before the division, that shouts are raised 
for a Member other than the Member called upon by the 
Speaker. If the Member in possession gives way, well and 
good, but if he insists upon his right to address the House 
the choice of the Speaker is not further questioned. The 
truth, therefore, is that the Speaker remains dictator in the 
choice of those who shall take part in a debate. And here 
his impartiality comes into play. His discrimination is 
always regulated by the principle that the two sides shall 
be heard alternately, that an opponent or critic must follow 
a friend or advocate of the subject of debate. 

As may be supposed in these circumstances, the Speaker 
unwittingly arouses animosities in the discharge of this 
presidential function. There are men of bright intellect 
and keen sensitiveness whose vanity and pride are hurt 
because they are not called upon to speak ; there are sullen 
and obstinate men who fancy they have been deliberately 
overlooked. The African explorer, Sir H. M. Stanley, 
was returned for a London borough as a Conservative in 
the General Election of 1895. He did not take kindly to 
^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 3, pp. 1819-22. 


parliamentary life, and at the Dissolution refused to stand 
again. In his Autobiography he writes: — 

" I would not stand again for much. I have never been 
quite free, after I understood the parliamentary machine, 
from a feeling that it degraded me somewhat to be in 
Parliament. I have, as a Member, less influence than the 
man in the street. On questions concerning Africa, Dilke 
or some other wholly unacquainted with Africa would be 
called upon to speak before me. . . . Any illusions that 
I may have had, illusions that I could serve the Empire, 
advance Africa's interests, benefit this country, were quickly 
dispelled. The Speaker's eye could not be caught ; he 
would call on some glib talker who really knew very little 
of his subject, and in this respect also I felt there was some 
degradation for me, sitting there to listen to such futilities, 
so I am glad at the prospect of retiring and being quit of 
it all." 1 

The Speaker needs to have a thick skin, or, better still, 
a serene disposition, to enable him, when he is criticized 
or nagged at or traduced, just to grin and bear it. He 
cannot retaliate. Such things must be endured in 
silence with the support afforded him, not so much by 
toughness of grain, as by a clear conscience and a mag- 
nanimous mind. He is also liable to be misunderstood 
in his granting or refusal of the closure which lies within his 
discretion. The closure is rarely refused to a Minister in 
charge of a Bill who thinks that progress is slow and desires 
to accelerate the pace. Still, the Speaker, even in such a 
case, is bound scrupulously to consider whether or not the 
views of the Opposition have been adequately expressed 
before he decides to put from the Chair that motion which 
brings all discussion to an end : " The question is that the 
question be now put" Sometimes the closure is applied 
by the Speaker on the motion of a private Member who has 
moved a resolution on the second or third reading of a Bill, 
and desires to make certain that the House shall express 
its opinion upon it, when there is an obvious intention on 
■ Autobiography of Henry M. Stanley, pp. 504-5. 


the part of his opponents to stave off a division by talking 
the matter out. 

The "guillotine" is different from the closure. It means 
that whole stages of Government Bills — such as the second 
reading, the Committee stage, and the third reading — are 
carried according to a fixed time-table cunningly contrived 
by Ministers and previously submitted by them to the 
House, and approved by their Party majority. In such 
a case the Speaker has no discretion. He simply carries 
out the will of the House as expressed by the majority, by 
letting fall at the hour appointed the knife which operates 
mechanically and automatically. But in the application of 
the closure the Speaker is more or less a free agent, and 
therefore his reputation for judgment and impartiality is 
at the mercy of the unaccountable impulses and tempera- 
ments, the unreasoning whims and caprices, of a large 
and democratic assembly of men. A man who is stung 
to the quick by angrily reproving cries is unsuitable for 
the Chair of the House of Commons. Not every pachy- 
dermatous man is fitted to preside over the Grand Council 
of the nation. But certainly every Speaker must be 

What are the character and attainments, then, which make 
a successful President of the representative Chamber ? *' Go 
and assemble yourself together, and elect one, a discreet, 
wise, and learned man, to be your Speaker," said a Lord 
Chancellor in the reign of Elizabeth to a new House of 
Commons. The order in which the qualities deemed 
essential for the Chair are here arranged is not without 
significance. Discretion comes first. It might also be given 
the second place and the third. Ability of the highest order 
is by no means indispensable in a Speaker, for intellectually 
his work is not difficult. But in the twentieth century, as in 
the sixteenth, the faculty of the highest importance in the art 
of the Speakership is circumspection, sagacity, tact, in which 
is implied an imperturbable temper, a careful observation of 
the peculiarities of individual character, and a common 
sense in judgment. He must also have a fair gift of speech 


and a strong commanding voice. He must be capable of 
saying the right thing at the right time. If he can say it 
in a stately fashion so much the better. Even a touch 
of pomposity would not be amiss ; for by long tradition 
something of the grand manner is expected of the Speaker. 
But the most precious attribute of the Chair of the House 
of Commons is impartiality, and the highest and most 
inspired personal quality of a Speaker is command and 
influence over men. 



JOHN EVELYN DEN I SON had sat in the House for 
more than thirty years when, in 1857, he- was chosen 
Speaker. Yet naturally he was awed by the responsi- 
bilities of the Chair. In such a position, about which the 
light of publicity beats so fiercely, timorousness or irre- 
solution would be fatal. To Denison the prospect was not 
made less inviting by the reply which he got from his 
predecessor on inquiring whether there was any one to whom 
he could go for advice and assistance on trying occasions. 
" No one," said Shaw-Lefevre ; " you must learn to rely 
entirely upon yourself" " And," proceeds Denison in his 
Jownal, " I found this to be very true. Sometimes a friend 
would hasten to the Chair and offer advice. I must say, it 
was for the most part lucky I did not follow the advice. I 
spent the first few years of my Speakership like the captain 
of a steamer on the Thames, standing on the paddle-box, 
ever on the look-out for shocks and collisions." ^ 

But these " shocks and collisions " are rarely uncommon 
or unfamiliar. The House of Commons has not had a life 
and grow ih of many centuries without providing an abund- 
ance of precepts and examples for the guidance of its 
Speaker. It may be said that whatever occurs in the House 

' Notes from AJy Journal, 2-3. 


of Commons has happened there before. Almost every 
contingency that can possibly arise has had its antecedent 
parallel, and is accordingly covered by a precedent, and 
a Speaker cannot go far astray in a decision if he be 
thoroughly acquainted with the forms and procedure of the 
House and the rulings of his predecessors, which hedge his 
course. Nor is it quite the fact that there is no one to whom 
he can go for advice. It is the custom for Members to give 
the Speaker private notice of questions on points of order, 
unless, of course, such as arise unexpectedly in debate ; and 
for aid in the decision of these cases the Speaker has a 
counsel specially engaged to direct him on points of law, 
and the Clerks who sit at the Table below him to refer to, 
if necessary, with regard to custom and procedure. There 
is a story told of Mr. Speaker Denison which, if true, would 
indicate that he was not himself very ready or resourceful, 
and that in coping with a difficult situation he could not 
always rely upon the advice of the Clerk of the House. 
Once when a storm seemed brewing, Denison stooped from 
the Chair and asked Sir Denis le Marchant, then Chief Clerk, 
what on earth he would recommend him to do. " I should 
recommend you, sir, to be very cautious," whispered Le 
Marchant, and then vanished by the back of the Chair. 

However that may have been, Denison was most in- 
dustrious and painstaking. " I used to study the business 
of the day carefully every morning," he says in his Journal^ 
" and consider what questions could arise upon it. Upon 
these questions I prepared myself by referring to the rules, 
or, if needful, to precedents."^ It is also the practice for the 
Clerks at the Table to have an audience with the Speakei 
in his library every day before the House meets, to draw his 
attention to points of order likely to arise which he might 
be called upon to settle, and to confer generally with him 
on the business of the day.- Furthermore, the Speaker has 
the advantage of the ripe experience and advice of his 
predecessor in office. Denison, as his Journal shows, was 

^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, 3. 

"^ Note by Archibald Milman (Assistant Clerk) in \y^m%oxi% Journal, 36. 


in constant communication on matters relating to procedure 
with Lord Eversley, who as Shaw-Lefevre preceded him in 
the Chair. Therefore it is not often that a question of order 
arises for which the Speaker is unprepared. 

It must not, however, be supposed that smooth and easy 
is the way of the President of the House of Commons. The 
whole art of the Speakership does not consist in presenting 
a dignified, ceremonial figure, in wig and gown, on a carved 
and canopied chair, having a mastery of the technicalities 
of procedure, calling "Order, order" now and then, and 
graciously permitting Members to catch his eye. For the 
Speaker to be brought suddenly face to face with quite an 
unprecedented situation is certainly a very rare experience. 
Still, as it has happened before, so it may happen again. It 
is by no means improbable or unlikely that at any moment 
the Speaker may be called upon to take action in a most 
unexpected emergency. It is certain to be an occasion of 
excitement and passion. Indeed, there is nothing more 
surprising in the House of Commons than the uncertainty 
of its moods. There is no barometer to herald the approach 
of a parliamentary storm. All of a sudden a hurricane 
bursts upon the House out of what seemed to be just a 
moment before the most tranquil of situations. It is these 
sudden emergencies — the sharp contact of strong character 
and untoward circumstances — that show the stuff of which 
the Speaker is really made ; these sudden emergencies when 
human passions are fiercely aroused, and with him, and him 
alone, lies the task of subduing them. 

The Speaker, in such a situation, is unable to consult the 
authorities, or the rulings inspired by the experience and 
wisdom of his predecessors. The decision must be instantly 
taken ; the decisive word must be instantly spoken. What 
avails him then is a thorough knowledge not only of the 
orders of the House, but also of its unwritten traditions, 
customs, and usages, backed by his own innate qualities of 
self-possession and cool judgment. It is easy enough for 
the Speaker to decide .such small points of order as are 
constantly being raised. But is his the magic of calming 


disturbances by the noble appeal, or the happy jest, or by 
the sheer impressiveness and domination of his personality ? 
That is the supreme test. The sudden emergency unveils 
him, and he stands forth a weakling or a great man. 

There are two classes of scenes in the House of 
Commons. In one, the most dangerous — the sudden emerg- 
ency — all the fury, by some unhappy twist of events, rages 
round the Chair. The other arises from a personal en- 
counter between two Members, or a passionate Party conflict 
between the two sides of the House. In the latter case 
there is no feeling directed against the Speaker. Then arises 
the factor of the Speaker's relations with the different 
sections of the House. Is he studiously and strictly im- 
partial between them all ? This situation, which tests, though 
perhaps not so severely as the other, the mettle of the Speaker, 
is one that not infrequently happens when he is expected to 
stand forth on the dais of the Chair, the one calm and serious 
personality looming above the exciting Party conflict of 
noise and recrimination which surges on the benches below, 
and affording in the contrast between his wise tranquillity 
and the fretful folly of the Members, in a state of Party 
excitation, a fine and inspiring lesson in self-control. It is 
not great intellectual ability that is then the indispensable 
quality in the Speaker. More to the purpose, for the con- 
trolling and the moderating of the inevitable and natural 
passions of a popular assembly, are the minor gifts of an 
impressive presence, an air of authority, a ready tongue, and 
a resonant voice. But in the end the control of the House 
in this common situation will depend not so much upon the 
appearance and elocution of Mr. Speaker, as upon the 
measure of the confidence and respect of Members which he 
has won by more sterling qualities ; and, as I have already 
indicated, the quality above all upon which the trust of the 
House of Commons in its Speaker reposes most securely 
and abidingly is strict impartiality. 

No doubt it is difficult for the Speaker to appear 
impartial at all moments and to all sections of the House. 
Some passing feeling or soreness is certain to be aroused 


among Members censured, or placed at a disadvantage in 
Party engagements, by decisions of the Chair. But if the 
Speaker has not impressed the House generally with his 
discretion and judgment, with belief in the impartiality of 
his rulings, with the conviction that he esteems himself the 
guardian of the House, and does not intentionally lend him- 
self to be the instrument of the Party leaders in occupation 
of the Treasury Bench, that feeling of soreness will not be, 
as it ought to be, brief and transient, and the Speaker will 
find on such an unexpected crucial occasion as I have indi- 
cated above that the House has slipped from his control. 

Certainly the Speaker has no temptation to be anything 
but strictly impartial. In succeeding to what Mr. Speaker 
Denison happily called "the well-ordered inheritance" of 
the Chair of the House of Commons, he has reached the 
utmost height of his ambition. He has no need further to 
toil for title and place. A peerage and a pension are 
secured to him at the end of his term of office. Motives 
of self-seeking and advancement can make no appeal to 
him. He has therefore nothing to gain by favouring any 
political Party or any statesman. But he has much to gain 
in the way of making his position easy by winning the 
confidence and esteem of the House generally. It is an 
office, too, in which unworthy resentments are unlikely to 
find a place. As the Speaker sits in the Chair he is raised 
above all Party and personal considerations, and all ambitions 
save the desire of showing himself to those who sit around 
him as one infused with the historic spirit of his high 
position and moved by its great traditions, and that while 
strictly impartial and fearless he is careful to act within the 
exact sphere and limits of his authority. 

When the Speaker finds himself in a difficulty he has 
the immense advantage of being able, as the supreme ruler 
of the House, to impose his will unquestioned upon all con- 
cerned, even should he have gone unintentionally beyond 
his exact functions as the director of debate, the preserver 
of order, the protector of the rights of Members. His word 
is law within the Chamber. His decision is final. Once the 



Speaker has ruled, there is no more to be said. Before that 
fiat all must bow. It is permissible to those Members who 
think he is wrong to point out to him respectfully where 
he is at fault, as it appears to them ; but if he adheres to 
his decision it must be accepted without question. At least, 
no discussion is allowed. It may be obviously wrong to a 
large section of the House, but it cannot be disputed by 
argument. The fact that the Speaker says a thing and 
sticks to it makes that thing right, at least for the time 
being or for the purposes of immediate action. There is 
no appeal there and then from his verdict. No stay of 
execution can be applied for, then and there. The only 
way in which Members aggrieved can give vent to their 
disagreement and displeasure, at the moment, is by shouts 
of protest ; and these, if indulged in, are properly regarded 
as highly disorderly and very offensive to the Chair. Most 
Members recognise that in such a contingency it is best 
for them to tame their hearts of fire and bow their heads 
in silence and obey. It will avail them nothing to protest 
there and then against the decree of the Speaker. 

The Speaker's conduct may, however, be subsequently 
brought to the judgment of the House. The occasion upon 
which a Minister may be indicted is when his salary is 
being voted in Committee of Supply. But no such oppor- 
tunity is provided for calling the Speaker to account. His 
salary is a fixed charge on the Consolidated Fund, and, 
like all such charges with respect to the Throne and the 
Bench, is thereby removed from the criticism in which 
Members are free to indulge in reference to the Estimates 
presented in Committee of Supply. Consequently no oppor- 
tunity arises in Committee of Supply for challenging any 
action of the Speaker which has evoked a sense of injustice 
or a feeling of Party resentment. It can only be done by 
means of a vote of censure of which due notice has been 
given, and for the discussion of which the Government have 
agreed to allot a day. There are only three modern in- 
stances on record of such motions of censure. In none was 
the motion carried. 


The first was moved in respect of the action of Mr. 
Speaker Abbot, who in the course of the customary speech 
to the Sovereign, on presenting the Supply Bills of the 
year for the Royal Assent at the Bar of the House of 
Lords at the prorogation of 1813 — a procedure which, as I 
have already indicated, has long since been abolished — de- 
livered a harangue in opposition to the movement for Catholic 
Emancipation. The debate on the motion, which took place 
on April 22, 1814, shows that the feeling of the House was 
strongly in disapproval of Abbot's conduct, on the ground 
that the Speaker should be impartial in matters of political 
controversy, though for tactical reasons the motion was 

The second case was remarkable. Mr. Speaker Brand 
was charged by Charles Stewart Parnell, in 1879, with having 
himself violated the privileges of the House. Parnell and his 
small band of Nationalist supporters were then strenuously 
opposing the Army Discipline Bill, with a view to the 
abolition of flogging, as well as in furtherance of their policy 
of obstructing the proceedings of the House. One night a 
stranger was observed in one of the side galleries reserved 
for Members, making notes of the names and observations of 
the Nationalists, which evoked an angry scene of protest. 
It was regarded by the Nationalists as the preliminary to 
punitive action being taken against them. The House 
was then in Committee on the Army Bill. Brand was sent 
for and came, under the rule which provides that if any 
sudden disorder should arise in Committee, Mr. Speaker will 
resume the Chair without any question being put. He then 
explained that the note-taker was an official of the House 
acting under his directions. He pointed out that minutes 
are regularly taken by the Clerks at the Table and published 
daily under the title " Votes and Proceedings," and suggested 
that the note-taking in the gallery was but an extension of 
this practice. " As lately it had come to my notice." he 
proceeded, " that there had been great and unexpected delay 
in the progress of the Army Discipline Bill in Committee, 

' Parliamentary History, vol. 27, pji. 467-520. 



on my own responsibility, and for my own information, I 
desired that minutes should be taken of the proceedings on 
the Bill of a more full character than those which are taken 
from day to day." He added that this action had no 
reference whatever to any particular section of the House, 
and that the note-taker gave an account of all Members 

This was on July 10. On the following day Parnell 
moved a resolution to the effect that the action of the Speaker, 
" without the previous order or sanction or knowledge of the 
House," was without precedent in the customs and usages of 
Parliament, and was a breach of its privileges. In supporting 
his resolution Parnell contended that the Speaker has no 
original power or jurisdiction. " He is the interpreter of the 
Rules and Orders of the House," said he, " and in matters of 
debate he is the guide and the director and the preserver of 
order ; but it is not within his power to do anything which 
has not been previously ordered or sanctioned by the House, 
or which is not a rule of the House." An amendment was 
moved by Sir Stafford Northcote, the Leader of the House, 
seconded by Lord Hartington, the Leader of the Opposition, 
and supported by Gladstone, declaring that as the notes were 
taken by an officer of the House under the direction of the 
Speaker and for his confidential information, the proceeding 
was justified. After a full night's debate the Speaker was 
vindicated by 42 1 votes to 29, or a majority of 392, one of 
the largest on record.^ 

The Irish Members were also the movers of the other 
vote of censure upon the Speaker. On March 20, 1902, Mr. 
Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, speaking in reference 
to the then concluding stages of the South African War, 
quoted a saying of Vilonel, the Boer general, that the enemies 
of South Africa were those who were continuing a hopeless 
struggle. " He is a traitor," interjected Mr. John Dillon ; 
and Mr. Chamberlain retorted, " The hon. gentleman is a 
good judge of traitors." Mr. Dillon appealed to the Chair 

^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 248, pp. 47-76. 
" Ibid.^ vol. 248, pp. 164-249. 


whether the expression of the Colonial Secretary was not 
unparliamcntar)'. " I deprecate interruptions and retorts," 
replied Mr. Speaker Gully, "and if the hon. gentleman had 
not himself interrupted the right hon. gentleman he would 
not have been subjected to a retort." " Then I desire to say 
that the right hon. gentleman is a damned liar," ex- 
claimed Mr. Dillon. " The hon. Member must withdraw 
that expression," said the Speaker. " I cannot withdraw it," 
replied Mr. Dillon. " I must name the hon. Member," said 
the Speaker, " for disregarding the authority of the Chair." 
The hon. Member was thereupon, on the motion of Mr. 
Arthur Balfour, the Leader of the House, suspended from the 
service of the House.^ On the following May 7, Mr. J. J. 
Mooney, a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party, moved 
that the Speaker ought to have ruled that the words applied 
by the Colonial Secretary to Mr. Dillon were unparliamentary, 
and accordingly have directed Mr. Chamberlain to withdraw 
them. Mr. Gully presided at the debate, but did not inter- 
vene. On a division the action of the Chair was supported 
by 398 votes to 63, or a majority of 335.2 



THE House of Commons is, on the whole, a most 
orderly assembly, and the relations between 
Members and the Chair are always the closest and 
most cordial. But consider for a moment the elements of 
which the elective Chamber of the Legislature is made up. 
Here are 670 Members, of all sorts and conditions, chosen 
from all parts of the United Kingdom to proclaim and 
defend widely divergent political views. In such a varied 
body of men some of the failings of human nature are bound 

^ Parliai/ietilary Debates (4th series), vol. 105, pp. 591-4. 
'^ /bid., vol. 107, pp. 1020-54. 

T I 


occasionally to find v-ent, as well as all its virtues. Many 
of the representatives of the people hold their opinions with 
a conviction that is passionate and uncompromising. And 
in the heat of political controversy some of them, unre- 
strained by any sentiment of awe, are not disposed to 
regulate the expression of their views by the codes of 
etiquette and rules of St. Stephens, though those codes may 
have the sanction of centuries. 

If a Member refers insultingly to another Member, or 
in any other way offends the dignity of the House, it is 
the Speaker who calls upon him to withdraw the disparag- 
ing words or make an apology. It may happen that 
the Member, irascible and headstrong perhaps, loses his 
temper and becomes recklessly defiant of, or indifferent 
to, the censures of the Chair. Such undisciplined men are 
prone to kick against rules of order which they regard 
as harsh and arbitrary, circumscribing unduly their inde- 
pendence of expression and action ; and their resentment 
is likely to be vented upon the Speaker, as if he were 
the malign concocter of the rules, and not simply their 
impartial administrator. 

To keep a rein on such a varied team, especially in their 
touchy and unmanageable moods, demands tact, patience, 
as well as firmness of the highest kind. The Speaker must 
not be too stern in action or demeanour. I have witnessed 
many violent scenes in the House of Commons, and have 
noticed that, in a clash of will and tempers, courteous 
expostulation and entreaty is more potent than an over- 
bearing manner in the Speaker in the restoration of order. 
It is true that the sharp and decisive cry, " Order, Order," 
of Mr. Speaker Peel, and the look of stern rebuke with which 
it was accompanied, often subdued and cowed Members 
disposed to be recalcitrant. But this was a wonderful exhibi- 
tion of the force of a rare personality. It would be perhaps 
unsafe for a Speaker, differently endowed, to try the game 
of erring on the side of severity. He must not think too 
much of his own importance. He must not exaggerate the 
dignity of his office or strain its powers. Nor must he be 


impatient of the commonplace and eccentric. He has to 
deal with men of emotic^nal and impulsive temperaments, led 
by their feelings often into unpremeditated acts and unthink- 
ing utterances, and, if he is a broad-minded man, with a kindly 
feeling for the waywardness of human nature, he will under- 
stand and forgive. In a word, the Speaker should have a 
genial and wise tolerance of the extravagant and weak in 
personality and character, which is bound to appear in an 
assembly of 670 men, of the most varied types, and which, 
indeed, makes the House of Commons a place of inex- 
haustible interest, and there are times when a deaf ear 
would be as convenient to him as a blind eye was to 

Moreover, the House will not tolerate the despot or the 
master in an officer of its own creation. There could not 
be a greater mistake than to suppose that the Speaker is 
independent of the House. He cannot ignore or withstand 
the wishes of the House, as well implied as deliberately 
expressed. It is true that he wields great controlling 
powers, and, as I have already said, his rulings on points 
of order and procedure must be accepted as final, at least 
for the time being. But, after all, the will which he imposes 
upon the House is not his personal will. It is the law of the 
House itself. For everything he does must be in accordance 
with rule and precedent which have been accepted by the 
House, and which the House may at any time alter or 
abrogate if dissatisfied with their working. The initiative, 
in many things, lies with the House. The Speaker in 
many things proceeds by its authority, which is not given 
to him until the very moment for action. He cannot leave 
the Chair, even at the close when all business is transacted, 
without a motion being made by a Minister and agreed 
to by the House. The will of the House must prevail in 
all things. And therefore in all he does the Speaker 
is naturally restrained by the desire to have his action fully 
endorsed by those from whom he has derived his position 
and powers. 

The Speaker enforces order generally by reprimand or 


admonition. If a Member is indisposed to recognize the 
authority of the Chair, different courses are open to the 
Speaker for dealing with him. He may direct the Member, 
under a Standing Order passed in 1888, to withdraw from 
the House and its precints for the remainder of the night's 
sitting. If the conduct of a Member is grossly disorderly, 
and he is openly defiant of the authority of the Chair, 
the Speaker may " name " him. He simply says : " I name 
Mr. Blank for disregarding the authority of the Chair." 
Thereupon the Leader of the House, or the Minister in 
charge of the business then in hand, immediately rises and 
moves that Mr. Blank be suspended from the service of 
the House. The motion cannot be discussed. It is put 
forthwith from the Chair, and if challenged by a division 
must, of course, be endorsed by a majority. 

The " naming " of a disorderly Member is a very old 
procedure. Formerly it seems to have been the custom, 
when Members became noisy, for the Speaker to cry 
" Order, order, or I shall name names." 

The story is told that John Wilkes asked Mr. Speaker 
Arthur Onslow, about the middle of the eighteenth century, 
what would be the consequences of his naming names. 
" The Lord in heaven only knows " was the reply. Charles 
James Fox once related to the House of Commons that 
he put the same question to Sir Fletcher Norton, who 
occupied the Chair subsequently to Onslow, and got for 
an answer : " Happen ? Hang me, if I either know or care ! " ^ 
However, the procedure in regard to " naming " was adopted 
as long ago as 1693, during a Parliament of William and 
Mary. To ensure that all debates should be grave and orderly, 
and that all interruptions should be prevented, it was " ordered 
and declared " — " That no Member of this House do presume 
to make any noise or disturbance whilst any Member shall 
be orderly debating, or whilst any Bill, Order, or other 
matter shall be in reading or opening. And in cases of 
such noise or disturbance, that Mr. Speaker do call upon 
the Member 'by name,' making such disturbance, and 

^ Pellew, Life of Lord Sidinouthy vol. I, p. 69. 


that every such person shall incur the displeasure and 
censure of the House." ^ 

An illustration of the manner in which the House dealt 
with a disorderly Member of old is afforded by an unpleasant 
scene which occurred in the early years of the nineteenth 
century. On February 27, 18 10, a Committee of the 
House appointed to inquire into the expedition to the 
Scheldt reported that a Member named Fuller had mis- 
behaved himself during their sitting by making use of 
profane oaths and otherwise disturbing their proceedings. 
Fuller, on being asked by the Speaker for an explanation 
of his conduct, aggravated his offence by repeating the 
language which shocked the Committee with greater lurid- 
ness and volubility. Mr. Speaker Abbot "named " him, and 
he was directed to withdraw. It was immediately ordered 
by the House that he be taken into the custody of the 
Serjeant - at - Arms. But when the Serjeant - at - Arms 
endeavoured to arrest him in the lobby, Fuller rushed into 
the House swearing dreadfully and, shaking his fist at the 
Speaker, protested that "the little fellow in the Chair" 
should not put him down. On the order of the Speaker 
the Serjeant-at-Arms dragged him by force out of the 

This custom or rule of "naming" was made a Standing 
Order on February 28, 1880. On November 22, 1882, fixed 
penalties were provided. The suspension on the first 
occasion lasted a week; on the second, for a fortnight; and 
on any subsequent occasion in the same session for a month. 
In 1902 the Standing Order was reconsidered and amended. 
The three periods of suspension were struck out with a view 
to the substitution of others of greater length, but owing to 
the pressure of public business the revision was adjourned, 
with the result that the blanks were never filled up. It is 
now the practice for the suspension of a Member who 
has been " named " to continue for the session, unless 
the House by resolution terminates it sooner. Suspension 

' Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 131 (1818 edition). 
* Contmons Journals, vol. 65, p. 134. 


carries with it exclusion from the precincts of the 

Gladstone, supporting, as Leader of the Opposition, the 
nomination of Peel to the Chair, for the third time, on 
August 5, 1886, said: "There was a time, sir, when the 
chief function of the Speaker was to defend the privilege of 
the House against external attack. Dangers of that kind 
have passed away, and the chief function of the Speaker — 
one may say, almost practically, the exclusive function of 
the Speaker — is to defend the House against itself. That is 
to say, to vindicate its authority against every individual 
Member who may not be sufficiently sensible of his duty. 
And that function, I am afraid, in modern times, has become 
still more arduous and difficult than was the original office 
of defence against aggression from outside." 

This is well and truly said. Happily, the rules of order 
on the whole seem now to be adequate for the purposes for 
which they have been framed, from time to time, in the 
light of fresh experience. Moreover, there is the great 
factor of the corporate devotion of the Members, as a body, 
to the honour and dignity of the House, an influence of 
tremendous import which in moments of real crisis rallies 
them to the support of the Speaker as the guardian of order 
Indeed, the Speaker does not always himself detect violations 
of the rules of debate. His attention is often directed to a 
breach of order by another Member, animated sometimes by 
the partisan desire of discomposing a political opponent, but 
more often, perhaps, by a genuine desire to preserve the 
decorum of the House. The Chair, too, is regarded with a 
respect so profound as to be akin almost to reverence and 
worship. As we have seen, Mr. Speaker himself, as he walks 
solemnly up the floor at the opening of every sitting, makes 
three low obeisances to the Chair, and the ceremony inspires 
Members, susceptible as they are in the main to the historic 
traditions of the House, immemorial and splendid, with a 
sort of awe of the Chair. 

More than that, the Chair is exalted by the written rules 

* May, Law and Usage of Parliament, 341. 



of the House as well as by tradition and etiquette. One of 
the rules enjoins that a Member " must enter and leave the 
House with decorum," which has been interpreted to mean, 
not only that he must uncover, but that he must also " make 
an obeisance to the Chair " when passing to or from his 
place. It is a serious breach of order to pass between the 
Member addressing the House and the Chair. This offence, 
committed though it be in ignorance or forgetfulness, is 
invariably greeted with loud and angry cries of " Order " and 
" Chair " from the body of Members. When the Speaker 
rises the Member in possession must sit down. The 
Speaker must always be heard in silence. It is considered 
disrespectful for a Member to leave his seat while the Speaker 
is addressing the House. On May lo, 1897, while Mr 
Speaker Gully was on his feet, several Members passed down 
the floor. There were cries of "Order" and "Chair." Sir 
Henry Fowler, an old Member, interposed to ask whether it 
was not the rule that when the Speaker rose from the Chair 
every Member should remain seated. "That is the rule," 
replied the Speaker, " and it is important in the interests of 
the order and decency of the proceedings of the House that 
it should be observed." ^ 

One result of all this awe and reverence is that every 
occupant of the Chair comes in time to be regarded as 
Speaker by right divine, and to command the admiration 
and the loyalty of the House. At his resignation — as any 
one may see who reads the high-sounding eulogies which 
in accordance with custom are then delivered — the House 
kneels at his feet and offers him incense. This is, of course, 
as it should be. Nothing contributes so much to the 
authority of the Chair as the conviction that the Speaker 
is a superior being, benign until thwarted, and then a being 
of awful wrath and thundering majesty. Disraeli declared 
of Shaw-Lefevre that even " the rustle of his robes," as he 
rose to rebuke a breach of order, was sufficient to awe an 
unruly Member into submission. The splendid outcome of 
this feeling is obedience to the rulings of the Chair. It is 
' Parliamentary Debates (4th series), vol. 49, p. 122. 


but natural that Members who are the victims should 
occasionally chafe against them, and for the moment feel 
disappointed and aggrieved. But such is the confidence in 
the impartiality of the Speaker that the ultimate verdict of 
calm consideration is usually that these decisions are just 
and proper. 

But supposing a Speaker, who, of course, puts his own 
interpretation on precedents and orders, finds that he has 
made a wrong ruling, which the House has not discovered, 
what ought he to do in the way of rectifying it ? Thomas 
Moore records in his Diary an extraordinary discussion 
on this point, perhaps academic, with Mr. Speaker Manners- 
Sutton after dinner one evening in 1829 at the Speaker's 
House. " Dwelt much on the advantages of humbug," 
writes Moore, referring to Manners-Sutton ; " of a man 
knowing how to take care of his reputation, and to keep 
from being found out, so as always to pass for cleverer than 
he is." Moore says he argued that such a policy denoted, 
not an impostor but a wise man. If by that line of policy a 
man induced his fellow-men to give him credit for being 
cleverer than he really was, the fault could not be his, so 
long as he did not himself advance any claims to this credit. 
The moment he pretended to be what he was not, then began 
humbug, but not sooner. The poet then goes on, still refer- 
ing to Manners-Sutton : — 

" He still pushed his point, playfully but pertinaciously, 
and in illustration of what he meant put the following case : 
' Suppose a Speaker rather new to his office, and a question 
brought into discussion before him which Parties are equally 
divided upon, and which he sees will run to very inconvenient 
lengths if not instantly decided. Well though entirely 
ignorant on the subject, he assumes an air of authority and 
gives his decision, which sets the matter at rest. On going 
home he finds that he has decided quite wrongly : and then, 
without making any further fuss about the business, he 
quietly goes and alters the entry on the Journals.' " 

Moore again insisted that wisdom, and not humbug, was 
the characteristic of such an action. " To his supposed case 


all I had to answer," the poet writes, "was that I still thought 
the man a wise one, and no humbug ; by his resolution in a 
moment of difficulty he prevented a present mischief, and 
by his withdrawal of a wrong precedent averted a future 
one." 1 



THE Speaker on his election to the Chair forfeits — 
actually, though perhaps not theoretically — his rights 
as the representative of a constituency. He is 
practically disqualified from speaking in the debates and 
voting in the divisions. The constituency which he re- 
presents is therefore in a sense disfranchised. But no con- 
stituency has ever objected to its Member accepting the 
Chair. No doubt it feels there is compensation in the dis- 
tinction which it acquires by returning the Speaker of the 
House of Commons. 

When the House goes into Committee, whether for the 
consideration of Supply or the clauses of a Bill, the Speaker 
vacates the Chair, and the Chairman of Committees presides. 
The Chairman, however, does not take the Chair. He 
sits at the Table, in the low seat of the Chief Clerk, who, 
like the Speaker, leaves the Chamber when the House is 
in Committee. In days gone by it was customary for the 
Speaker to join in Committee debates and divisions. When 
the Bill for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was in 
Committee, Mr. Speaker Addington, on February 12, 1799, 
declared that while he was in favour of the plan, he was 
against the proposals of amelioration with which Pitt was 
disposed to accompany it. If it were a question, he said, 
between the re-enactment of all the Popery laws or the 
Union, coupled with Catholic Emancipation, as a means for 
the pacification of Ireland, he would prefer the repressive 

' Moore, Diary , vol. 6, pp. 33-4 (1854). 


measures of old. Again, during the Committee stage of the 
Bill introduced by Henry Grattan, in 18 13, to qualify Roman 
Catholics for election as Members of Parliament, an amend- 
ment to omit the vital words, " to sit and vote in either House 
of Parliament," was moved by Mr. Speaker Abbot (who was 
strongly opposed, like Addington, to the removal of the 
Catholic disabilities), and having been carried by the narrow 
majority of four votes was, of course, fatal to the measure. 

Manners-Sutton also exercised his right to speak in 
Committee twice on such highly controversial questions 
as Catholic Emancipation/ and once on the claims of 
Dissenters- to be admitted to the universities, to both of 
which reforms he, like his predecessors in the Chair, answered 
an uncompromising " No." But so high has the Chair been 
lifted in recent times above the conflicts of Party politics, 
that partisanship so assertive and aggressive would not now 
be tolerated in a Speaker. On the last two occasions that 
a Speaker interested himself in proceedings in Committee 
the questions at issue had no relation whatever to Party 
politics. In 1856, Shaw-Lefevre spoke in defence of the 
Board of Trustees of the British Museum, of which he was 
a member;^ and in 1870 Denison, helped to defeat in the 
division lobbies a proposal in the Budget of Robert Lowe 
imposing a licence duty on farm horses employed in carting 
materials for the repair of parish roads.* On that night of 
June 9, 1870, a Speaker was seen for the last time in the 
division lobbies. It is probable that never again will a 
Speaker either speak or vote in Committee. Indeed, Mr. 
Speaker Gully signalized his tenure of office by directing 
that his name should be omitted from the printed lists 
with which the clerks in the division lobbies are furnished 
for the purpose of recording the names of Members and how 
they voted. This precedent, however, has not been followed. 

^ Parliamentary Debates (2nd series), vol. 4, p. 1451 {1821), and vol. 13, 
p. 434(1825). 

- Ibid. (3rd series), vol. 24, p. 1092 (1834). 
' Ibid. (3rd series), vol. 141, p. 1352. 
* Ibid. (3rd series), vol. 201, p. 1815. 


The introductioti of the Budget is one of the few 
occasions on which it is usual for the Speaker, when not 
in the Chair, to remain in the Chamber as an interested 
Hstener to the financial statement of the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer. When the Chairman of Ways and Means is 
presiding over the House in Committee in which the Budget 
is introduced, the place occupied by the Speaker is at the 
lower end of the Treasury Bench, close to the Chair, where 
he sits in his wig and robes. 

The Speaker's disqualification from voting while in the 
Chair is a very ancient one, as the records show. In the 
year 1601, and in the last Parliament of Queen Elizabeth, 
the voting on a Bill to make it compulsory to go to church 
on Sunday was 105 for and 106 against. The supporters 
of the measure declared they had the voice of Mr. Speaker 
Croke on their side, which made the voting equal. " And 
it grew to a question," says the chronicler, " whether he had 
a voice." Sir Edward Hobby said that as the Speaker was 
the mouth of the House and not a stranger, therefore he 
had a voice. " To which he was answered by Sir Walter 
Raleigh, and confirmed by the Speaker himself, that he 
was foreclosed of his voice by taking that place, and that 
he was to be indifferent to both Parties, and withal showed 
that the Bill was lost." " The Speaker hath no voice," said 
Mr. Secretary Cecil, " and tho' I am sorry to say it, yet I 
must needs confess lost it is, and so farewell to it."^ 

The only vote which a Speaker now gives is a casting 
vote, should the numbers prove equal in a division taken 
while he is in the Chair. This also is an old custom. On 
March 29, 1673, a debate took place on the printing of 
addresses to the King, Charles II., in relation to certain 
grievances arising out of the quartering of soldiers. On a 
motion to adjourn the debate the numbers were equal — 
105 on each side. The Speaker, Edward Seymour, gave 
his casting vote for the adjournment, and, according to the 
Parliamentary Histoiy^ jestingly said, " he would have his 
reason for his judgment recorded, viz., because he was very 

' Parliamentary History, vol. 4, p. 497. 


hungry."^ The joke, however, is not to be found in the 
Journals. " And Mr. Speaker giving his vote with the 
Ayes " — so runs the official entry — *' it was resolved in the 
affirmative." ^ 

On May 12, 1792, Mr. Speaker Addington stated certain 
principles which guided him in giving his casting vote, 
and these have generally been acted upon since. A Bill 
relating to succession duty on real estate was before the 
House. The question that the Bill be " now " read a third 
time was decided in the negative. There was a majority 
also against a motion for the rejection of the Bill. Then 
it was moved that the Bill be read a third time " to-morrow " ; 
and for this there was an equality of votes. The Speaker 
gave his casting vote with the "Ayes." In doing so, he 
said " that upon all occasions when the question was for 
or against giving to any measure a further opportunity of 
discussion, he should always vote for the further discussion, 
more especially when it had advanced so far as a third 
reading; and that when the question turned upon the 
measure itself — for instance, that a Bill do or do not pass 
— he should then vote for or against it, according to his 
best judgment of its merits, assigning the reasons on which 
such judgment would be founded."^ 

Happily, perhaps, for the peace of mind of Mr. Speaker, 
a tie is a very rare occurrence in the House of Commons. 
Charles Abbot was placed by one in a dramatic and painful 
situation, arising out of an incident most exceptional in our 
public life — a charge of malversation against a Minister of 
the Crown. In the report of a Commission appointed to 
inquire into the management of the naval departments, 
charges of malpractices were brought against Henry Dundas, 
Lord Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty in Pitt's last 
administration, and the right-hand man and intimate friend 
of the Prime Minister. That was in 1805. It was established 

* Parliamentary History, vol. 4, p, 584. 
^ Commons Journals, vol. 9, p. 281. 

^ Ibid., vol. 51, p. 764. May's Law and Usage of Parliament (1906) 
pp. 364-5. 


that during Dundas's tenure of office as Treasurer of the 
Navy in the Shelburne Administration, as far back as 1782, 
his Paymaster, Trotter, who was also his private agent, 
withdrew large sums of public money from the account of 
the Treasury in the Bank of England, and, lodging them in 
a private bank, appropriated the accruing interest ; and 
Lord Melville admitted, in his examination before the 
Commission, that as advances of money had been made to 
him by Trotter at the time, he might have made use of this 
public money unwittingly for his own private ends. On 
April 8, 1805, Samuel VVhitbread brought forward in the 
House of Commons a series of resolutions setting out the 
case against Lord Melville as disclosed by the investi- 
gations of the Commission. Pitt thereupon moved the 
previous question, but promised that if this motion were 
carried he would propose that the report of the Commission 
be referred to a Select Committee. There was a good deal 
of Party malice in this action of the Whigs against the 
Tory Minister. With their zeal for the purity of the ad- 
ministration of public affairs the Opposition mixed a desire 
to annoy a political antagonist and embarrass the Govern- 
ment. After a long and heated debate a division was taken 
on Pitt's motion. It resulted in a tie. For the motion, 216; 
against the motion, 216. The painful issue depended upon 
Mr. Speaker Abbot's casting vote ! No wonder the Speaker 
was overcome by the deepest distress. For a long time he 
sat in the Chair, pale and trembling, in view of the crowded 
and deeply excited but silent House, before he could master 
his emotion and gather sufficient composure and strength of 
mind to rise and deliver his decision. It was against Lord 
Melville ! It is said that Pitt crushed his hat over his eyes, 
to hide his tears for the fate of his friend and colleague. 

At that time the public galleries were always cleared 
before a division. On the return of the reporters the House 
was found debating Whitbread's resolutions, so that there 
is no report in Hansard of what the Speaker may have said 
in explanation of his vote. " The numbers being thus 
equal," says the simple record, " the Speaker gave his 


casting vote in favour of Mr. Whitbread's motion, thereby 
making a majority of one." Abbot, however, in his Diary ^ 
briefly sets out the explanation of his vote which he gave 
to the House. He said that as the charges of " conniving 
at the profits illegally made by Mr. Trotter for his own 
private use out of the public moneys " were " confessed and 
established, and fit for the immediate judgment of the 
House," he should give his vote for the Ayes.^ This 
decision appears to be somewhat in conflict with the prin- 
ciple which usually guides the Speaker in giving a casting 
vote, — namely, that he should not judge for the House, but 
should give the House the opportunity of coming itself to 
a more definite conclusion — for Abbot decided that two of 
the charges against Melville had been proved by Melville's 
own admissions at the inquiry, leaving uncertain the charge 
that Melville had participated in Trotter's profits. Whit- 
bread's resolutions were carried ; - Melville accordingly was 
impeached for " high crimes and misdemeanours " before 
his peers, the House of Lords ; but, after a trial of fifteen 
days, his defence, that he had not connived at Trotter's use 
of the public money for his own private emolument, was 
accepted by thirty-one votes to twenty-seven, and thus he 
was acquitted of personal corruption. It was the last im- 
peachment of a Minister, the last application of an ancient 
procedure for calling a Minister to account. 

In the discharge of this delicate duty of deciding a tie 
— a duty that is usually momentous, considering the great 
issues that often hang on divisions in the House of Commons 
— the Speaker may, in theory, vote like any other Member, 
without assigning a reason ; but custom and precedent have 
established the rule that, with a view to preserving the 
impartiality of the Chair from even the breath of imputation 
and doubt, he should vote in such a way as not to make 
the decision of the House final, and should also state why 
he does so, which explanation is entered in the Journals. 
This is made clear by the most recent instances of ties. 

' Colchester, Diary, vol. i, p. 548. 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 4, pp. 255-371. 


John Evelyn Denison, who was Speaker in the " sixties," 
gave three casting votes. Matters of considerable import- 
ance were each time at stake. The first occasion was on 
June 19, 1 861, when, in the division on the Bill for the 
exemption of churches from local rates, the numbers proved 
exactly equal — Ayes, 274 ; Noes, 274. The incident was 
somewhat dramatic. What was about to happen had been 
foreseen by the Speaker. The Clerk, Sir Denis le Marchant, 
said to him, " They don't expect much discussion ; I dare 
say it will be over by four." " No," replied the Speaker, 
who tells the story in his Diary, " it will go on longer than 
that, and about half-past five I shall be called upon to give 
a casting vote." 

So it turned out. The four tellers came back to the 
House from the two lobbies together — always an indication 
that the division has been a close thing — and one of them, 
before the numbers had been publicly announced at the 
Table, whispered that there was a tie. The Speaker thought 
at first the teller had said not "tie," but "five," and in the 
belief that there was a majority on one side or the other he 
sat back in the Chair in the ease of relief. But when the 
numbers were proclaimed he found that his anticipation of 
a tie had proved correct. " The excitement became intense," 
he writes. " I sat still for a moment to let it subside. I 
had quite made up my mind, and was quite prepared. 
Indeed, I was the only person in the House who was not 
taken by surprise. I gave my reasons for the vote, I gave 
my voice with the Noes." His principal reason was that 
he desfred, according to precedent, to give the House another 
opportunity of considering the question.^ With this 
incident, which Gladstone has described as being enacted in 
breathless silence, began the long and bitter struggle on the 
question whether or not churches should be free of rates, 
which was ultimately answered years afterwards by the 
passing of the Bill. 

Denison refers in his Journal to the many compliments 
he received from prominent Members for the way he had 
' Denison, Notes from My Journal y 94-9. 


acted his part, and with an apology he adds : " I hardly 

like to write these self-laudations. Some time it may be 

pleasant to look back to the day, perhaps. Mr. Disraeli," he 

j goes on, " came to my Chair and said he wished to express 

I the unqualified admiration with which he, and all around 

him, had listened to what I had said. That there was but 

one feeling and one opinion about the admirable manner in 

I which I had performed my part, both in manner and as to 

! its substance. What a remarkable moment it had been, 

I what a striking scene ; he would not have missed it for anj- 

, thing in the world." 

There was another tie on the third reading of the Tests 

i Abolition (Oxford) Bill, on July i, 1864. The object of the 

i Bill was to complete the work of throwing open Oxford 

! University to Nonconformists by admitting them to the 

I higher as well as the lower degrees without having to subscribe 

i to the Thirty-Nine Articles. The rejection of the Bill was 

moved and supported by those who desired to restrict the 

j governing body of the university and colleges to persons 

: of the Established Church. It was defeated by 150 votes 

against 140. The question " That this Bill be now read a 

j third time" was next put after a brief debate; and, a large 

' number of other Members having^ come to the House in the 

I meantime, the voting was 170 for and 170 against. The 

Speaker gave his casting vote for the Ayes. At present 

the last stage of a Bill in the House of Commons is the third 

I reading. But at that time there was a further stage, namely, 

I the motion " That this Bill do now pass," which was purely 

j formal, and, while abolished in the Commons, still survives 

in the Lords. In giving his casting vote for the Ayes, Mr. 

' Speaker Denison said he afforded the House another 

opportunity of deciding the question for itself, as a division 

could be challenged on the motion " That this Bill do now 

pass." This was accordingly done, though as a rule the 

stage was never contested. It was also done immediately. 

Yet the voting was again entirely different. The Bill was 

thrown out by a majority of two, 171 being for it and 173 

against it. It was not until 1871 that Gladstone's first 


Administration carried a Bill which abolished the last of 
the religious tests, that of subscribing to the Thirty-Nine 
Articles, at both Oxford and Cambridge.^ 

The third occasion of Mr. Speaker Denison's casting 
vote — of which, strangely enough, he makes no mention in 
h.\s Journal- — was on another motion raising, like the other 
two, a question of religious controversy. It declared it was 
undesirable that the fellowship and foundation scholar- 
ships of Trinity College, Dublin, should be exclusively 
appropriated by persons of the Established Church, and was 
moved on July 24, 1867, The numbers in the division 
being equal, the Speaker stated that the principle involved 
in the resolution was one of great importance, and if affirmed 
by a clear majority of the House would have much force. 
It should, however, be affirmed by a clear majority of the 
House, and not merely by the casting vote of the Speaker. 
For these reasons he declared himself with the Noes. In 
this case, again, the casting vote of the Speaker put off a 
final decision by the House on the question at issue.'- 

Mr. Speaker Peel had occasion to give his casting vote 
but once during his eleven years' tenure of the Chair. It 
was on the Marriage Confirmation (Antwerp) Bill, July 25, 
1887. The object of the measure was to confirm marriages 
solemnized at Antwerp by a Dr. Potts, who was chaplain to 
a British and American sailors' bethel at that port from 
1880 to 1884, which marriages were supposed to be invalid 
on account of a technicality. The tie occurred on a motion 
for the adjournment of the debate at two o'clock in the 
morning, and Mr. Speaker Peel gave his casting vote in 
favour of the adjournment.^ In this case the Bill was not 
heard of again, for no opportunity of proceeding with it was 
available during the session. 

Mr. Speaker Gully's experience in this respect was very 
singular. Me once gave his casting vote when, as it turned 
out afterwards, no tie had really occurred. It was on May 

' Dcnison, Notes from A fy Journal, 167-8. 

" Commons Journals, vol. 122, p. 395. 

* Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 317, pp. 2011-15. 


II, 1899, in connexion with the second reading of the 
Vehicles (Lights) Bill. " The tellers for the Ayes and the Noes 
came up to the Table almost at the same time," said Mr. 
Gully, describing the incident. " One of the tellers gave his 
number as forty, and the teller for the Ayes was then turned 
to and asked his number. In point of fact, the teller of the 
Ayes had succeeded by a majority of three. His number 
should have been forty-three, but he was so elated at hearing 
of a victory which he had not expected that at the moment 
he only repeated what the other Member had said, and he 
said 'forty,' whereupon there was a tie. I then gave my 
vote for the Ayes, doing that which a Speaker always did 
on such occasions, although I do not think I had formed 
any opinion at all upon the Bill. Still, in doing what I did 
I pursued the proper course, because it gave the opportunity 
on the third reading for the expression of a decided opinion 
on the Bill." The mistake was discovered on the publication 
of the official division lists the following day. 

The only actual tie during Mr. Speaker Gully's term of 
office happened on April 3, 1905. A Tramways Bill of the 
London County Council was before the House at the second 
reading stage, and an instruction to the Committee was moved 
to omit the clauses authorizing the laying of lines across 
Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges and along the Victoria 
Embankment. On a division there were 171 both for and 
against the instruction. 

" In the circumstances," said the Speaker, " in order that 
this matter may be disposed of in Committee and to give the 
House another opportunity of dealing with it and settling it 
in a more decisive manner, I shall give my vote for the Noes." 
The instruction was accordingly rejected.^ Subsequently 
the Bill passed through the House of Commons, but it was 
rejected by the Lords. It was re-introduced in the following 
year, however, and then passed into law. 

Mr. Speaker Lowther had been five years in the occupancy 
of the Chair before he was called upon by an indecisive 
division to give his casting vote. It was on July 22, 19 10. 

* Commons Journals, vol. i6o, p. 105. 


On an amendment to the Regency Bill on the report stage, 
moved by a Conservative Member (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson), 
the division resulted in a tie — 6i for, 6i against, Mr. 
Lowther, after stating that this was the solitary occasion 
on which as Speaker he had an opportunity of giving a 
casting vote, said he would give it in favour of the Bill 
as originally introduced. So he voted " Aye " and declared : 
" The Ayes are 62, the Noes 61." 

As originally introduced by the Government, Clause 4 
of the Bill contained the identical words which the Scotch 
Conservative proposed to add to it on the report stage. 
During the Committee stage these particular words were 
deleted. Mr. Churchill, the Minister in charge of the Bill, 
mentioned that the Government attached no importance to 
the words, but he made it clear that he himself saw no reason 
to reverse the decision. As amended in Committee, Clause 4 
read : " The Regent shall not give or have power to give the 
Royal Assent to any Bill for repealing, changing, or in any 
respect varying the order or course of succession to the 
Crown of this realm, as established by the Act of Settlement." 
To this Mr. Mitchell-Thomson now proposed to add the 
words : " or to any Bill for repealing or altering an Act 
of the fifth year of the reign of Queen Anne, made in 
Scotland, intituled 'An Act for securing the Protestant 
religion and Presbyterian government.'" As the result of 
the division, and through the Speaker's casting vote, the 
words quoted were restored to their original place in the 

I have said it is usual for the Speaker, when prac- 
ticable, to give his casting vote in such a manner as not 
to make the decision of the House final. That course 
appears, in this instance, to have been impracticable. There 
was a general understanding that the Bill should that day be 
passed through its remaining stages. Moreover, the Speaker's 
vote only restored the Bill to the form in which it was 
originally presented by the Government. 

' Parliamentary Debates (5th series), vol. 19, pp. 1696-17 17. 




IT must be hard, indeed, upon the Speaker to sit in 
the Chair hour after hour, during a long sitting, and 
night after night, for a protracted session, bound to be 
there and bound to Hsten to every discussion, bound to let 
nothing escape his attention, a necessarily silent and a 
necessarily watchful observer of what goes on : " Like sad 
Prometheus fastened to a rock." He must not have too 
high a conceit of himself The virtue of modesty and self- 
abnegation must be his in a large measure, for otherwise 
his soul might rise in revolt against the petty and trivial, 
and even mean and sordid, wranglings in which occasionally 
those who sit beneath his sway indulge. 

It is a motley assembly, the House of Commons. What 
strange characters are to be seen there ! How varying are 
the roles they fill ! All the powerful motives and passions 
which practically influence human character and conduct — 
self-interest, ambition, jealousy — find vent in the rivalries 
and intrigues of the Assembly. What does the Speaker 
think of it all? What are his feelings in the Chair? Does 
he hold a private inquisition into the temperaments and 
qualities of hon. Members, studying their faces and manners, 
making a mental note of every gesture, of every intonation, 
that gives a hint of character ? Certainly, a Speaker with 
a sense of humour or a satirical vein might derive much 
amusement and refreshment, in the dull hours, by watching, 
as he sits throned on high, the exhibitions of earnestness and 
fervour which are dissipated in the defence of, or opposition 
to, things trivial or matters that seem of no importance. 
Happy man, if there be no extravagance with which he is 
incapable of sympathy. But if he is not of that enviable 
disposition, how jaded he must feel at times ! How hollow 
these platitudes and irrelevancies — endlessly repeated — must 
sound in his weary ears ! 


When the House is the scene — as it often is — of a great 
conflict on some moving political question, in which the chief 
gladiators on both sides take part, the lot of the Speaker 
seems happy. He sits above it all in his elegant and 
spacious Chair, full of comfort and rest, into which he leans 
back in excess of contentment, and listens. In that arena of 
oratorical conflict, where talk, talk, talk goes on all the time, 
the Speaker says little, argues still less, and indulges in 
political disputation not at all. But everything that is said 
is said to him. To him all the speeches, great and little, are 

spnkfin . 

/ "Mr. Speaker," each Member begins. It may be that in 

reality it is not the Speaker who is addressed at all. It may 
be that it is not even the House. Perhaps it is the represen- 
tatives of the Press, who sit up aloft in the Reporters' Gallery, 
that are talked to, or, rather, through them the electorate, in 
the hope of influencing public opinion. At any rate, the 
speeches are interlarded with a good deal of exclamatory 
remarks which are directed straight to the occupant of the 
Chair. " Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker." " I ask you, Mr. 
Speaker." " Mr. Speaker, is it not the fact ? " " How comes 
it to pass, Mr. Speaker? " " Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will 
agree with me when I say." In fact, he is appealed to and 
reasoned with as if he were brimming over with interest in 
the subject under discussion. The Member on his feet asserts, 
protests, explains, argues, laying bare all his emotions and 
aspirations, as if Mr. Speaker had on his knees the destiny 
of all things, besides the settlement of political controversies, 
and that it were well not only to convince but to propitiate 
and stand well with one so powerful. 

The Speaker listens to it all. He listens, but he gives no 
sign as to how he is personally influenced by this expounding 
and deducing, this triumphant confuting of each side by the 
other, apparently for his benefit alone. He listens, but it is 
to be feared that it is not with the desire to discover what is 
true and what is false in the views which are laid before him, 
not with the laudable intention even of improving his mind 
by extending the range of his political ideas. To each 


(the speaker in the chaik) 

from an engraving by john 1-lne 


talker he gives his ear but not his countenance, for the ex- 
pression of his face is to his thoughts an impenetrable disguise. 
He gives his ear not as a sign of sympathy with the opinions 
expressed, but in order to ensure that the hon. Member in 
his argument — however puerile and ridiculous it may be — 
keeps strictly to the point of the debate and wanders 
not afield. The Speaker is deeply concerned in an affair 
which, to him at least, is of the supremest importance — being, 
in fact, the main and primary object of his office — that is, the 
due regulation of business according to rule and precedent, 
and it absorbs all the attention of his mind to such a degree 
that probably the political arguments of the debate make 
no impression whatever upon him. Let the hon. Member on 
his feet but trangress any of the rules of the House, and he 
will find the Speaker, who is listening to him with such placid 
intentness, transformed into a stern and reproving judge. 

It is a common thing for Members to slumber in the 
Chamber, but has a Speaker ever been detected asleep in 
the Chair? Once, at least, jaded nature asserted itself over 
the watchful President of the House of Commons, and the 
eye of the Speaker was caught napping. The Speaker was 
Manners-Sutton, and the occasion was one of the debates in 
the first reformed Parliament. Winthrop Mackworth Praed, 
the political satirist, who sat in the House as a Conservative, 
saw the lids of the Speaker, overweighted with weariness and 
langour, close in slumber, and he made the incident the sub- 
ject of some genial lines which first appeared in the Morning 
Post of March 6, 1833. This is the opening stanzas : — 

" Sleep, Mr. Speaker, — it's surely fair, 
If you don't in your bed, that you should in your Chair ; 
Longer and longer still they grow, 
Tory and Radical, Aye and No ; 
Talking by night and talking by day : 
Sleep, Mr. Speaker, sleep while you may ! " 

His sense of responsibility and trust tends to keep the 
mind of the Speaker continually upon the stretch. 

It is possible, of course, during a dull discussion, for him 
to grow weary, then indifferent, then absent-minded, and 


finally to lose himself in thought to the extent of a complete 
unconsciousness of his surroundings, with the mind sunk 
deep in the pleasure of dreamy contemplation, wandering 
far away from St. Stephens. Only this state of being can 
explain an incident which not unfrequently happens. The 
Member addressing the House unexpectedly finishes and 
resumes his seat. Instantly lialf a dozen others jump to 
their feet eagerly straining themselves on the attention of 
the Speaker. There is a pause of a few seconds. The 
Speaker does not call upon any of the competitors for his 
notice and selection. He seems to have been suddenly 
summoned out of a reverie, and in the un preparedness of 
the moment is unable to think of the name of any of the 
Members on their feet. The suspense is ended only by one 
of the Members boldly starting on his speech without the 
preliminary call of the Speaker. Once I saw a Speaker 
aroused from introspection and self-communion to decide a 
point of order laid before him by two contending Members 
on opposite sides of the House. Obviously he had not 
recovered his wandering thoughts in time to understand 
the matter at issue. He had the bewildered look of one 
upon whom a situation has come with suddenness and 
surprise. Yet with an air of profound solemnity, quickly 
assumed, he declared that if neither was precisely right, 
in his opinion neither was precisely wrong. 

But it is not often that the Speaker is thus discovered in 
a brown study, lost in his own reflections. As a rule he is 
alertly on the look out, keeping both his eyes and ears open. 
It is marvellous how quickly he develops a perfect appre- 
ciation of the position of affairs, when he appears to be 
all unconscious of what is going on, and pulls together his 
straggling team and makes them subservient to his will with 
a cry of " Order, Order ! " 

Sir Fletcher Norton, who was Speaker from 1770 to 1780, 
took no pains to conceal his boredom in the Chair. During 
a tedious debate he would often cry aloud, " I am tired ! I 
am weary ! I am heartily sick of all this ! " ^ 

* May, Consliluliotial History, vol. I, p. 503 (Note). 


Thomas Moore records in his Diary that, dining with 
Mr. Speaker Manners-Sutton on September 23, 1825, he 
related that Lord Sidmouth — Henry Addington — told him 
the only time his gravity was ever tried in the Chair was 
once when Brook Watson, speaking on some subject con- 
nected with North and South, said : " Mr. Speaker, it is 
impossible at this moment to look to the north-east without 
at the same time casting a glance at the south-west." The 
Speaker stood this pretty well, but hearing some one behind 
the Chair say : " By God, no one in the House but Wilkes 
could do that," he no longer could keep his countenance, but 
burst into a most undignified laugh. John Wilkes squinted. 
Moore adds : " Felt my story to be rather awkward before 
I was half through it, as the Speaker squints a little." 
Manners-Sutton, in return, told Moore of the only occasion 
he had ever laughed while occupying the Chair. It was 
during a debate in which Members of the Opposition had 
been squabbling fiercely together, when a large rat issued 
from beneath the front Opposition bench and walked 
deliberately across to the Government side of the House.^ 

Not until 1855 was provision made for a Deputy Speaker 
in the unavoidable absence of the Speaker. Before that 
year it was the custom, when the Speaker fell ill, for the 
Clerk to announce the fact, and for the House immediately 
to adjourn. On the recommendation of a Select Committee, 
which was appointed to consider and suggest a means for 
obviating the inconvenience caused by such interruptions of 
public business, the House adopted a Standing Order, on 
July 20, 1855, empowering the Chairman of Committees 
to preside as Deput}^ Speaker. It is provided that when- 
ever the House shall be informed by the Clerk at the Table 
of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker the Deputy 
Speaker shall take the Chair, and so on from day to day 
on the like information being given to the House, until 
the House shall otherwise order.^ The Standing Order 
subsequently received statutory authority so as to provide 

' Moore, Diary, vol. 4, p. 320. 

"^ Standing Order 81, Manual of House of Commons Procedure (1904). 


against the validity of acts done or proceedings taken 
during the absence of the Speaker being afterwards 
questioned.^ In 1902 a Deputy Chairman of Committees 
was appointed. He not only presides in Committee, when 
the Chairman of Ways and Means is unable to be present, 
but he may take the Chair also in the absence of both 
Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The Chairman and Deputy 
Chairman are not elected by the House. Both posts are 
Party appointments, and, unlike the Speakership, their 
occupants change with every alteration of Government, j It 
has, however, become a custom for the Chairman and 
Deputy Chairman, by reason of their official position, to refrain 
from taking part in Party conflicts inside the House or out- 
side; and, following the example of the Speaker also, they 
are now never seen in the division lobbies. In the Chair 
they wear ordinary evening clothes, without wig and gown, and 
may be said, without disparagement, to enjoy but a pale 
reflection of the prestige and authority of the more exalted 
Speaker whose place they occasionally fill. 

By an arrangement made in 1906, during Mr. Speaker 
Lowther's tenure of office, the interval of twenty minutes 
during which the proceedings of the House were suspended 
to enable the Speaker to obtain refreshments was abolished, 
and the Deputy Speaker or the Deputy Chairman was em- 
powered temporarily to relieve the Speaker when requested 
to do so by him at the dinner hour. 

But even when the House is deliberating for the night 
in Committee of Supply or in Committee on a Bill, the 
Speaker is not thereby set free to take a walk abroad. He 
is tied to his abode, and has to sit in the library, still 
clothed in his official robes, ready to return to the House 
at any moment in response to a summons. At the close 
of an all-night sitting in Committee the appearance of the 
Speaker to adjourn the House has always a touch of the 
dramatic, and is invariably emphasized with cheers, which 
are largely an expression of relief. In 1870, Denison, when 
there was a prospect of the House sitting late in Committee, 
» 18 & 19 Vict. c. 84. 


arranged with the Chairman of Ways and Means to take 
the Chair as Deputy Speaker, when progress was reported, 
and adjourn the House at the end of the proceedings. 
"This sitting- up," he writes, " merely to adjourn the House 
and put out the lights is not only useless as a matter of 
business, but it really impedes business, knocks up the 
Speaker, and renders him inefficient for the following day. 
This liberty of withdrawing when the House is going to 
pass the whole night in Committee, and when there are 
no contested Orders of the Day, ought to be more fre- 
quently allowed to the Speaker." ^ Nevertheless, it is rarely 
availed of. 

Even though the House be up, something else remains 
for the Speaker to do before he can go to bed. He peruses 
and signs the nightly record of " Votes and Proceedings " 
which are prepared during the sitting by the Clerks, and, 
being printed, are left at the residences of Members by the 
messengers in the morning. 



BUT responsible though it be, the Speakership has its 
compensations. The Speaker has a salary of ;^5000 
a year, and a fine residence in a wing of the Palace 
of Westminster, close to Westminster Bridge. Every night 
that the House is in Committee, and this often occurs in 
the session, he is relieved, as we have seen, by the Chair- 
man of Committees. He has also the inestimable advantage 
of four or five months' holiday every year, during what is 
known as the Recess. And after ten or twelve years' service 
he retires with a peerage and a pension of ;^4000 a year. 

The dignity of the position is also high. The Speaker 
is the First Commoner of the Realm, and therefore has 

^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, 255. 


precedence of all the Commonalty, that mighty crowd out- 
side the peerage. This rank of the Speaker was determined 
by an Act of Parliament that was passed in 1688, after the 
Revolution. The object of the Act was to enable the 
Lords Commissioners for the Great Seal to execute the 
office of Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper ; and in a section 
of this statute, thus passed for an entirely different purpose, 
it is incidentally provided that the Speaker's place in the 
order of precedence is next after the peers of the Realm.^ 
The Speaker has also precedence at the Council Table 
among Privy Councillors.^ 

No wonder, then, that the Speaker's Chair has become 
one of the highest prizes of political ambition. For honour 
and dignity, in the public eye, the office ranks next, perhaps, 
to that of the Prime Minister. Indeed, Speakers of former 
days have aspired to rule not the House of Commons, but 
the nation itself. Four of them became Prime Ministers 
after leaving the Chair. At the opening of the eighteenth 
century the Speaker was Robert Harley, who ultimately 
reached the very top of the Government as the Earl of 
Oxford. Spencer Compton, who was Speaker during the 
entire reign of George I., vacated the Chair to become the 
Prime Minister of George II. Henry Addington, after being 
Speaker for twelve years, was called from the Chair by 
George III., in 1801, to form an Administration in succession 
to William Pitt, who resigned owing to the King's rooted 
objection to Catholic Emancipation. William Wyndham 
Grenville, who was Speaker in 1789, led the Ministry of 
"All the Talents" in 1806. Probably the only position for 
which the Speakership would be relinquished to-day is 
that of Prime Minister. Sir John Mitford, who followed 
Addington in the Chair, resigned after a year's service to 
become Lord Chancellor of Ireland ; but he did so only at 
the earnest solicitation of the King and the solatium of a 
salary of ;^ 10,000 per year and a peerage as Lord Redesdale. 
The Lord Chancellorship of Ireland is a high and honour- 

' I Will, and Mary, c. 21. 

* Hatsell, Precedents t vol. 2, p. 179. 


able position, but it is unlikely that nowadays any one 
would sacrifice for it the Speakership of the House of 
Commons, Charles Abbot resigned the Chief Secretaryship 
for Ireland — a post of greater political importance than that 
of the Lord Chancellorship — so as to succeed Mitford as 
Speaker in 1802. Abbot refused the offer of a Secretary- 
ship of State from Perceval, the Prime Minister, in 1809, 
during his occupancy of the Chair ; and Manners-Sutton 
could have been, if he wished, Home Secretary in the 
Administration formed in 1827 by Canning. 

So eagerly is the position sought for that even Ministers 
have been willing to give up their portfolios for the Speaker's 
Chair. Thomas Spring Rice, Chancellor of the Exchequer 
in one of the Melbourne Administrations, had his heart set 
on that coveted office. He was in the running for the 
Speakership in 1833, when Manners-Sutton was reappointed 
by the Whigs, and in 1835, when James Abercromby was 
elected by them. Abercromby himself had been a Cabinet 
Minister, When Abercromby retired in 1839, Spring Rice 
again urged his claim, but it was found he was not 
acceptable to the Radicals, and Shaw-Lefevre was selected 
in order to maintain the unity of the Party and preserve 
the Liberal succession to the Chair. Again, on the resigna- 
tion of Arthur Wellesley Peel in 1895, Sir Henry Campbell- 
Bannerman was disposed to lay down his portfolio as 
Secretary for War in the then Liberal Government for 
the object of his ambition — the Speakership ; and it is 
said that it was reluctantly he yielded to the urgent repre- 
sentations of his colleagues that the Party could ill spare 
his services. His sacrifice was well rewarded, for he lived 
to become Prime Minister in 1905. 

Still, this most exalted position has, as a rule, fallen to 
unofficial Members, or to Members who have held sub- 
ordinate Ministerial appointments. Denison, in the opening 
passages of his Diary, states that on April 8, 1857, he 
was seated in his library at Ossington when the letters 
were brought in, and among them was the following: "94 
Piccadilly, the 7th of April' 1857. My dear Denlson,— 


We wish to be allowed to propose you for the Speakership 
of the House of Commons. Will you agree? — Yours 
sincerely, Palmerston." Denison says the proposal took 
him by surprise. "Though," he writes, "I had attended 
of late years to several branches of the private business, 
and had taken more part in the public business of the 
House of Commons, I had never made the duties of 
the Chair my special study." The case of William Court 
Gully is, in this respect, remarkable. He had been ten 
years in Parliament before his elevation to the Speaker's 
Chair, but he was one of that large, modest band of " silent 
Members" who, confining themselves to voting on the issues 
in the division lobbies, are unknown in debate, and conse- 
quently are never mentioned in the newspapers. Moreover, 
being a busy laywer, Mr. Gully was indifferent to the routine 
work of the House, and had no experience in serving on 
Committees upstairs, which is supposed to be the best of 
all trainings for the Speakership. Indeed, the Chair may 
be regarded as the one great prize that is open to the 
occupants of the back benches — to the privates in the rear 
rank — who possess the necessary physical as well as mental 
qualities. Personal appearance is undoubtedly a powerful 
factor in the selection of candidates. This includes the 
possession of clear vision. A Speaker with spectacles would 
look incongruous in an Assembly where the competition to 
catch his eye is so keen. He needs to have long sight, the 
Speaker of the House of Commons. Most of the Speakers 
have been gentlemen bred to the law. The overwhelming 
majority of them, also, have been Englishmen. Two or 
three came from Wales. One only was a Scotsman, James 
Abercromby, the Speaker of the Melbourne Administrations. 
Not a single Irishman has sat in the Chair. Spring Rice, 
whose case I have just alluded to, was the one Irishman, 
with an ambition to preside over the House of Commons 
who had the prize almost within his grasp, only to lose it 
in the end. On the resignation of Abercromby in 1839, he, 
being then Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote pleadingly 
to Melbourne for the fulfilmerit of what he deemed to be the 


' binding pledge of the Government, that he should be their 

■ candidate for the Chair when it became vacant. The 

Prime Minister, writing to him on behalf of the Cabinet, 
I ... . . . 

said: "The opinion is that if you continue to wish it you 

I shall be our candidate for the Chair." ^ But it was not to 

I be. The opposition of the Radical section of the Party to 

: him was too strong to be overcome. Ultimately Lord 

I John Russell, as Leader of the House of Commons, wrote 

I to him : " We are of opinion that your being proposed for 

the Chair would only lead to disappointment on your part, 

I and cause embarrassment to the Party. I say this with 

I great regret, knowing how much your own wishes were 

( directed to this object, and feeling that you are in every 

) way qualified to preside over our debates,"- 

I It was a sad case of an ambition long cherished only to 

I be cruelly frustrated at the close. To many a Speaker the 

I honour came when it was unsought for. Upon others it was 

: thrust unexpectedly. Others again accepted it with fear 

^ and trembling, and, such was their self-distrust or their 

I exaggerated view of the difficulties of the position, would 

I have been glad if it passed them by. But here was a man 

i who had set himself out, from his first appearance in the 

I House, to aspire to reach the Chair, who for seven years, 

j though a Cabinet Minister, longed and longed for the office, 

I and was so trifled with by fortune that three times when 

his face was set towards the Chair he was turned aside and 

I doomed never to attain to it. 

I The term of office of Mr. Speaker is usually short, 

[ Arthur Onslow, who was elected in 1728, continued in 

possession of the Chair for thirty-three years, through five 

successive Parliaments, apparently without ruffling a hair of 

; his wig. So long an occupancy is now perhaps impossible. 

For one thing, the duties of Mr. Speaker are physically more 

responsible and irksome. The sessions are longer, the 

j sittings of the House more protracted, and the fatigue of 

I the prolonged and often tedious hours in the Chair must be 

I ^ Torrens, Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne, 477 (1890). 

^ Ibia. 479. 


most severe mentally and physically. Besides, there has 
grown up of late a preference for a certain maturity of age 
in the Speaker. Arthur Onslow was only thirty-six when 
he was called to the office. Henry Addington, who occupied 
the Speaker's Chair at the opening of the nineteenth century, 
was thirty-two only on his appointment. William Court 
Gully, who was in possession of the Chair at the opening of 
the twentieth century, had passed his sixtieth year on his 
election. The occupancy of the office must be comparatively 
brief if men are appointed to it only when they are in the 
decline of life. Of the last three Speakers, Henry Bouverie 
Brand sat for twelve years, Arthur Wellesley Peel eleven 
years, and William Court Gully ten years. 



IT is not known exactly at what time the practice of re- 
munerating the Speaker for his services began, but it 
can be traced far back in the history of the Chair. In 
the sixteenth century he had, at least, an allowance from the 
Crown of ;{^ioo a session. At that period sessions were 
brief, and a pound was eight times its present value. Sir 
Thomas More, who was Speaker in 1523, under Henry VIIL, 
was paid this emolument. It is also clear that the Speaker 
was additionally compensated, if he were not remunerated 
principally, by means of fees paid by the promoters of 
Private Bill, or Bills affecting not the community generally 
but individuals, corporations, or districts. John Hooker, the 
antiquary, who sat in the House of Commons for a time in 
the reign of Elizabeth, prepared a statement of procedure 
and usages at Westminster for the guidance of the Irish 
Parliament, of which he subsequently became a Member, and 
enumerating the emoluments of the Speaker in the sixteenth 
century he wrote: "He hath allowances for his diet, one 




hundred pounds of the King for every session of Parliament ; 
also he hath for every Private Bill passed both Houses and 
enacted five pounds." ^ Towards the close of the seventeenth 
century it would seem that the allowance of i^ioo a session 
from the Sovereign was abolished, and in its place was 
substituted a grant out of the Civil List of ^5 for every day 
the House of Commons sat.^ 

The Speaker was thus remunerated by fees and allow- 
ances until the year 1790. In that year an Act was passed 
" for better supporting the dignity of Speaker of the House of 
Commons," by which the salary of the office was fixed at the 
clear yearly sum of ^6000.^ In the course of the debate on 
the Speaker's Allowance Bill it was stated that on an average 
of ten years the fees from Private Bills amounted to ^^"1232, 
and the allowances from the Civil List to ;^i68o, so that the 
total profits of the office was less than ;^3O0O per annum, a 
sum altogether inadequate, it was contended, to maintain the 
" splendour and importance " of the " First Commoner of the 
Kingdom." In order to supplement this income it had been 
the practice previously to confer upon the Speaker an office of 
profit under the Crown, such as the Paymaster of the Navy 
or the Treasurer of the Navy. Arthur Onslow — the great 
Speaker of the eighteenth century — was the last to hold 
such a sinecure. He resigned the post of Treasurer of the 
Navy because the opinion was openly expressed in the 
House of Commons that the indebtedness of the Speaker to 
the Crown for favours was inconsistent with the independ- 
ence of the Chair.* The Speaker's Allowance Bill, which 
fixed the annual salary of the Chair at ;i^6ooo a year, also in- 
capacitated the Speaker, for the time being, from holding 
any office or place of profit under the Crown. The new 
fixed yearly salary was to be derived, in part, from the 
allowance of £s a day out of the Civil List and the fees 
payable on Private Bills, as before, and in part from a grant 

^ Mountmorres, Aiuient Parliaments of Ireland^ vol, i, p. 21. 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 5, p. 889. 

' 30 Geo. III. c. 10. 

'' Parliamentary History, vol. 28, p. 506. 


out of the Consolidated Fund sufficient to bring the amount 
so obtained up to i^6ooo. 

At this time the Speaker was in the enjoyment of several 
valuable perquisites which were unaffected by the doubling 
of his salary. At the opening of every new Parliament, 
when, as now. there was a fresh election to the Chair, the 
Speaker received ;^iooo "equipment money" to provide 
himself with an outfit, and a new service of silver plate of 
4000 ounces, or about ^1400 in money in lieu of it. Both 
these grants were made to the same Speaker as often as he 
might be elected to the office. He was also allowed two 
hogshead of claret annually, and a sum of ;^ioo a session 
for stationery. The Dissolution brought a perquisite to the 
Speaker that was curious and quaint, indeed. It was usually 
a new Chair to which the Speaker was led by his sponsors 
at the assembling of a new Parliament. At the close of each 
Parliament the Speaker took away as a memento the Chair 
in which he sat as President of the House of Commons. 
Moreover, he had an official residence, in the Palace of 
Westminster, free of rent and local charges, together with 
"coals and candles," the cost of which then amounted to 
;^500 a year.i 

The Allowance Act of 1790 was repealed in 1832, and 
another Act was passed abolishing the allowance and fee 
system, and providing for the payment of the Speaker's 
annual salary of ;^6ooo out of the Consolidated Fund, clear 
of all taxes, impositions, and fees whatsoever.- In the 
following year a Select Committee was appointed by the 
House of Commons to take into consideration and report 
upon the establishment of the Speaker. In their report 
they state that as the result of a revision of the emoluments 
of Ministers a salary of ;^5ooo a year had been assigned to 
each of the Secretaries of State ; and considering that that 
amount was also a fitting salary for the Speakership, they 
recommended that at the next election to the Chair it 

' Parliamentary History, vol. 28, pp. 515-18. See also " Report of the Select 
Commitlce on the Estahlishincnt of the Speaker" (1833). 
«2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 105. 



should be fixed at that amount, ^5000 per annum, with the 
official residence free of rates and taxes, but without any- 
other allowance except the sum of ;^iooo for outfit on the 
first election only. They further advised that a sum of 
;^6ooo be expended in the purchase of a permanent service 
of plate for the Speaker's residence, and that the usual 
allowance of plate at each election of Speaker be discon- 
tinued. Accordingly in 1834 an Act was passed providing 
that from and after the next election of a new Speaker the 
salary of the office was to be ;^5000 a year, paid out of the 
Consolidated Fund.^ 

The Select Committee had been appointed mainly 
through the labours of Joseph Hume, that jealous guardian 
of the public purse, and with characteristic tenacity of 
purpose he urged the carrying into effect of their other 
economical recommendations. In March 1835 he was 
assured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that on the 
appointment of the then Speaker — James Abercromby, 
who a few weeks before had succeeded Manners-Sutton in 
the Chair — the report of the Select Committee was referred 
to him, and as he approved of their suggestions, " as being 
both advantageous to the Speaker and economical to the 
public," the Government intended to carry them into effect.^ 

Next year, accordingly, there appeared in the Estimates 
submitted in Committee of Supply two items of ^6000 " to 
provide a service of plate," and ;^iooo " allowance for outfit," 
with the note : " The service of plate to be permanently 
appropriated to the office of Speaker." ^ Thus was provided 
the plate now in use at the Speaker's official residence. 

In 1907 some of the silver plate which belonged to Sir 
Thomas Hanmer, one of the Speakers of the reign of Queen 
Anne, came into the market and was sold in London by 
public auction. Though he was a man of considerable wealth 
and great property, and filled the office of Speaker only for 
twelvemonths, Hanmer took the official service of plate with 

^ 4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 70. 

^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 26, p. 603. 

^ Estimates for 1836. 


him on his retirement. The lots constituting " The Speaker's 
Plate" which came under the hammer, and the prices 
obtained for them, were as follows: — 

A pair of Queen Anne ice-pails, chased with bands of 
drapery, festoons, tassels, rosettes, ribbons, and foliage, each 
engraved with the royal arms, 9} in. high, by Lewis 
Mettayer, 1713, 235 oz. 7 dwt., at 80s. per oz. — ;^94i, 8s.; 
a Queen Anne large circular dish, the centre engraved with 
the royal arms, the border chased with shells, foliage, and 
strapwork, 26\ in. diameter, by Lewis Mettayer, 17 13, 236 
oz., at 82s. per oz. — £[)6y, 12s.; a Queen Anne plain 
octagonal caster, engraved with the royal arms, garter 
motto, crown and cipher of Queen Anne, 8| in. high, by 
Thomas Farren, 1713, 13 oz. 12 dwt., at 115s. per oz. — ^^78, 
4s.; another, similar, 7 in. high, by the same, 171 3, 8 oz. 
9 dwt., at 160s. per oz. — £6y, I2s. ; four table-candlesticks, 
chased with lions' masks and ribbons, on circular plinths, 
engraved with the royal arms, crown, and ciphers of Queen 
Anne and George I., 9 in. high, by Lewis Mettayer, 17 14, 
107 oz. II dwt., at 60s. per oz. — ^322, 13s.; three Queen 
Anne table-candlesticks, similar, engraved with the crest of 
Sir Thomas Hanmer, 9 in. high, by David Willaume, 171 3, 
86 oz. 6 dwt, at 35s. per oz. — £1^1, os. 6d. ; and twelve 
Queen Anne three-pronged silver-gilt dessert forks, engraved 
with the crest of Sir Thomas Hanmer, by David Willaume, 
17 1 3, 164 oz., at 80s. per oz. — £6y} 

Chairs of the House of Commons, as well as the official 
plate of Speakers, are to be found scattered in English 
country houses, and even so far off as the Antipodes. Dean 
Pellew, in his biography of Lord Sidmouth (Henry Adding- 
ton), relates that in the dining-room of White Lodge, 
Richmond Park — a house assigned to Sidmouth by George 
III. in appreciation of his services to the Crown — there were 
" two old and bulky arm-chairs standing guards, one at each 
side of the fire-place : they were chiefly remarkable for their 
lumbering size and gaunt, inconvenient form," and that 
visitors always were curious as to their history. They were 

' 7'Ac 2'imcs, July 5, 1907. 


Chairs of the House of Commons in which Sidmouth had 
sat as Speaker. It appears that he originally possessed 
three of these Chairs, having presided over the House of 
Commons in three consecutive Parliaments, but one had 
disappeared, and the mystery of its fate was never solved.^ 
To Arthur Onslow five Chairs should have fallen in the 
course of his tenure of the Speakership, from 1728 to 1761. 
But it is a curious circumstance that none of those Chairs 
is to be found at Clandon Park, Surrey, — the seat of his 
descendants, the Earls of Onslow, — nor has the family any 
record of them.'^ Probably the Speaker had the alternative 
of taking a money allowance instead of the Chair. 

But this perquisite was abolished in the thirties of the 
nineteenth century. The last Speaker to carry off the Chair 
as well as the official plate was Manners-Sutton, who, having 
been Speaker in seven Parliaments, from 18 17 to 1834, had 
as many as seven Chairs and seven services of silver all 
to himself The last Chair of his term of office — it was 
the one provided after the destruction of the Houses of 
Parliament by fire in 1834 — had a curious history. It was 
brought out to Melbourne by his son, who was Governor of 
Victoria, and presented by him to the Legislative Assembly 
of that colony, whose Speakers sat in it for years. The 
story of the Chair was either forgotten or failed to appeal to 
the Members of that Assembly, for in the course of time 
they replaced it with a chair more in accordance with their 
tastes. The Chair occupied by the Speaker of the first 
reformed English House of Commons was subsequently 
found, neglected and decayed, in one of the lumber rooms. 
Now, however, it is in use — with a suitably inscribed brass 
plate — in the Commonwealth Parliament House. 

The grant of ;^iooo for equipment is still given to the 
Speaker on his first appointment. Lord Colchester (Charles 
Abbot) states in his Diary that he paid his predecessor in 
the Chair, Sir John Mitford, ^^1060 for the State Coach 
which was built in 1701, more than a century before. Mr. 

^ Pellew, Life of Lord Sidmouth, vol. i, p. 68. 
2 Graham, The Mother of Parliaments, 132. 


Speaker Peel rode in this great lumbering equipage to 
Buckingham Palace — its last public appearance, when it was 
dragged by a couple of huge brewer's dray horses — to 
present to Queen Victoria the address of the Commons on 
her Golden Jubilee in 1897. Abbot further states that he 
also paid Mitford ^1000 for wine, and ;^500 for house 
furniture.^ This passing on of chattels and effects from one 
Speaker to another, for a consideration, has probably been 
always in vogue. Sir Thomas Hanmer had a letter from 
his predecessor in the Chair, William Bromley, dated 
September 22, 1713, in which, after asking him to reappoint 
Dr. Pelling as Chaplain, the writer says : " You'll smile at 
the transition from a chaplain to coach-horses. I have a 
pair that drew my great coach, and believe you cannot be 
better fitted, and I offer them to you before I dispose of 
them ; one specially is a very fine horse of better than 
sixteen hands high. You shall have him, or them, on 
reasonable terms." ^ 

It will thus be seen that formerly the Speaker needed a 
large sum for his equipment, though he got his money back, 
probably with interest, on his retirement from his successor. 

In these days, among the things with which the Speaker 
has to provide himself, apart from the familiar black silk 
gown and horse-hair wig, in which he appears in the House 
of Commons, is the state robe of his office, which is worn 
only on a few great ceremonial occasions outside Parliament. 
It is a long loose garment with train, made of black satin 
damask, richly embroidered in gold, and with tucks and 
ruffles of the finest lace. It costs about ;^iSo. A similar 
robe is also worn as a dress of state or dignity by the Lord 
Chancellor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Master of 
the Rolls, and the Lord Justices of Appeal. The full- 
bottomed wig which the Speaker wears is made of white 
horse-hair, and costs twelve guineas. The Speaker also 
provides himself with a three-corner hat of beaver, which he 

' Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, vol. I, p. 285. 
* 7 he Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer (edited by Sir Henry Bunbury), 


carries folded in his hand as he enters the House to take the 

Chair, but which is never seen on his head. The only use 

which he seems to make of the hat is that of a pointer when 

he counts the House to see if the required quorum of forty 

Members are present. 

1 It is clear, however, from the prints of the House of 

Commons in the eighteenth century, that it was formerly 

i the custom for the Speaker when in the Chair to wear the 

j hat over his big wig, not abaft the head as the three- 

'' corner hat is worn by State grandees and military and naval 

1 officers, but athwart or across the head. It is thus worn 

I also by the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords on 

\ ceremonial occasions, when he raises it in acknowledgment 

) of the bows of the Speaker standing at the Bar with the 

{ Commons at the opening and close of a session. No one 

j now enters the House of Commons, or appears at its Ban 

[ to whom the Speaker need lift his hat. But it was not 

: always so. On the occasion of the delivery of a message 

' from the Lords to the Commons, in the reign of James I., 

j Mr. Speaker Richardson was told by a Member of the 

I House that he was too courteous, that he should not remove 

1 his hat till " the third conge," or the third salute of the 

messengers. In these days Black Rod comes frequently 

I during a session with a message from the Lords to the 

! Commons, and as he walks from the Bar to the Table to 

I deliver it he makes, as of old, three obeisances to Mr. 

I Speaker, but the Speaker does not lift his hat even at " the 

I third conge " ; for it is not on his head, but is laid folded on 

i the wide arm of the Chair at his elbow. Probably the 

I Speaker discontinued the wearing of the three-corner hat 

' a-top his wig what time bowing and scraping came to an 

! end in the House of Commons. 

I Of the many ancient perquisites of the Speaker only 
I two now survive. A buck and a doe killed in the royal 
' preserves at Windsor are annually sent to him, and the 
! Clothworkers' Company of London present him at Christmas 
with a generous width of the best broadcloth. But one 
curious privilege the Speaker possesses, which he enjoys 
I 7 


exclusively with Royalty. That is, to ride or drive through 
the Archway of the Horse Guards between Whitehall and 
the Mall. The privilege is perhaps without any practical 
value, now that there is access to the Mall to the general 
public riding or driving to or from the Palace of Westminster 
by Storey's Gate of St. James's Park, and by the Arch at 
Trafalgar Square. But when the privilege was first granted 
to the Speaker early in the eighteenth century it would seem 
as if the Mall could only be reached from Westminster by 
the roundabout way of Piccadilly and Constitution Hill. At 
any rate, an incident occurred in 1831 which shows the 
convenience of the privilege at that time, and how narrowly 
it was restricted. 

The newspapers of the time gave sensational prominence 
to accounts of how Lord Chancellor Brougham forced his 
carriage through the Horse Guards, despite the efforts of the 
King's Guard to stop him. The matter was brought before 
the House of Lords on March 17, 1831, by the Marquis of 
Londonderry, and statements were made by the Commander- 
in-Chief and Brougham. A Drawing-room was held that 
day in St. James's Palace, and Brougham, who had been 
delayed by the protracted hearing of a lawsuit in the House 
of Lords, directed his coachman not to drive to the Palace 
by Piccadilly and Constitution Hill, but to go the short 
and direct way through the Horse Guards. The carriage 
got into the yard fronting the Archway on the Whitehall 
side before it could be stopped by the soldiers on duty. 
Brougham explained that he was the Lord Chancellor, on 
his way to the Drawing-room. This, however, availed him 
not. He was told by the officer of the Guard that no one 
but the Speaker of the House of Commons was allowed 
to pass through, except Lord Shaftesbury, the Chairman of 
Committee in the House of Lords, who had obtained special 
leave for that day only. Brougham then said, " We must go 
back," and the sentinel let go his hold of the reins. But instead 
of turning back the coachman whipped his horses and drove 
the carriage through the Arch, scattering the soldiers right 
and left. Brougham declared in the House of Lords that 


the coachman misunderstood his directions, and that for his 
part he was never more astonished in his life than when he 
found himself through the Arch and on his way to the Mall.^ 
He confessed to Creevey, however, that when he heard that 
his "own man," his "actual bootjack," Lord Shaftesbury, 
had the entree, it was more than flesh and blood could 

The Speaker receives a pension of ^^4000 a year. No 

retiring allowance was paid until the eighteenth century 

was more than half-way through. The first Speaker upon 

whom a pension was bestowed was Arthur Onslow. When 

he resigned in 1761, after a long and brilliant service of 

thirty-three years, George III., in replying to the address of 

the Commons praying him to confer on Onslow "some signal 

I mark of honour," allowed the ex-Speaker a pension of ^^"3000 

I during his life and that of his son, George Onslow. But no 

[ peerage was given to Onslow. The earldom of the family 

i was conferred on the ex-Speaker's son. A peerage as well 

( as a pension was first bestowed on Charles Abbot, who on 

I retiring in 18 17 was made Baron Colchester. It is true that 

' his predecessors in the nineteenth century had also been 

i raised to the peerage, but they got their titles for services 

i other than those rendered in the Chair. The Viscountcy of 

' Sidmouth was not conferred upon Addington in 1801 when 

he stepped down from the Speaker's Chair to become Prime 

I Minister. He received his title in 1805. The barony of 

! Redesdale was bestowed upon Mitford not as ex-Speaker, 

but as Lord Chancellor of Ireland. 
I The rank of the peerage to which the Speaker is now 

raised on his retirement is that of a Viscount. Speaker 
Abbot, as I have said, was made a Baron, the lowest order of 
nobility. But Speaker Manners-Sutton, on his compulsor>' 
retirement in 1835, was made Viscount Canterbury; while 
his successor. Speaker Abercromby, was in 1839 rewarded 
only with a barony, — that of Dunfermline. This, however, 
was the last barony granted to a retiring Speaker. On the 

* Parliamentaiy Debates (3rd series), vol. 3, pp. 490-4. 
' Creevey Papers, vol. 2, p. 222. 


resignation of Shaw-Lefevre in March 1857, Palmerston, 
who was then Prime Minister, sent the following letter to 
Queen Victoria : — 

"Viscount Palmerston begs to state that the Speaker 
has chosen the title of Eversley, the name of a small place 
near his residence in Hampshire, all the large towns in the 
county having already been adopted as titles for Peers. 
The ordinary course would be that Your Majesty should 
make him a Baron, and that is the course which was followed 
in the cases of Mr. Abbot made Lord Colchester, and Mr. 
Abercromby made Lord Dunfermline ; but in the case of 
Mr. Manners-Sutton a different course was pursued, and 
he was made Viscount Canterbury. The present Speaker is 
very anxious that his services, which, in fact, have been 
more meritorious and useful than those of Mr. Manners- 
Sutton, should not appear to be considered by Your Majesty 
as less deserving of Your Majesty's Royal favour ; and as the 
present Speaker may justly be said to have been the best who 
ever filled the Chair, Viscount Palmerston would beg to sub- 
mit for Your Majesty's gracious approval that he may be 
created Viscount Eversley. It will be well, at the same time, 
if Your Majesty should sanction this arrangement, that a 
record should be entered at the Home Office stating that this 
act of grace and favour of Your Majesty, being founded on 
the peculiar circumstances of the case, is not to be deemed 
a precedent for the cases of future Speakers." ^ 

Nevertheless, a Viscountcy is the rank of peerage which 
has since been conferred upon all retiring Speakers. It was 
not much of a distinction for the First of the Commons to be 
made merely the last of the peers. Another honour which 
the Speaker enjoys is that of trustee of the British Museum. 
This, however, is received not on retirement, but on election. 
Appointment to the Speakership carries with it a seat at 
the Museum's board of trustees. 

In addition to the pension of ;^4000 a year to the ex- 
Speaker, there was formerly granted a reversion of ;^3000 
a year to the next male heir to the title. The last Speaker 
whose heir received the reversion was Manners-Sutton. 
' Queen Victoria's Letters, vol. 3, p. 292, 


Denison, who retired after fifteen years' service on February 

i 7, 1872, declined the pension. "Though without any 

I pretensions to wealth," he wrote to Gladstone, the Prime 

I Minister, " I have a private fortune which will suffice, and 

1 for the few years that remain to me I should be happier in 

! feeling that I am not a burden to my fellow-countrymen." 

! He was created Viscount Ossington, and died without 

i issue on March 7, 1873. 

speaker's house 

HENRY ADDINGTON, on his election to the Chair 
in 1789, not only had his salary raised from ^^3000 
to £6000 a year, but he was the first Speaker to be 
I given an official residence within the Palace of Westminster. 
I Apartments were first appropriated to the use of the Speaker 
' by warrant of George III. in 1790. 

■ Speaker's House then adjoined, as now, the House of 
! Commons. We get an interesting glimpse of it with its 
I gardens by the Thames in Thomas Moore's Diary, under 
j date May 19, 1829, the day that Daniel O'Connell made his 
j notable appearance at the Bar of the House to claim the seat 

j for Clare which was denied him as a Roman Catholic: — 


j " Went to the House of Commons early, having begged 
[ Mr. Speaker yesterday to put me on the list for under the 
gallery. An immense crowd in the lobby, Irish agitators, 
etc. ; got impatient and went round to Mr. Speaker, who 
sent the trainbearer to accompany me to the lobby, and 
after some little difficulty I got in. The House enormously 
full. O'Connell's speech good and judicious. Sent for by 
Mrs. Manners-Sutton at seven o'clock to have some dinner ; 
none but herself and daughters, Mr. Lockwood, and Mr. 
Sutton. Amused to see her in all her state, the same hearty, 
lively Irish woman still. Walked with her in the garden ; 
the moonlight on the river, the boats gliding along it, the 
towers of Lambeth rising on the opposite bank, the lights of 


Westminster Bridge gleaming on the left ; and then, when 
one turned round to the House, that beautiful Gothic 
structure, illuminated from within, and at that moment 
containing within it the council of the nation — all was most 
picturesque and striking." ^ 

The Speaker then gave his official dinners in the crypt 
under the old House of Commons, now the beautiful crypt 
chapel beneath St. Stephen's Hall. Before the Reformation 
the old Chamber was a chapel, called after St. Stephen, in 
which the Mass was regularly celebrated ; and it was 
Edward VI. who, about the year 1547, gave the chapel to 
the Commons, whose meeting place had previously been the 
Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. Under the chapel 
was a beautiful crypt, anciently styled St. Mary-in-the- 
Vaults, which after the Reformation was first used as a 
lumber room, then as a coal-cellar, and when Addington 
took up his abode in the Palace it was an appendage of the 
kitchen. Addington had the crypt transformed from a 
scullery into a dining-room, for the entertainment of the 
representatives of the people at those rude and heavy meals 
which were the vogue in his time. 

The Speaker's House is, of course, a part of the Palace 
of Westminster, which is vested in the Crown ; and as such 
is lent by the King to the House of Commons for the 
accommodation of its Speaker. From the time when the 
Speaker began to reside within the Palace it was the custom, 
on the dissolution of Parliament, for the Speaker to ask at 
a private audience of the Sovereign the royal permission to 
occupy the Speaker's House until the assembling of the new 
House of Commons and the new election to the Chair. In 
1 83 1, Manners-Sutton was informed that the King, William 
IV., intended to occupy the Speaker's House " as part of his 
Royal Palace of Westminster" for two days before his 
coronation in Westminster Abbey, and accordingly the 
Speaker had for a time to obtain lodging elsewhere.^ 

' Moore, Diary ^ vol. 6, p. 32. 

' Kcjiorl of the Select Committee on the I^osses of the late Speaker by the 
Fire (1837), 3, 4. Parliamentary Debates (3rd scries), vol. 26, p. 20. 



Manners-Sutton reported to King William, after the fire 
of 1834, the damage which had been done by the conflagration 
to the Speaker's House, which with His Majesty's gracious 
permission he inhabited. And arising out of the sleeping of 
the King in the State bedroom of the Speaker's House, the 
night before his Coronation in 1831, a curious claim was 
made by Manners-Sutton which was the subject of 
considerable public interest at the time, and incidentally 
throws additional light on the strange perquisites which 
even great officials of the State were not above receiving. 
Among the duties of the Lord Great Chamberlain was that 
of undressing the King the night before his Coronation and 
dressing him in the morning. For this service all the 
furniture of the chamber in which the King slept, including 
the night apparel of the Sovereign and the silver basin in 
which he washed, became by immemorial usage the property 
of the Lord Great Chamberlain, In 1831, Lord Gwyder, 
who was deputy Lord Great Chamberlain, accordingly laid 
claim to the effects in the State bedroom of the Speaker's 
House. His title to them having been allowed by the Board 
of Claims, which sat for the settlement of disputed accounts 
arising out of the Coronation of William IV., he took 
possession of eight tapestry chairs, two tapestry sofas, and 
two tapestry screens. 

This furniture was the property not of the Speaker, but of 
the State, but it was bought back from Lord Gwyder by 
Manners-Sutton, and the latter, in making a claim on the 
Crown for ;^50oo compensation for loss and damage 
sustained by the fire of 1834, offered to let the State have 
it back again — for it had escaped destruction — for 500 
guineas. In 1837 the Commons appointed a Select 
Committee to investigate this claim, and similar claims for 
compensation made by other officials of the House, and in 
the course of the proceedings an independent valuer, 
commissioned by the Commons, valued the bedroom furniture 
at ;^48o, a sum which Manners-Sutton, or Lord Canterbury 
as he then was, agreed to accept. The Treasury, however, 
before sanctioning the bargain, asked for Lord Gwyder's 


receipt for the sum which Manners-Sutton paid in redemption 
of his claim on the furniture. To this Lord Canterbury 
replied : " As to the transfer to me by Lord Gwyder of these 
articles, amongst others to which his Lordship became 
entitled after the Coronation, I have the paper signed by 
Mr. Fellowes, as the Great Chamberlain's secretary, and 
I have no doubt an entry of it will be found amongst the 
Great Chamberlain s Coronation papers." Then the Treasury 
decided that no effects should be purchased for the Speaker's 
House until it was decided in what manner the new official 
residence was to be furnished, and Lord Canterbury, greatly 
to his annoyance, had the bedroom tapestries left upon his 

The claim of Lord Canterbury for compensation in 
respect of his furniture, books, prints, plate, and other effects 
destroyed by the fire was also disputed by the Crown. The 
ex-Speaker took no action to enforce this claim until 1842, 
when the Tories were in office. In that year he presented 
a Petition of Right to Queen Victoria, alleging that as his 
losses had arisen in a Royal Palace from the negligence of 
servants of the Crown, he was entitled to compensation from 
the Crown. The fire, it should be explained, was caused by 
workmen, employed in the Palace of Westminster by the 
Commissioners of Woods and Forests, overcharging the 
flues for heating the building by stuffing into them a large 
quantity of old wooden tallies that had been discarded by 
the Exchequer. The Queen gave the answer to the petition, 
" Let right be done." Canterbury's claim was for i^io,ooo, — 
furniture and plate, ^7000; and other property, ;{J^3C)00. 
The case was argued before Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst by 
very able and distinguished lawyers, and was opposed by 
the Attorney-General on behalf of the Government. The 
judgment of Lyndhurst was that the claim was unsustain- 
able, as the Crown could not be held liable for the negligence 
of its agents. " The wonder is," writes Lord Campbell, 
himself an ex-Lord Chancellor, " that men of eminence at 

' Appendix of the Report of the Select Committee on the Losses of the late 
Speaker by the l"'irc (1837). 


the Bar should have ever advised a proceeding so prepos- 
terous and hopeless." ^ 

After the fire of 1834 a temporary residence was provided 
for the Speaker in Eaton Square. The new Speaker's House 
is that conspicuous wing of the Palace of Westminster, with 
its carved stonework and Gothic windows, extending from 
the Clock Tower to the river, close to Westminster Bridge 
and along a part of the Terrace. It was first occupied by 
John Evelyn Denison in 1857. Entrance to it is obtained 
from a quiet spacious courtyard off New Palace Yard. A 
beautiful staircase, with wide red-carpeted steps and brass 
balustrade and lamps, leads to the reception-rooms, — the red 
drawing-room, the blue drawing-room, and the dining-room — 
which are furnished elegantly if not ornately by the State. 
There are fine carvings in oak and stone, decorated ceilings, 
lofty mirrors, hangings of the richest silk, luxurious couches, 
glistening cabinets inlaid with precious woods, but most 
valuable and interesting of all the possessions of the 
Speaker's House is its collection of portraits of occupants of 
the Chair. The galleries which go round three sides of the 
house are lit with stained-glass windows, emblazoned with 
the coats-of-arms of all the Speakers. As a connecting link 
between the Speaker's House and the House of Commons is 
the library, overlooking the Terrace, where the Speaker, 
while the House is in Committee, may be seen by Ministers 
as to the course of public business, or by private Members 
on points of order or procedure. On the writing-table are 
three or four slim, well-worn little volumes. They are always 
at the Speaker's elbow, for they embody the rulings of the 
Chair for the past sixty years. 

From the great windows of the reception-rooms there are 
fine views of the ever-changing life and animation of the 
river, the solid and ancient permanency of the grey towers 
of Lambeth Palace on the other side, and far beyond them 
may be seen, when the day is clear and sunny, the wooded 
slopes of the Surrey Hills. 

^ Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, vol. 8, pp. 135-8. 




THE Speaker has social functions to discharge as well 
as parliamentary. He gives several official enter- 
tainments. There are two full-dress levees and 
seven full-dress dinners during the Parliamentary Session. 
To the first dinner all the Ministers, or Members of the 
Government, sitting in the House of Commons are invited. 
At the second the leading Members of the Opposition 
are entertained. To the third are bidden Privy Councillors 
and Members of former Administrations who were not 
included in the guests at one or other of the former 
dinners. Then there are three of those dinners to private 
Members, at each of which there is an amicably mixed 
attendance of Ministerialists and Opposition ; and finally, 
the officials of the House of Commons dine with the 

The levees are socially noteworthy. They are import- 
ant events in fashionable society ; for Peers and foreign 
Ambassadors and Ministers and others are invited, as well 
as M.P.s and their ladies. As the invitation list is a long 
one, there is usually a crush at these receptions. The scene 
presented in the drawing-rooms of the Speaker's House 
is brilliant indeed — the rich uniforms and gold-embroidered 
dress of the gentlemen vying in colour with the varied tints 
of the ladies' gowns. 

Attendance at a full-dress levee, by a private or back- 
bench Member of Parliament, is followed by an invitation to 
one of the three official banquets given to the rank and file of 
the representatives of the people. To dine with Mr. Speaker 
is by no means an ordinary function. It is a great social 
distinction. Indeed, the invitation is supposed to carry with 
it something of the command with which the subject is bidden 
by the King to attend a royal function, in which case death 
or possibly a serious illness is the only excuse for absence. 


By immutable regulations, as well as long-established custom, 
the guests are required to come either in uniform or Court 
dress. Privy Councillors wear their dark blue uniforms with 
lavish decorations of gold lace. Other Ministers are in the 
Windsor uniform with red collar and cuffs. Private Members 
of the House of Commons are in levee dress. The host 
himself is a dignified and picturesque figure attired in a black 
velvet Court suit, knee-breeches with silk stockings, a sword 
by his side, and lace ruffles adorning his cuffs and the front 
of his shirt. 

The State dining-room is a long narrow apartment, with 
fine oak carvings and painted ceiling. It is hung with a 
stately array of portraits of past Speakers, the place of 
honour over the mantelpiece being given to Charles Shaw- 
Lefevre (Lord Eversley), who is regarded as one of the 
greatest Speakers of the nineteenth century. The table, at 
which forty guests can be comfortably seated, is a glitter 
of silver and glass and graceful candelabra and banks of 
exquisite flowers, and the courses and wines are served 
by gorgeous flunkeys in bright livery and shoulder knots. 
Grace is said by the Speaker's Chaplain. There are no 
speeches. Only one toast is proposed, that of " The King," 
which is given by the Speaker without remark. The dinners 
are intended principally to bring Members together, not 
for the interchange of political views but for the free and 
easy flow of light conversation and jest, and though the 
board is environed by many Speakers, standing out from the 
canvas wigged and gowned, with dignified and solemn aspect, 
the geniality of the host — who lays aside his terrors with his 
Speaker's robes — puts the diners in the happiest vein, and the 
chatter and laughter are delightfully incessant. 

The rule which debars ordinary evening attire at these 
functions and makes uniform or Court dress indispensable, 
is rigidly enforced, with the result that some eminent 
Parliamentarians, such as William Cobbett, Joseph Hume, 
Richard Cobden, and John Bright — all of whom objected 
to wear Court dress — never had the pleasure of sitting at 
table with Mr. Speaker. On the occasion of the re-election 


of John Evelyn Denison to the Chair, in 1866, Bright protested 
in the House of Commons against this restrictive sumptuary 
regulation. The custom, he thought, was a little out of date, 
especially among the Members of a popular assembly. 
Moreover, it was expensive. He remembered an hon. 
Member who held the rank of Colonel in the Army 
complaining that it had taken fifty guineas " to put him 
inside a suitable dress in which to appear at the Speaker's 
table." " If," he continued, " there be any country gentleman 
who likes to appear in decorated apparel, or if there be any 
homely manufacturer from the North who is gratified by 
figuring in the blazing garments of a deputy lieutenant, 
I do not object in the least. I should like every man to 
please himself in the matter. But if there are some of us, as 
is the case with myself, and I believe many more who would 
like to make their appearance in a quiet costume, with less 
that is gorgeous and astounding about them, why should not 
their taste be gratified also ? " Cobden during his twenty- 
four years in the House of Commons, from 1841 to 1865 — as 
Bright mentioned in this speech — felt constrained for the 
same reason to refuse the Speaker's invitation to dinner.^ 

The only departure from this sartorial rule was made by 
Mr. Speaker Peel. As it operates most hardly on working- 
class representatives, whom it is difificult to conceive in Court 
dress or uniform, Mr. Peel, during one session of the short 
Liberal Parliament of 1893-5, made a graceful and happy 
innovation on this ancient custom, by inviting the twelve 
Labour Members then in the House to dine with him. It 
was not on one of the formal occasions when private 
Members take their turn to dine with Mr. Speaker, but on 
a pleasant evening off, and for this separate dinner party 
there was no restriction whatever as to dress ; although, to 
avoid the appearance of invidiousness, the Speaker tactfully 
included in the company several of his private friends. 
The experiment, by all accounts, proved highly successful. 
There were no speeches, of course, but William Abraham, 
the miner representative of Rhondda Valley, sang in Welsh 
' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 181, p. 10. 


"The March of the Men of Harlech," with fine effect. It 
would be interesting to know the reflections of those solemn 
Speakers of the long past on the strange scene upon which 
they looked down from their gilt-framed elevation above 
the festive board. How did the grim Francis Rous, Speaker 
of the " Praise - God Barebone's Parliament, " in the 
Commonwealth period, appreciate the ringing chorus of the 
Welsh national song? x^bove all, what did the proud and 
haughty cavalier Sir Edward Seymour, of the gay days of 
Charles II., think of those knights of the shire and citizens 
and burgesses who came, not from the squire's hall or the 
town mansion of the merchant, but from the factory and 
coal mine, to sit in the House of Commons and help to 
make the laws of the land ! 

This precedent, at least, has not been followed at 
Westminster. Shortly after the assembling of the famous 
Liberal and democratic Parliament of 1906 a memorial, 
signed by sixty-four Ministerialists, was presented to Mr. 
Speaker Lowther requesting that they might be allowed to 
wear ordinary dress at his levees. They stated that they 
had every desire to pay their respects to the Speaker and 
to show their deference to his high office, but that they 
objected to the observance of the custom of wearing Court 
dress. In his reply to the memorial, the Speaker said : 
" While regretting that I am unable to accede to the request, 
I shall hope to find some opportunity, as the session 
advances, of meeting those who signed the letter other 
than on the formal and official occasions of a levee." Since 
then the Labour Members are entertained at luncheon by 
the Speaker. 

To his first sessional dinner to Members of the 
Government the Speaker always invites the proposer and 
seconder of the Address of the House of Commons in reply 
to the Speech from the Throne. Charles Fenwick, the 
trade union organizer, who represented for many years the 
Wansbeck division of Northumberlaad, seconded the Address 
at the opening of the new Liberal Parliament in 1910. 
Though it is time-honoured etiquette to appear in uniform or 


Court dress on such occasions, he wore ordinary attire ; but 
he was unable to accept the Speaker's invitation to dinner, as 
in that case no evasion of the rule with respect to costume 
is allowed. 

The Irish Nationalist Party have also declined to 
attend those parliamentary functions at the Speaker's House 
since 1880; but not, however, on account of the obligation 
to wear uniform or Court dress. Previous to the General 
Election of 1880, at which the Nationalist Party, under the 
leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell, was first constituted, 
the Irish Home Rule Members observed the immemorial 
usage of attending the Speaker's levees. Even Joseph 
Gillies Biggar, who invented Obstruction and by his tactics 
of impeding the progress of public business in the later 
seventies led to a complete revolution of the procedure of 
the House of Commons, was present at one at least of Mr. 
Speaker Brand's levees in full dress. He used to tell the 
story of the incident with great gusto and self-satisfaction. 
He hired the Court dress and sword for two guineas, which 
was an enormous expenditure to one of his frugal disposition, 
and, determining to spend as little more as possible on his 
pleasure, he used the tramcar to bring him from his humble 
lodgings at Clapham to Westminster Bridge Road, and 
walked over the bridge to the Speaker's House, always a 
quaint and original figure, — made ungainly by a malformation 
of his right shoulder, — but savouring of the ludicrous in 
black velvet cutaway coat and smalls, and silk stockings and 
lace ruffies. However, in the .session of 1881 it happened 
that most of the Nationalist Members were suspended by 
Mr. Speaker Brand for wilful obstruction and defying the 
authority of the Chair, and ever since the Party have ab- 
stained from attendance at the Speaker's levees. 

The Speaker's wife not only assists at all these functions, 
but has special social duties of her own to discharge. She 
has the disposal of the seats in the Speaker's Gallery, a 
small and reserved section of the gallery for the accom- 
modation of ladies. The trials that accompany the exercise 
of this patronage is thus described in an appreciation of 



Lady Selby (Mrs. Gully) which appeared in The Times: 
" No woman has more steadily arduous patronage to exercise 
than the Speaker's wife in her gallery. She may enter into 
that darkened room and view the grille, and think with 
premature exultation that, in there at least, she is mistress 
of all she surveys ; but the millstone of recurring sessions 
will soon grind any premature self-satisfaction into an early 
revelation of the frailties of human nature. Some dozen 
desirable chairs, and some dozen not so desirable, are what 
her hand has to give daily, and for those four-and-twenty 
sittings a large world enters into competition. Justice 
tempered by mercy, Party claims and minority representa- 
tion : the individual who asks at the eleventh hour, and 
believes it impossible no seat can be left for her ; the other, 
who can only hear if she sees, and therefore perceives not 
that this is no special claim for the best place ; the one who 
comes to rustle and talk, and to depart in half an hour, but 
who has failed to inform that her request is only for a given 
period ; the Royalty or the Embassy that at the last minute 
prefers a request not to be refused ; the wife who has eyes 
and knowledge for only one in the motley herd below the 
grille, who still takes up one of the few seats, but whose 
gentle emotions must not be crushed, — unending, unstable, 
unreasonable, and imperative, it needs the heads of all the 
departments put into one to be the Speaker's wife." ^ 



THE Speaker retains the Chair as long as he feels 
physically and mentally fit to discharge its dutes 
and bear its responsibilities. . When he decides to 
retire he announces his decision to the House personally. 
If the Chair becomes vacant by the protracted illness or the 
death of the Speaker, the Clerk informs the House of the 

' The Times, November 21, 1906, 


fact by reading the Speaker's letter of resignation or 
announcing his death, and the House is immediately 
adjourned on the motion of a Minister of the Crown till 
the leave of the King is obtained for the election of another 
Speaker. But the occasion of the announcement of his 
retirement by the Speaker himself attracts a crowded and 
deeply interested House. Then, when he has stated the 
cause which compels him to say good-bye to the House, 
he usually leaves the Chair, and business proceeds for the 
rest of the sitting under the presidency of the Deputy 

Next day the Speaker takes the Chair again, and hears 
with pride and satisfaction — not unmixed with the sorrow 
that attends occasions of parting for all time — the eulogistic 
terms in which the Leader of the House and the Leader of 
the Opposition vie with each other in felicitously extolling 
his merits and expressing their regrets for the loss which 
the Chamber is about to endure, while moving the customary 
vote of thanks for his valuable services, and asking the 
Sovereign to confer upon him " a signal mark " of royal favour. 
His personal qualities are enlarged upon, and his achieve- 
ments in the Chair are quoted as incontestable proofs of his 
greatness as Speaker, and are loudly applauded on all sides 
as being to the purpose and full of point. 

Thus the grateful House unites in paying him the last 
homage. He is assured, in the common form of panegyric 
adopted on those occasions, that the House " fully 
appreciates the zeal and ability with which he has dis- 
charged his duties," and entertains the strongest sense not 
only "of the firmness and dignity with which he has 
maintained its privileges," but also of " the urbanity and 
kindness which have uniformly marked his conduct in the 
Chair, and which have secured for him the esteem and 
gratitude of every Member of the House." Every one feels, 
for the moment, that the retiring Speaker is irreplaceable. 
As time goes on it will, happily, be found that his successor 
invariably turns out to be equally good, if not better. But 
as he quits the Chair for the last time Members on both 


sides of the Chamber rise and salute him, in farewell, as the 
greatest of Speakers. 

Thus the Speaker goes out on the full and flowing tide 
of honour, with a wreath of laurel on his brow. What a 
different ending to that of the great head of the State, the 
Prime Minister, who too often terminates his career of 
splendid public service, defeated and overthrown, baffled, 
perhaps, in the realization of his most cherished political 
hopes, like a vanquished general in warfare obliged to 
surrender his sword for ever ! 

The resignation of the Speaker involves his immediate 
parting from the House of Commons, for he is at once 
raised to the peerage ; and this, of course, renders his seat 
vacant. The last Speaker who, on quitting the Chair, 
continued to sit in the House of Commons was Henry 
Addington. He succeeded Pitt as Prime Minister in 1801. 
He gave place to Pitt in June 1804. Yet he continued in 
the House of Commons as a private Member. He regarded 
his position as unsatisfactory, not because he was an ex- 
Speaker, but because he was an ex-Premier without a post 
in the new Administration. In a letter to Pitt dated 
December :8, 1804, he said his continuance in the House 
" without being connected with the Government is open to 
strong and most serious objection." In 1805 he was created 
a peer.^ Since then every Speaker on resigning the Chair 
says good-bye to the House of Commons. Though he goes 
, out with all the honours, the occasion has the inevitable 
sadness which attends the end of all human things that has 
the element of glory or happiness. For the last time the 
Speaker's eyes sweep the Chamber, not for the purpose of 
calling on a Member, but to take in a parting impression 
of the great scene. He steps down from the Chair for the 
last time. Ah ! that the first time he ascended it and was 
acclaimed Speaker could be recalled ! 

The ex-Speaker, then, goes to the House of Lords as a 
Viscount — the signal mark of the Sovereign's favour — with 
a pension of ;^4000 a year. But he is Speaker no longer ; 

' Pellew, Life of Lord Sidpnouth, vol. I, p. 336. 


another presides in his place ; and what a shadowy personage 
he seems, even as a peer, compared with the resounding 
fame and distinction that were his in the glorious years 
when he filled with pomp and dignity the Chair of the 
House of Commons! Still, there arc compensations. In 
the first place, he has time for sleep. The ordinary lot of 
the peers is set forth in a letter of 1872 from the then Lord 
Salisbury to Roundcll Palmer, newly created Lord Chancellor 
Sel borne. " Whether I can safely congratulate you on 
coming to the House of Lords I much doubt," wrote Lord 
Salisbury, whose own memories of a livelier other place 
were still fresh. " But there are consolations," he added, 
"even in this case. When I was condoling with the late 
Speaker upon his elevation to the peerage, he replied : ' At 
least it is a place from which one can get to bed.' And 
there is much that is consoling in that thought."^ 

Moreover, there remains to the ex-Speaker the happy 
thought expressed by Horace, which consoles for the transi- 
toriness of human honours — 

" Not Heaven itself o'er the past hath power, 
For what has been, has been, and I have had my hour." 



SUCH, then, is the Speakership of the House of Commons, 
its position, powers, and dignity. How did it come to 
be established, and when ? What originally was its 
aim and object? These are questions that cannot be 
answered positively. But it was not a splendid constitu- 
tional invention that sprang full blown from the brain of a 
statesman of creative genius, who had in view the restriction 
of royal prerogative, and the expansion of popular liberties, 
the two democratic ideals which have been associated longest 
' Sclborne, Personal and Political Memorials, vol. 2, p. 290. 


with the Chair of the House of Commons. To assign the 
work of its creation to any series of minds even, is impossible. 
Those who laid the foundations, ancient and deep, upon 
which the office has been erected, did so perhaps unwittingly, 
and, at any rate, were far from being concerned with such 
noble and lofty abstractions as freedom and independence. 
It was the result rather of a series of happy accidents than 
of definite scheme or design. Nor was it developed during 
any one epoch. Slowly have its powers and duties been 
evolved through the centuries, being added to or taken 
away according as the chances or the needs of the time 
might happen to suggest. 

There is even a doubt as to who was really the first of 
the Speakers. In the list of Speakers which is commonly 
accepted by historians, the premier place is given to Sir 
Thomas Hungerford. The Rolls of Parliament, the first of 
the official records, commence with the sixth Parliament of 
Edward I. in 1278. But close on a hundred years pass 
away before there is any mention of a Speaker in the Rolls. 
In the account of the last Parliament of Edward III., which 
met in January 1377, the Speaker is referred to for the first 
time, and the distinction certainly belongs to Sir Thomas 
Hungerford.^ Yet in the immediately preceding Parliament, 
which sat in 1376, Sir Peter de la Mare was undoubtedly 
chosen by the Commons to be their spokesman or president. 
He is not expressly described as Speaker, or rather " Pro- 
locutor " or " Parlour " — the form of the title which was 
first employed — in the Rolls of Parliament. But so far as 
can be gathered from other records he was the first to fill 
a position in the House of Commons indistinguishable from 
that of a Speaker, according to the first crude idea of the 

It is often true that the origin of an ancient custom 
antedates — in the absence of full, clear, and explicit docu- 
mentary evidence — any individual whose name is first 
associated with it in the Records. Indeed, the compilers 
of the index to the Rolls of Parliament (published in 1832 

* Rot. Pari., vol. 2, p. 374. '^ Rot. Pari., vol. 2, pp. 322-29. 


by order of the House of Lords) give, in the Hst of names 
that follow the heading "Speakers," the first place to "William 
Trussel." It so happens that in the parliamentary annals of 
the first half of the fourteenth century two persons of that 
name figure as spokesmen of the Commons. In January 
1327, William Trusscll — the name in this instance is spelt 
with two " Is " — acting as proctor or procurator, not of the 
Commons only, but of the whole Parliament, at Berkeley 
solemnly renounced allegiance to Edward II. — defeated in 
his efforts to loose himself from the dominance of the barons 
— and the Crown passed to the deposed King's son, as 
Edward III. It is, however, the second William Trussel — 
with one " 1 " in his name — who is mentioned in the index 
to the Rolls of Parliament as the first of the Speakers. The 
reference to him in the record itself sets forth that in the 
Parliament of 1343 the Commons, having consulted apart 
on a matter submitted to them by the Lords, made answer 
by " Monsieur William Trussel."^ 

At the time of the first Speakers the ancient period of 
Constitutional history — the conferences of wise men and 
warriors, whom the King summoned for deliberation on 
questions legislative and financial, military and judicial — 
had come and gone, and Parliament was not only looming 
more distinctly out of the shadowy and almost mystic past, 
but it had definitely adopted its modern shape of two Houses 
sitting and deliberating apart. This division of the Estates 
into two distinct groups — the Lords, consisting of the great 
landowners and the prelates, and the Commons, consisting 
of the lesser landlords and the lawyers representing the 
counties and the merchants and traders sitting for the cities 
and boroughs — had in fact taken place between forty and 
fifty years before the officially recorded appointment of a 
Speaker in the lower House. The first mention in the Rolls 
of Parliament of separate deliberations by Lords and 
Commons occurs in the record dealing with the year 1332.^ 
The division may be said to have solidified and become 
permanent about the year 1340. 

' Hot. Pari., vol. 2, p. 136. - Rot. Pari., vol. 2, p. 66. 


The assembling of the three Estates, the Lords spiritual 
and temporal, and the Commons, with the King pi-esiding, 
took place in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of West- 
minster — so called for its elaborate embellishments of gilding 
and colours — at the opening of Parliament, or on great and 
important occasions during the session. But the Commons 
met for their separate and private deliberations sometimes 
in the Refectory of the Abbey of Westminster, just over 
the way^but usually in its Chapter House, which was lent 
to them by the Abbot for the purpose, the Speaker sitting 
in the Abbot's stall, and the Members on forms arranged on 
the floor. 

Possibly, therefore, other Members of the House of 
Commons, like Trussel, preceded de la Mare and Hungerford 
in the discharge of the functions, though perhaps not in the 
formal title of Speaker, notwithstanding the silence of the Rolls 
on the point. The object of the ancient writers of the Rolls 
of Parliament seems to have been solely to note the decisions 
of the King, Lords, and Commons ; and greatly to the loss of 
posterity they did not trouble themselves about matters of 
form and ceremony, such as the appointment of a chairman 
or prolocutor by the Commons. There are frequent 
omissions of the names of the Speakers from the Rolls 
of Parliament even after Hungerford, deficiencies which 
fortunately have been supplied in some cases from other 

The other two chief Officers of the House of Commons, 
the Clerk and the Serjeant-at-Arms, are first heard of 
about the same time as the Speaker. It is probable that 
when the Estates sat together there were two Clerks, the 
Clerk of the Parliaments and an under Clerk, and that when 
the separation into two Houses took place the assistant Clerk 
went with the Commons. At any rate, the Clerk of the 
House of Commons appears as a person of established 
position in 1388,^ which is only twelve years later than the 
first recorded appointment of a Speaker in the person of 
Sir Peter de la Mare. At this time the Clerk was officially 

' Stubbs, C(ynstitutioiial History, vol, 3, p. 469, 


known as " under Clerk of the Parliaments attending^ upon 
the Commons." ^ Then, as now, he was appointed by the 
Crown. His place in the House, according to the earliest 
glimpses we are afforded of the Commons at work, was at 
the Table beneath the Speaker, which is still his place. The 
Serjeant-at-Arms has also existed since the separation of 
the Houses. From the first he was appointed by the Crown 
to act as the executive officer of the Commons in carrying 
out their instructions and directions ; and his station, as now, 
was at the door. 

There may, accordingly, have been a Speaker since the 
first institution of the Commons as an assembly apart from 
the Lords. On the other hand, the Commons may, for a 
period, have debated the granting of taxes, with which at 
first they chiefly concerned themselves, without feeling the 
need of a head or director. Could they have adhered to the 
point in their deliberations and reached a conclusion when 
there was no chairman to guide and direct them and keep 
the proceedings in order ? It is not impossible. Even in the 
twentieth century the House of Lords possesses no head, 
director, or authority for the regulation of its debates. It 
was comparatively late in their development as a separate 
and organized assembly that the peers came to recognize the 
necessity of having some one to put the question for dis-j 
cussion in a definite form before them, and to obtain theii 
decision upon it at the end of the discussion. But the Lord] 
Chancellor who discharges this function is, even to-day,j 
powerless to rule whether or not an argument or even a speed 
is relevant to the question at issue, for he is vested with noj 
authority to call another peer to order. There is always 
point to keep to in debates in the House of Lords, as else- 
where, but the peers need not, and indeed do not, always 
keep to the point. 

It is not at all unlikely that when the Commons set u\ 
a House for themselves in the middle of the fourteenth! 
century, it did not strike them as nece.ssary to elect one ol 
their number to rule over them, in any way to control the 
' Halscll, PrecedenU of Proceedings, vol. 2, p. 207. 


expression of their views, to moderate their differences, or 
even to keep order. Certainly, it is clear that the Speaker 
was not originally appointed for the mere sake of orderliness 
in debate. The purpose of the office was then simple enough. 
The Speaker was in fact nominated by the Commons to act 
as their official mouthpiece in all their relations with the 
Crown. When the chroniclers afforded us our first glimpse 
of the Speaker in the Chair of the House of Commons — or 
rather in the Abbot's stall of the Chapter House — he' is not 
represented to us presiding over the knights and burgesses 
solely with a view to the preservation of regularity in their 
deliberations. He is the spokesman of the Assembly rather 
than its chairman. All the remarks and comments of 
Members are addressed to him. He listens attentively to 
everything that is said ; but his object is not so much to 
secure that the talk is relevant to the matter under discus- 
sion, as that he may gather clearly the opinions and wishes, 
the desire or the will, of the House as a whole in regard 
to subsidies or grievances, and lay them rightly before the 

This, then, was the prime cause of the origin and founda- 
tion of the Speakership — the necessity felt by the Commons 
of having a member of their body authoritatively to give 
voice to their wishes to the King. The original purpose of 
the House of Commons was consultative. Accordingly, the 
original function of the Speakership was expressive. It was 
to tell the King what the Commons, as the representatives 
of the people — or rather of their own orders, the country 
gentry, and the city merchants — desired he should do, to 
give him advice and guidance in affairs of State, by the light 
of their wider experience. And for a long period the office 
retained its primitive simplicity. The Speaker listened and 
assimilated, and then spoke for the Commons to the King. 

As the House of Commons developed in organization and 
representative character, and advanced in power and freedom, 
the scope of the office was extended, and adapted to the 
growing needs of the Assembly. Its evolution was not 
guided and shaped with any definite intent and purpose, but 


was solely determined by the changing influences of day 
after day, by the march of time and circumstances. At every 
stage of its growth its duties were jealously limited and 
conditioned. The House was far from desiring to have a 
dominating and overbearing personality as its head. What 
it wanted was a subservient and exact mouthpiece, a voice 
that would repeat to the King and the Lords exactly what 
it was told. Just that, no more and no less. 

Two scholarly qualifications were essential. The Speaker 
should speak French well, and be able to read Latin. French 
was the language of the upper classes, — English being spoken, 
as a rule, only by the common people, — and it was the 
language in which the debates of the early Parliaments were 
conducted. All parliamentary and legal documents were 
usually issued in Latin. 



THE Parliament of 1376, in which the Speaker first ap- 
peared, is known in history as " The Good Parliament." 
In it was laid the groundwork of a great institution. 
But it is not on that account that the Parliament is regarded 
as beneficent. Not only had the founders of the Speakership 
no conception of its potentialites, but centuries were to pass 
before the importance and real value of the office came fully 
to be recognized. The work done by the Parliament of 1376 
which made it good, was the reform of abuses in the adminis- 
tration of the affairs of the Realm. 

There is extant a very full and graphic account of its 
proceedings, written in Latin at the time by a chronicler in 
the Benedictine Abbey of St. Albans.^ Edward I. was 
prematurely decrepit. The " Black Prince," who as Prince of 

' "Chronicon Angliae, 1328-88," published in ihe Roll series, The Chronicles 
and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland durini:; the Middle Ages (1874), 
with an Introduction by E. Maunde Thompson. 


Wales was heir to the Throne, was lying stricken by a mortal 
disease, and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, as the King's 
next surviving son, held the control of affairs. The House 
of Commons was hostile to John of Gaunt. He was sus- 
pected of a design to set aside the rii^ht of the boy Richard 
— son of the Black Prince — to the succession, and seize the 
Crown himself on the demise of the King ; a suspicion which 
seems to have been mainly inspired by the dying Prince 
of Wales. 

The Estates of the Realm assembled on April 28, 1376, 
in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. On 
the calling of the roll many of the Commons failed to answer 
to their names. This happened not unfrequently at that 
period, chiefly because Members were delayed on the road, 
or the Sheriffs failed to send up the returns to the writs, but 
for the reason also that some who were unwillingly elected 
to the National Council tried to shirk the duty of attending 
its meetings. An adjournment accordingly took place until 
8 o'clock the following morning, — at which hour it was long 
the custom of Parliament to meet, — when it was announced 
that fines would be imposed on all who were not in 

Next day, in the absence of both the King and the Prince 
of Wales, John of Gaunt presided over the assemblage. The 
causes of the summoning of Parliament were declared by the 
Chancellor, Sir John Kenynett, to be the provision of supplies 
for the continuance of the war with France, and for the peace 
and good government of the kingdom. The two Houses 
then separated. The Commons proceeded to the Chapter 
House of Westminster Abbey. This is the first occasion on 
which it is believed the Chapter House was used as the 
meeting-place of the Commons. And there, deliberating 
behind locked doors, they selected Sir Peter de la Mare, 
one of the knights of the shire for his native county of 
Herefordshire, and Seneschal of the Earl of March — a lead- 
ing opponent of John of Gaunt in the House of Lords — to 
voice their discontent with the condition of the Realm. 

On the following day the Estates assembled together 


once more in the Painted Chamber, with John of Gaunt again 
filling the place of the King. De la Mare stated the demands 
of the Commons in a vigorous and independent speech. 
They were grievously oppressed by taxation. This, however, 
they would take in good part, nor grieve at it, if the money 
were properly spent, but it was evident that neither the King 
nor the Realm had any profit thereby. They therefore 
insisted upon an inquiry into expenditure, and removal from 
ofllice or from the Court of certain close advisers of the King, 
to whose misdemeanours they attributed the existing public 

The demands of the Commons were granted. Lord 
Latimer — the friend and creature of the Duke of Lancaster 
— was deprived of his office of Chamberlain. Richard Lyons, 
who in collusion with Latimer lent money at exorbitant 
usury to the King, was sent to the Tower ; and Alice Ferrers, 
the King's mistress, who had enriched herself with many 
spoils in the way of jewels, money, and estate, was banished 
from the Court. 

The next Parliament assembled at Westminster on 
January 27, 1377. In the interval the scene had been 
completely transformed. The Black Prince was dead. John 
of Gaunt's influence was predominant. He recalled Latimer 
to office. He set Lyons free. He allowed Alice Ferrers to 
return to Court and to stay with the King during the few 
months of life which now remained to him. More than that, 
the outspoken de la Mare was a prisoner in Nottingham 
Castle ; and thus he was not only the first Speaker, but the 
first martyr to the cause of freedom of speech in Parliament. 

The new House of Commons was packed with supporters 
of John of Gaunt. They selected as Speaker, Sir Thomas 
Hungerford, one of the knights of the shire for Wilts, who 
was in the service of the Duke of Lancaster and owed to him 
his knighthood and his fortune.^ Hungerford is the first 
person mentioned in the official records as holding the office 
of Speaker. "Monsieur Thomas de Hungerford, chevalier," 
he is styled in the Rolls of Parliament, " qui avoit les 

' S. Amiitage-Smith,y<7A« of Gaunt, 145 (1904). 



paroles pur less communes d'Angleterre en cet Parliament." ^ 
It is known as the " Bad Parliament." By it all the Acts of 
the " Good Parliament " were revoked. 

King Edward III. died on June 21, 1377, and was 
succeeded by his grandson — the son of the Black Prince — as 
Richard II. In the first Parliament of the young King, 
which met at Westminster on October 13, 1377, a large 
proportion of the knights of the shire who had sat in the 
" Good Parliament " were returned. Among them was Sir 
Peter de la Mare, who had only recently been discharged 
from Nottingham Castle by order of the new King. He was 
selected by his colleagues again to be their Speaker ; and his 
second term of office was signalized by the setting of a 
precedent which has been followed at the assembling of 
every new Parliament from the fourteenth century to the 
twentieth. This is the request of the Speaker that if in his 
statement of the desires of the Commons to the King and 
Peers he should fall inadvertently into error, the blame might 
be imputed to his ignorance alone. 

According to the brief record in the Rolls of Parliament, 
when de la Mare appeared with the Commons in the Painted 
Chamber, where the prelates and peers, presided over by the 
boy King, were assembled, he commenced his speech by 
saying that what he was about to declare was from the whole 
body of the Commons, and therefore if he should happen to 
speak anything without their consents it ought to be amended 
after he had done.^ 

In the record of the next Parliament, which met in the 
great hall of the Abbey of Gloucester on October 22, 1378, 
there is a fuller report of the early forms of the " protestation," 
as it was called. The Speaker was Sir James Pickering, one 
of the knights of the shire for Westmorland, and the 
preface to his speech is given as follows : — 

" First, if he should utter anything to the prejudice, 
damage, slander, or disgrace of the King or his Crown, or in 
lessening the honours or estates of the great Lords, it might 
not be taken notice of by the King, and that the Lords should 

^ Rot. Pari., vol. 2, p. 374. ^ Rot. Pari., vol. 3, p. 5. 


pass it by as if nothint^ had been said, for the Commons 
highly desired to maintain the honour and the estate of the 
King and the rights of the Crown, as also to preserve the 
reverence due to the Lords in all points. Then, as for his 
own person, he made protestation that if by indiscretion he 
spoke anything which, by common assent of his fellow- 
members, was wrong, it might, either then or afterwards, be 
amended by them." 

For the guidance, no doubt, of the Speakers who were to 
follow, the speech was ifiserted on the Rolls of Parliament} 

What motive was it that originally inspired the Commons 
of the fourteenth century thus to safeguard themselves against 
the consequences of the Speaker saying, whether intentionally 
or by a slip, something to the King and Lords which he had 
no authority to say? Probably we shall never learn for 
certain the reason why the Commons, on creating the office 
of Speaker, thought fit to hedge it round with restrictions. 
Their decisions and understandings we know, but there is 
nothing to show how or why they came to these under- 
standings and decisions. In the early contemporary 
documents which have been discovered, there is not a 
single passage which opens the locked and strictly guarded 
doors of the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey and 
enables us to peep in, and .see and hear, even for a moment, 
the Commons in deliberation. But it is obvious that the 
House of Commons was at its very beginning — as it is 
indeed to-day — ^jealous of the interpreter of its claims, its 
privileges, its rules, lest he should attempt to assume a power 
or authority which it was unwilling to allow him. The 
Speaker was the representative of the Commons, deputed by 
them to act on their behalf. They did not, however, permit 
him to enter alone the presence of the King and the prelates 
and the peers in the Painted Chamber. They went with him 
in a body, in order to ensure that in voicing their desires or 
intentions he should not say a word more, or a word less, 
than was in his instructions. 

For a quarter of an hour or so the Speaker divided with 

' Hot. Pari., vol. 3, p. 34 ; Parliamrntary History, vol. I, p. 165. 


the King himself the attention of that assemblage of the nota- 
bilities of the land in the National Council. In a position 
so dazzling and perturbing, amid a scene of magnificent 
pomp and dignity, there could be no accounting for the 
play of individual temperament and character. Courted 
by a smile of recognition from the King, or flattered by a 
compliment from Primate or Chancellor, the Speaker might 
give away the interests of the Commons in a sudden ebulli- 
tion of nervous effusiveness or subserviency. The body of 
the Commons themselves were highly susceptible to the 
influences of great places and high occasions, and, above all, 
were extremely conscious of the majesty and imperiousness 
of Sovereignty. In that very Parliament of 1378, in which 
Sir James Pickering, as Speaker, appealed to the King that 
should he say anything imprudently the evil consequences 
should fall upon him and not upon the Commons, there was 
a curious and significant manifestation of this feeling. The 
Commons went on their knees in the Painted Chamber and 
humbly and obsequiously thanked the King with their whole 
hearts for his promise to preserve " the good laws and customs 
of the Kingdom." The Commons probably also felt that the 
Speaker might compromise them even by some careless word 
due to want of understanding or intelligence. Against all 
such imprudences on the part of the Speaker and accidents 
the Commons desired to protect themselves. And for this 
reason, no doubt, they required the Speaker before he voiced 
their opinions and wishes to the King, to beg to be allowed 
to rectify any error he might commit while he soared — as he 
felt bound to do in the awful presence of the Sovereign — into 
the highest altitude of rhetorical inspiration to which his 
mental gifts — such as they were — enabled him to rise. 

Moreover, a significant change had already taken place 
in the relations between the Crown and the Chair of the 
House of Commons. It has been said that the original duty 
of the Speaker was to be the medium of communication 
between the Commons and the King. Soon he became 
almost as much the mouthpiece of the Sovereign within the 
Chamber as of the Commons outside it. The King was 


supreme over Parliament. He summoned it to assemble at 
his sole will and pleasure. He alone had the power to issue 
the writs for the election of the Commons. He could ordain 
the suspension of the sittings of Parliament by adjournment. 
In him alone was vested the decreeing" of its Dissolution. At 
a time, therefore, when the monarchy, in practice if not in 
form, was little removed from the absolute, and, at any rate, 
when in such matters as State appointments there was free 
play to the unfettered will of the Sovereign, it was unlikely 
that the King would refrain from exercising his influence 
and authority in the matter of so important a post as the 
Speakership of the House of Commons. It is probable that 
early in the history of the Chair, if not from the first, it was 
necessary for the Commons to have the leave of the King to 
choose a spokesman, though the earliest record of the Royal 
permission is in relation to the appointment of Sir Arnold 
Savage as Speaker in the second Parliament of Henry IV., 
held in 1401, just a quarter of a century after Sir Peter de la 
Mare. The Speaker, in truth, soon became, to all intents 
and purposes, the nominee of the King. He was the choice 
of the Commons, but the King took care that whoever 
was chosen was agreeable to him. At the least, a man was 
selected who, in a measure, could serve two masters. 

In those circumstances the Speaker no longer merely 
listened and assimilated ; he began to speak and to suggest, 
and therefore the Commons must have deemed it all the 
more essential to be on the watch that the Speaker did not 
abuse his position as their spokesman, and betray the needs 
of the people to the interests of the Crown. It is certain, 
however, that in most cases the Speaker was deeply im- 
pressed with a proper sense of the gravity and responsibility 
of his position. He felt that it would be his bitterest con- 
demnation and shame if on the return to the Chapter House 
of Westminster Abbey he were charged with misrepresenta- 
tion of the Commons, or reproached with having neglected 
duly to insist upon their rights and demands. 




IN the third Parliament of Richard II., which met at 
Westminster in April 1379, no Speaker is mentioned 
by the Rolls as having been appointed. Sir John 
Goldsborough, or Gildersburgh, or Goldesburgh, — the name 
being thus variously spelt, — one of the knights of the shire 
for Essex, was chosen Speaker in the next Parliament, 
which assembled at Westminster in January 1380, and also 
in the following Parliament, which meet in November of the 
same year at Northampton, in the Priory of St. Andrew. 

Sir Richard Waldegrave, who sat for Suffolk, and was 
chosen Speaker in the Parliament which met at Westminster 
in 1 38 1, did not desire the honour. When he presented 
himself to the Sovereign and Lords in the Painted Chamber, 
after his election by the Commons, he begged to be excused 
and discharged ; but the King declined to release him, charg- 
ing him upon his allegiance to undertake the office since he 
was chosen by the Commons.^ This is supposed to be the 
commencement of the practice of the Speakers to "disable" 
themselves before the King, by declaring their unfitness for 
the position, which, as we shall see, continued through many 

Waldegrave was succeeded in the Parliament of 1382 by 
Sir James Pickering, now one of the knights of the shire 
for York, appointed for the second time. There is a lapse 
of twelve years before the Rolls again record the election of 
a Speaker, although a Parliament was held annually as 
usual. The omission is due, no doubt, partly to the im- 
perfectness of the Rolls, and partly to the negligence of the 
Clerk who engrossed them. At any rate, the next Speaker 
we meet is Sir John Bussy, one of the knights of the shire 
of Lincoln who was chosen in the seventeenth Parliament of 
Richard II., which assembled at Westminster in 1394. 

^ Rot. Pari., vol. 3, p. ICX). - D'Ewes, /ourna/s, 42. 


The name of Kussy stands out prominently in the long 
line of Speakers. He was a leading actor in the turmoil 
which marked the closing days of the reign of Richard II. 
He was the first Speaker to be elected three times, which 
shows that he must have been a strong personality or high 
in the favour of the Court. He was also the first of the few 
Speakers who have been false to the tradition of their office 
and betra}'ed their trust for King in earlier times, or, in 
later, for personal gain or for Party. 

On the occasion of his second election in the Parliament 
which assembled at Westminster in January 1397, having 
made the usual protestation to the King and Lords, he 
presented a petition from the Commons asking that the 
extravagant expenses of the Court might be curtailed. It 
seems a legitimate and reasonable request enough, but it 
greatly enraged the King, who denounced it as an attack 
on the liberties and royalties which his progenitors had 
established, and which he was determined to uphold. Pie 
sent a demand to the Speaker, charging him on his allegiance 
to reveal the name of the Member who had stirred up the 
Commons to make so disloyal a demand. The Commons, 
highly alarmed by the menace of the indignant King, 
appeared in the Painted Chamber, and falling on their 
knees humbly asked His Majesty's pardon. On their behalf 
the Speaker declared that they never designed to interfere 
with the King's household, knowing well that such things 
concerned His Majesty alone. Their sole desire was to call 
His Majesty's attention to certain matters, that he might 
act thereon as should please him best. They went further, 
for they disclosed the fact that Thomas Haxey was the 
Member who had induced them to send the petition to 
the King. 

The Chancellor was commanded by the King to tell 
the Commons that "out of his royal benignity and gracious 
seigniory " he excused them. But an example was to be 
made of Haxey. He was a Clerk in Holy Orders, and his 
presence in the House of Commons shows that while the 
clergy had long since refrained from attending Parliament, — 


preferring to veto their taxes and manage their own affairs 
in Convocation, — a clergyman did occasionally get returned 
to the House of Commons late in the fourteenth century.^ 
He was tried by the peers, and sentenced to death as a 
traitor. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops 
pleaded with the King for the life of Haxey, "not as a 
right belonging to them," as they expressed it, " but of 
His Majesty's special grace and favour." Their prayer was 
granted, and Haxey was spared being made a martyr to 
freedom of speech and action in the House of Commons.^ 

This incident is an apt illustration of the arbitrary and 
unconstitutional course on which Richard II. had entered 
to assert his independence of the House of Commons, but 
which was soon to end in his dethronement and the accession 
of the House of Lancaster. Bussy aided the King in his 
attempt to establish an absolute monarchy on the ruins of 
Parliament. He was elected Speaker, for the third time, in 
the Parliament which met at Westminster in September 1397. 
Raphael Holinshed in his Chrofiicles, which were written and 
published in the sixteenth century, relates how Bussy grossly 
flattered the vanity of the King. 

" Sir John Bushie," says Holinshed, " in all his talk, when 
he proposed any matter unto the King, did not attribute 
to him titles of honour due and accustomed, but invented 
unusual terms and such strange names as were rather 
agreeable to the Divine Majesty of God than to any earthly 
potentate. The Prince, being desirous enough of all honour, 
and more ambitious than was requisite, seemed to like well 
of his speech and gave good ear to his talk." ^ 

The sittings of the Parliament of 1397 at Westminster 
lasted only twelve days. The chief business was the im- 
peachment of the King's leading opponents. Then there 

' naXlzxa, Middle Ages, vol. 3, p. 76 (nth ed. 1885). Professor Maitland 
suggests, however, in his Constitutional History, that Haxey may not have been a 
duly elected Member of the House at all. 

^ In 1399, shortly after the accession of Henry iv. — the next Sovereign— this 
judgment was annulled on the petition of the Commons, as being contrary to 
their liberties. 

' Holinshed, Chronicles (original edition), vol. 3, p. 490. 


was an adjournment to meet in Shrewsbury in January 1398. 
Here Parliament sat for three days only. Before it was 
dissolved it appointed a committee of twelve peers and six 
Commoners, to which, on the pretext that there was still a 
lot of business to be transacted, it delegated all its power 
and authority ; and as the committee consisted exclusively 
of Richard's staunch adherents — including the Speaker — it 
practically made the King absolute. In the following year, 
during the absence of the King in Ireland, the banished 
Duke of Lancaster, Henry Bolingbroke (eldest son of John 
of Gaunt), landed in England and became the leader of the 
national discontent. On his way to Wales with his army, 
to intercept Richard who was returning from Ireland, he 
besieged and captured the Castle of Bristol. Among the 
prisoners was Bussy. The ex-Speaker was beheaded, without 
trial, the next morning. 



PARLIAMENT had been summoned to meet on 
September 30, 1399, by writs issued by Richard II. 
When the three Estates assembled on that day in 
the Painted Chamber they found the Throne vacant. On 
the day before, Richard II., baffled, defeated, and a prisoner 
in the Tower, consented to abdicate, and to absolve all his 
people from their allegiance to him. His deed of abdication 
was read by Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was 
deposed and banished by the previous Parliament, but had 
returned with Bolingbroke. The Crown was bestowed on 
Bolingbroke by the Estates. 

The first Parliament of the new King, Henry IV,, met at 
Westminster on October 6, 1399. It adjourned for a week, 
during which the King was crowned. On its reassembling. Sir 
John Cheney, one of the knights of the shire for Gloucester- 
shire, was chosen as Speaker by the Commons, and approved 


by the King. On the following day he came with the Commons 
into the Painted Chamber, and on the plea that he had been 
stricken by a sudden disorder ^ and was unable to serve, the 
King discharged him from the office, and accepted John 
Dorewood, whom the Commons had selected in his place. 
The truth was that Cheney was known to be in sympathy 
with VVycliff, — who had just begun to preach his disturbing 
doctrine that a lowly estate more befitted the Church than 
a position of wealth and glory, — and by the influence of 
Archbishop Arundel was forced to resign. Dorewood, his 
successor, one of the knights of the shire for Essex, has 
the distinction of being the first lawyer who was appointed 
Speaker. He was also the first Speaker who was not a 
belted knight or a knight with a sword. 

If Dorewood was the first of the lawyers, his successor. Sir 
Arnold Savage, knight of the shire for Cheshire, who was 
appointed Speaker in the Parliament which met at West- 
minster on January 20, 1401, was the first of the orators. 
Previous Speakers may have been unready and awkward, 
probably tongue-tied country gentlemen, unable, as well as 
unwilling, to go beyond the customary and set protestation. 
But Savage was of a different type. He felt that he had a 
touch of the fire of eloquence, and was determined to light 
up the Painted Chamber, as well as the Chapter House of 
Westminster Abbey, with its glow. 

More historically interesting still is the fact that Savage 
was the first Speaker to preface his statement of the demands 
of the Commons by an address complimentary to the 
Sovereign. At least it is the first of these speeches that is 
recorded on the Rolls of Parliament. The fulsome terms in 
which Bussy addressed Richard II., to the great scandal of 
Holinshed the Chronicler, may have always been used in such 
a speech. Later on these addresses to the Sovereign by the 
Speaker developed into a great parliamentary emotion, 
especially in the time of the Virgin Queen. But if Savage 
really set the precedent, he set it modestly. There was 
nothing extravagant in his first eulogy of Henry IV., so far 

^ Rot, Pari., vol. 3, p. 424. 


as it is recorded. "To every good Government," he said, 
" four things appertain, namely, wisdom, power, manhood, 
and riches, all of which he affirmed were in the King and his 
nobility, as the world very well knew, and they would 
approve, for the hearts and goodwill of subjects were the 
riches of a King." 

Savage then proceeded to show that issues far more vital 
to the House of Commons than the hypothetical accomplish- 
ments of the King claimed consideration ; and in doing this 
he displayed the qualities which must always constitute the 
virtues of a good Speaker — independence, boldness of 
utterance, and thorough loyalty to the House of Commons. 
He made three speeches. On the first day he asked that 
the Commons should be given ample time for deliberation 
on questions submitted to them, instead of being suddenly 
called upon to decide most important matters at the very 
end of the session. The request is significantly suggestive 
of the parliamentary tactics of the Sovereign in those days ; 
though Henry iv., in reply, avowed that he had no such 
subtlety, or cunning in design. A few days later Savage 
raised the important subject of freedom of debate, showing 
how sedulously the Commons endeavoured to hide their own 
proceedings in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey 
from the eye and ear of every one outside the assembly, and 
especially the King. The Speaker complained that some of 
the Commons, to please the King, reported to him the tenor 
of their deliberations before a decision had been come to, thus 
moving His Majesty's anger against innocent and deserving 
lieges ; and he begged the King to close his ears to such un- 
authorized and garbled statements. To this prayer the King 
replied that he should pay heed to nothing affecting the 
Commons save what he heard from the mouth of the 
Speaker in the presence of the Estates. Within a week the 
Speaker, accompanied as usual by the Commons, claimed a 
third audience of the King and peers in the Painted Chamber. 
We do not know what it was that troubled Savage on this 
occasion, for the King bluntly refused to hear him ; and as 
further evidence of his royal impatience and displeasure with 


the importunate Commons, or their irrepressible Speaker, 
commanded that in future they should put all their demands 
or petitions in writing.^ 

It may have been that the King had grown weary of the 
Speaker's oratory. It is more probable, however, that His 
Majesty resented Savage's fuller and more outspoken 
statements of the views of the Commons, which were all the 
more perturbing because of their striking contrast with the 
reserves and timidities of Speakers during the reign of 
Richard 11. Whether or not Savage was really covetous of 
oratorical distinction, he made another grasp at it just before 
the dissolution of Parliament was pronounced. It marked 
the beginning of the custom, which survived till late in the 
nineteenth century, of the Speaker making a speech at the 
Bar of the House of Lords on the last day of the session 
when Parliament was prorogued by the Sovereign in person. 
Savage's address, or " preachment " as it is called in the 
Rolls, was preceded by an act of humiliation on the part of 
the Commons which was then customary. They all knelt 
before the King, and through the Speaker humbly besought 
him to pardon them if in their ignorance they had for any 
cause given him offence. Which, say the Rolls, His Majesty 
of his benignity granted. 

It was a strange spectacle. Harry Bolingbroke's title 
to the Crown was not based on hereditary right, the 
strongest of all titles in the Middle Ages, though, as yet, 
the doctrine of divine right was unknown. It was founded, 
simply, on the sanction of Parliament. He had been made 
King only two years before by the Estates of the Realm. 
But the holy anointing at the Coronation had endowed hira 
with peculiar and shining virtues which glorified him above 
all other men, and had made him not only ruler of the 
land, but lord of all, master of their fortunes and their 
lives, — practically, by right of his power, if not in theory* 
according to law, — and the Commons, realizing their own 
insignificance by contrast, made submission to him in the 
dust of which they were the creatures. 

^ Rot. Pari., vol. 3, pp. 455-6. 


The Speaker in his concluding address tried still further 
to soften the resentment of the King by honied words of 
compliment. He compared the Parliament to the Sacrifice 
of the Mass. " At first," he said, " the Archbishop of 
Canterbury read the Epistle and expounded the Gospel 
to them," — an allusion to: the customary sermon at the 
opening of the session, — "the King did the sacrifice, by 
promising to defend and protect Holy Church, and when 
they were come to the end to say, Ita missa est, Deo gratias. 
They had good reason to thank God for sending them so 
excellent and gracious a King, full of pity and humanity 
towards all his subjects." 

Sir Henry Redford of Lincolnshire was Speaker in the 
Parliament which met at Westminster in October 1402. In 
the next Parliament, which met at Westminster in January 
1404, Sir Arnold Savage was again chosen Speaker, If he 
spoke, beyond making the usual protestation, there is no 
record of his utterance ; but he presented a petition which 
led to the establishment of an important privilege for the 
Commons. The petition claimed as a matter of ancient 
right — it is curious, by the way, that everything asked for 
even in these early years of Parliament had a precedent in 
its support — that Members should be free from the liability 
to arrest for debt or trespass ; and a statute was passed giving 
protection, not only to them but to their attendants, on 
their journeys to and from Parliament as well as during 
its sittings.^ 

Sir William Esturmy, — or Sturmey, as he is called in 
the Parliamentary History^ — knight of the shire for 
Devon, was Speaker in the Parliament held at Coventry 
in October 1404. It is variously called the " Unlearned 
Parliament," the " Lacklearning Parliament," the " Dunces 
Parliament," opprobrious epithets which have been applied 
to it by early legal commentaries on the Constitution, 
because Henry IV., following a precedent which was set 
by ICdward III. in 1392, commanded the sheriffs to see 
that no man of the law was returned. It was said that 
' 5 Henry IV. c. 6. 


the lawyers took advantage of their position as Members 
of Parliament to promote the interests of their clients. 

The next Speaker, Sir John Tiptoft of Huntingdonshire, 
who was appointed in the Parliament which met at West- 
minster on March i, 1406, — the seventh of Henry IV., — 
carried still further the precedent of depreciation set by 
Sir Richard Waldegrave a quarter of a century before, — a 
custom which, before its abolition in the nineteenth century, 
was to develop from an amusing comedy into a ludicrous 
farce. Tiptoft protested to the King that he was altogether 
too young to be Speaker, — he was then about thirty-one years 
old, — and, moreover, that he lacked sense. But Henry IV., in 
whose service he had been for years as a courtier, confirmed 
the choice of the Commons. 

William Prynne^ bears testimony to Tiptoft's independence 
of spirit and conduct as Speaker. " The Commons' young 
Speaker," he says, " took more upon him, and spoke more 
boldly and fervently to the King and Lords, than any 
Speaker had done before him — which innovation, beginning 
to grow in fashion, the King and the Lords thought proper 
in a succeeding Parliament to put a check upon as a novelty 
inconsistent with the King's prerogative." The Parliament 
was one of the longest that had yet been held. It sat until 
December 22, with two short breaks for the Easter and 
Midsummer vacations. On the day of the prorogation the 
Speaker made a speech which shows how the Court con- 
tinued to hum with tittle-tattle about the secret deliberations 
of the Commons in the Chapter House. He begged that it 
would please the King to excuse the Commons in that it 
had been reported they had talked of his royal person 
otherwise than was seemly, which was untrue. The King 
magnanimously declared his belief in their loyalty. 

■ ^ The Puritan lawyer and author, who wrote a large number of political and 
parliamentary works. 




IN the following Parliament the Commons made their 
first snatch at power and privilege over the Lords. 
They established the most important Constitutional 
principle that in them lay the exclusive right of originating 
money grants. 

The Parliament met at Gloucester on October 20, 1407. 
The Speaker was Thomas Chaucer, who sat for Oxfordshire, 
and is supposed to have been a son of the poet, though the 
fact is not clearly established. The King, after conferring 
with the Lords as to the supply which ought to be granted, 
sent for the Speaker and a committee of the Commons, and 
told them the amount of the subsidy which the Lords had 
suggested. When the Speaker made his report to the 
Commons they loudly protested against the action of the 
Lords. Probably there was no intention on the part of 
the Lords to gain control of taxation. But the Commons 
recognized the transcendent importance of keeping solely 
and exclusively in their House the originating and deter- 
mining of all taxation, the bulk of which would fall upon 
them and the people they represented, and forthwith they 
sent a petition to the King declaring that the interference 
of the peers was in prejudice and derogation of their 
privileges. It was then laid down by the King, and officially 
recorded in the Rolls, that according to recognized usage — it 
had in fact been the custom since 1395 — the constitutional 
method of voting supplies was that they were to be granted 
by the Commons, assented to by the Lords, and reported to 
the King by the Speaker.^ Here was the source of the growth 
and development of the House of Commons in authority 
and power. As it came gradually to appreciate the strength 
it possessed in the control of the public purse, and to employ 
it to its own advancement, it emerged from the first merely 

' Rol. Pari., vol. 3, p. 61 1. 


consultative stage into the stage of co-ordinate authority with 
the Lords, and from that to its present position of supremacy. 
Chaucer was re-elected Speaker in the two subsequent 
Parliaments which met at Westminster, the one in January 
I 1410, and the other in November 141 1. The records in the 
I Rolls of Parliament are brief and obscure, but they are 
sufficient at least to indicate that at the assembling of the 
Parliament of 141 1 there was an echo of that episode of 
I high constitutional moment in 1407 when the Commons 
claimed and won their place as the foremost of the two 
Houses in the supreme matter of taxation. On the as- 
sembling of the Estates, Henry IV. expressed the hope that 
as the Commons had come to an agreement with the Lords, 
they would speak no unbecoming words or attempt to do 
anything that was not proper and decent. 

The King evidently thought that the time had come for 
curbing the freedom of speech which, as Prynne remarks, 
began with Speaker Tiptoft in 1406, and no doubt grew 
bolder with Speaker Chaucer. Speakers had not only to 
maintain the frontiers of privilege which the Commons 
inherited, but to try to extend them also. 

At any rate, when Chaucer presented himself to the 
King and peers in the Painted Chamber and prayed that 
he might be allowed to make the usual protestations, he 
was told that he might speak as others before him had done, 
but that the King would allow no novelties to be introduced, 
and was determined to maintain his prerogative. The 
Speaker seems to have been taken aback by the words of 
the King, in which a note of anger and resentment could be 
detected. He must have thought his safety was in peril. 
As a precaution he asked for a respite of three days, which 
was granted in order that he might give his answer in 
writing. It was as follows : " That he desired to make no 
other protestation than that which other Speakers had made 
before him ; and that if he should speak anything to the 
King's displeasure it might be imputed to his own ignorance, 
and not to the body of the Commons." ^ 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. i, pp. 312-13. 


Chaucer recognized that it was a hazardous thing to 
affront the King. At the very least, could not His Majesty 
make unprofitable the career of a public man of ambition? 
The Commons also were dismayed. On the last day of the 
session, in the Painted Chamber, they dropped on their 
knees before the King — a perturbed and embarrassed crowd 
— and declaring that it had come to their ears that His 
Majesty was offended with some of them, they humbly sued 
for pardon, and prayed that he would openly declare he 
held them all for loyal subjects. Right royally and, in a 
grand phrase, " graciously condescending," the King took 
them benignly to his heart. 

But with all their natural obsequiousness to the 
sovereignty and power of the King — so stupendous and 
overwhelming — the Commons were determined to condone 
nothing on the part of the Speaker which was likely to 
compromise their constitutional position. 

In the next Parliament — the first of Henry V. — which 
assembled at Westminster on May 14, 141 3, William 
Stourton of Dorset was chosen Speaker. About a week 
afterwards the Commons appeared before the King and 
Lords, when the Speaker on their behalf complained that 
many fair promises for the observance of the laws, made in 
the time of his late Majesty, had not been fulfilled ; and the 
King commanded that the complaint be laid before him in 
writing, so that he might the better consider of it. In his 
subsequent action, Stourton evidently went beyond his 
instructions, for he was repudiated by the Commons. " The 
Speaker," we are told, "without the assent of his com- 
panions, did agree before the King to deliver certain articles ; 
but about three days following the Commons, finding them- 
selves aggrieved therewith, sent unto the Lords — the King 
being then present — Mr. John Uorewood, and divers of the 
Commons with him, and declared to the King that their 
Speaker had no authority from them to yield thereunto, and 
therefore they desired to be excused therein, which the King 
was pleased to accept." 

Stourton held office for a few weeks only. On June 3 


the Commons came to the House of Lords, and reporting 
that Stourton was ill, presented as their new Speaker, John 
Dorewood the lawyer, who was Speaker in 1399. It is 
probable, however, that Stourton was compelled to resign 
for being too complaisant with the King. In this Parlia- 
ment one of the earliest, if not the first, of the statutes 
affecting the franchise was passed. Residence within the 
counties was made a qualification both for the elected 
and the electors.^ 

The succeeding Speaker was Sir Walter Hungerford, son 
of Sir Thomas Hungerford — the first recorded Speaker — 
and Knight of the Shire for Wilts, who was appointed in the 
Parliament which met at Leicester in April 1414. He 
was a soldier, and in the following year fought under Henry 
V. at Agincourt, that most brilliant exploit of arms against 
the French. It was Hungerford, and not the Earl of 
Westmorland — as stated in Shakespeare's Henry v. — who, 
on the eve of the battle, when the issue was doubtful owing 
to the overwhelming force of the French, said to the King : 
" Ah, would that the thousands of stout archers that are 
lying idle to-night in England were here with us " ; and 
drew from Henry the famous rebuke : ** I would not have 
a single man more. If God give us the victory, it will 
be plain that we owe it to His grace. If not, the fewer we 
are, the less loss for England ! " 

In the Parliament of 14 14 the Commons sent up a 
memorable petition to the King. It was to the effect that 
measures assented to by them should not be altered in the 
engrossment of the Statutes. As it was not the first time 
the complaint was made of the incompleteness or inaccuracy 
of the Rolls and Statutes, it is probable that the records of 
the business transacted in Parliament are not always trust- 
worthy, or that the Statutes — which were then usually 
founded upon the petitions of the Commons, and were not 
drawn up until after the Parliament was dissolved — did not 
always correspond very closely with the Commons' expressed 
wishes. In 1401 the Commons asked that the engrossing 
^ I Henry v. c. i. 


of their petitions as statute law should take place while the 
Justices were still in attendance on the Parliament, and in 
1405 they were allowed to be represented by a committee at 
the engrossment. The petition of 1414 is famous also for 
the fact that it is given on the Rolls, not in the official 
French, but in English, and is the very first record in that 
language. This course was taken, perhaps both to mark its 
importance and to avoid misinterpretation. The assent of 
Henry v. is thus given : — 

" The King of his grace especial graunteth that fro hens 
forth no thyng be enacted to the Peticions of his Comune 
that be contrarie of hir askying, wharby they shuld be 
bounde withoute their assent. Savying alvvay to our liege 
Lord his real Prerogative to graunte and denye what him 
best of their Petitions and askynges aforesaide." ^ 



ANOTHER Parliament met in November of the same 
year — 1414 — at Westminster, in which Thomas 
Chaucer was for the fourth time appointed Speaker. 
In November 141 5 a Parliament, summoned by the Regent, 
John Duke of Bedford, in the absence of the warrior King 
in France, met at Westminster ; and the Speaker chosen 
was Sir Richard Red may ne, Knight of the Shire for York- 
shire. On the return of Henry from P^rance a Parliament 
was held at Westminster in March 1416. The Speaker was 
Sir Walter Beauchamp of Wiltshire, who first studied law 
and subsequently became a soldier. He was one of the 
King's companions-in-arms, and displayed great gallantry 
at Agincourt. Roger Plovver, a lawyer and Member for 
Rutland, was Speaker in three Parliaments in succession, 
October 1416, November 1417, October 1419, all of which 

' Rot. Pari,, vol. 4, p. 22. 


met at Westminster. Roger Hunt, another lawyer, and 
Member for Bedfordshire, was Speaker in the Parliament 
of 1420, which also met at Westminster. In the succeeding 
Parliament, held at Westminster in May 142 1, Thomas 
Chaucer received the honour — unique, so far — of being 
appointed Speaker for the fifth time. There were two 
Parliaments held that year. In the second, which met at 
Westminster in December and was the last of Henry v., 
the Speaker was Richard Baynard of Essex. 

In the first of Henry VI., which assembled at Westminster 
in November 1422, Roger Flower was for the fourth time 
chosen Speaker. Sir John Russell of Herefordshire was 
Speaker in the Parliament held at Westminster in October 
1423. The next Parliament, which also met at Westminster, 
was opened in the presence of the baby king, Henry VI., 
sitting in his mother's lap. He was between two and three 
years old. John Speed, the historian and cartographer, in 
his History (published in 1611) says, "It was a strange 
sight, and for the first time it was ever seen in England, an 
infant sitting in his mother's lap (on the throne), and before 
it could tell what English meant, to exercise the place of 
sovereign direction in open Parliament." The Speaker was 
Sir Thomas Wauton, knight of the shire for Bedfordshire, 
and a lawyer. The next Parliament, which met in February 
1426, at Leicester, is known as the " Parliament of the Bats," 
not because it displayed any of the qualities of the flying 
mammal, but because its Members, Lords and Commons, who 
took sides in the fierce struggle for power between the young 
King's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and his godfather, 
Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, being prohibited from carry- 
ing swords, came armed with bats or staves. So tumultuary 
were the opening proceedings, that though the assembly 
took place on February 18, it was not until the 28th of 
the month that the Commons were enabled to present their 
Speaker, Sir Richard Vernon of Derbyshire. John Tyrrel 
of Herts was Speaker in the Parliament which met at 
Westminister in October 1427. The next Parliament, held 
also at Westminster, of which the Speaker was William 


Alington of Cambridgeshire, passed in 1430 a great dis- 
franchising measure. Hitherto all freeholders had the vote 
in counties. Now it was restricted to freeholds of the clear 
annual value of forty shillings. This statute regulated the 
franchise for the next four centuries.^ 

John Tyrrel was Speaker in 143 1, John Russell in 1432, 
Roger Hunt in 1433 — each being chosen the second time — 
and John Bowes of Nottinghamshire in 1435. In 1436, 
Tyrrel — now Sir John — was for the third time appointed. 
He fell ill during the session, and was succeeded by William 
Burley of the county of Salop. The next Parliament, which 
assembled at Westminster in November 1439, — William 
Tresham of Northamptonshire being Speaker, — was shortly 
afterwards prorogued, owing to the plague which was then 
raging in London, and met again in the following January 
at Reading. The fear of the plague led to the adoption of 
the following order by Parliament, suspending the ancient 
ceremony of the kiss of fealty : — 

" That all persons who should do homage to the King, 
holding by Knights Service, should do the same without 
kissing him, and the same should be as good as though the 
Kiss were given." William Tresham was again chosen in 1442. 

In the next Parliament, which met at Westminster in 
February 25, 1445, William Burley was appointed Speaker 
for the second time. It was quite a long Parliament. It 
sat, with holiday adjournments, till December 15, when it 
adjourned to January 24, 1446, and was dissolved on April 9. 
One of the petitions of the Commons to the King complained 
that the Sheriffs sometimes tampered with the returns to 
the extent of substituting for the Knights duly elected 
nominees of their own, in consequence of which persons of 
low birth found entrance into the House of Commons. While 
the long petition of the Commons is drawn up in French, the 
reply of Henry VI. is given in English as follows : — 

" The Kyng wille that it be as it is desired : so that the 
Knyghtes of the Shires for the Parlement hereafter to be 
chosen be notable Knyghtes of the same Shires for which 
' 8 Henry vi. c. 7. 


they shall so be chosen, other ellys such notable Squiers, 
Gentilmen of birth of the same Shires as be able to be 
Knyghtes ; and no man to be it that standeth in the degree 
of Yoman and bynethe." ^ 

Such is the tale, brief and cold, that is to be told of the 
Speakership of the House of Commons at this period of 
history. The Parliament is elected and meets on a summons 
of the King. A Speaker is appointed by the Commons ; he 
makes the usual protestations before the King and peers, to 
which his Majesty graciously listens and royally assents ; 
the Commons vote in secrecy the supplies necessary to 
defray, to some extent, the huge debt incurred through the 
wars with France, and then the Parliament is dissolved. 
Hardly anything more is to be said. So we stride quickly 
across the years. The scene scarcely changes in our eyes. 
Only the Speakers, or rather their names, vary. A fresh 
one is usually elected for each Parliament, and in those 
times a Parliament lasted only a few months. It was pro- 
vided by statute in 1330 — early in the reign of Edward III. 
— that a Parliament should be summoned every year, or 
more often if the need for it arose. During the fourteenth 
century, however, there was no Parliament for several years, 
and, on the other hand, in some years there were two Parlia- 
ments. Each of these Parliaments was a new Parliament 
specially elected. The procedure by which the same Parlia- 
ment is kept in being, year after year, by means of proroga- 
tions, had not yet been invented. Each Parliament met once, 
and having sat for a few months was, as a rule, dissolved. 

The Speakers, therefore, are numerous. They come and 
disappear, mainly a succession of county magnates and land- 
owners, interrupted now and then by the appointment of a 
lawyer from the adjoining Courts of Justice at Westminster, 
or an old soldier worn in the war with France, and nothing 
remains of most of them but the dust and ashes of an un- 
illuminating name. 

Still, we may be sure that even this long and silent pro- 
cession of men who filled the office of Speaker during its 

* Rot. Pari., vol. 4, p. 116. 


elementary stage — in its first tentative form, before it came 
to be recognized, perhaps, as an integral and essential part 
of the House of Commons — and in unexacting periods of 
parliamentary history, were the outstanding Members of the 
Assembly. We can guess that the physical and mental 
dispositions which placed the crown of leadership upon the 
brow of each in turn, were a commanding and dignified 
presence, high personal character and the gift of speech, 
with wisdom and adroitness in its use, especially when the 
Speaker stood face to face with the King on his Throne, 
surrounded by prelates and peers, — a position at once 
dazzling and bewildering, — and had to utter the first stam- 
mering demands of the Commons for justice and right. 

Was the Speaker at this time the leader of the 
Commons as well as their spokesman? Did the House 
look to him for guidance? Was the supreme influence as to 
the superintendence and direction of all matters that came 
before it vested in him ? To these questions no authorita- 
tive replies are forthcoming. The proceedings of the 
Commons in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey 
are yet enveloped in darkness. We do not know exactly 
whether the Speaker presided over the deliberations of the 
Commons, focussing their attention upon the points of any 
matter under consideration, or whether he sat, without dis- 
tinction of position or dress, in the general body. It is pre- 
sumed, simply, that he sat in the Abbot's chair. But it is 
becoming evident that he looked more and more after the 
interest of the King in the House of Commons. 



1"^HE Speakers that were now to follow were less 
transient than their immediate predecessors. But it 
is to be feared they were more embarrassed. The 
country was entering upon a long period of national disturb- 


ance, of conspiracies and revolts arising out of the awakening 
of the hope and design of the Yorkists to secure the suc- 
cession of the Crown to the Duke of York. Such a time of 
internecine strife was full of difficulty and danger for men in 
high public places. Brief as was the Speaker's tenure of office, 
it was heavy with responsibility and peril. The House of 
Commons was Yorkist and Lancastrian according as the 
influence of one or other of the Parties was in the ascendant 
when the Parliament was elected. It was not an age for 
timidity or vacillation. The Speaker was a bold and fearless 
partisan of the Red Rose or the White. He was the mouth- 
piece of the antagonism of the Commons. He was therefore 
the centre or focus of the enmity of the other Party. In 
this merciless as well as turbulent time, therefore, tragedies 
beset the occupants of the post. Speakers were banished, 
murdered, and beheaded. 

In the Parliament which assembled at Westminster in 
February 1449, John Say of Cambridgeshire was Speaker. 
In November of the same year another Parliament was 
elected to consider the situation in France. Bit by bit the 
English possessions in that country were being lost, and the 
hundred years' dream of making it the brightest gem in the 
Crown of England was about to end in disastrous eclipse. 
This Parliament was summoned to meet at Leicester, an 
old Lancastrian stronghold, but owing to the threatening 
aspect of affairs most of the Lords and Commons, being 
strongly Yorkist, refused to meet anywhere but at West- 
minster, where they would have the protection of the City of 
London, with its Yorkist sympathies. 

Sir John Popham of Hants, an old soldier, was chosen 
Speaker on November 7, 1449. He made the customary 
declaration of his unfitness to discharge the duties of so high 
and arduous an office. The excuse in this instance was 
genuine, for Popham was war-worn and infirm, and accord- 
ingly it was admitted by the King.^ 

On the following day William Tresham, the lawyer and 
knight of the shire for Northamptonshire, was appointed 

^ Rot. Pari., vol. 5, p. 171, 


for the fourtli time. Tresham was a strong partisan of the 
Yorkist claims. lie was very conspicuous in urging the 
demand of the Commons for the impeachment of the Chief 
Minister, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who was 
blamed for the military reverses in France, Suffolk was 
banished. The vessel conveying him from England was 
intercepted off the Kentish coast, and he was seized and put 
to death. Tresham, the Speaker, was subsequently waylaid 
on the high road at Thorpland, near Moulton, in North- 
amptonshire, and slain by a band of Lancastrians. 

Sir William Oldhall of Hertfordshire — a soldier who 
had fought in France — was Speaker in the next Parliament, 
which assembled in the winter of 1450, and was not dissolved 
till June 145 1. He had been Chamberlain to Richard Duke 
of York, and it was through the influence of the Yorkists 
that he was selected as the spokesman of the Commons. In 
1450, Jack Cade's rebellion took place. It was provoked by 
the extortions of the King's officers in collecting the revenue ; 
but in the belief of the supporters of the reigning dynasty 
its real purpose was to advance the cause of the House of 
York. Certainly, in the next Parliament, which met in 
the Refectory of the Abbey at Reading on March 6, 1453, 
and, having risen for Easter, reassembled on April 25 at 
Westminster, Oldhall was indicted for complicity in the re- 
bellion. He was found guilty, outlawed, and attainted ; but he 
took sanctuary in the Chapel Royal of St. Martin's-le-Grand, 
where he remained until the success of the Yorkists' cause 
in the first battle of St. Albans, May 1455, brought him not 
only release, but the reversal of his outlawry and attainder. 

The Parliament in which Oldhall was indicted was, of 
course, Lancastrian. The Speaker was Thomas Thorpe, 
knight of the shire for Essex, and a strenuous supporter of 
the House of Lancaster. He was a lawyer, and at the time 
of his appointment as Speaker was Baron of the Exchequer.^ 
The Houses adjourned for Easter, to meet at Westminster 
on April 25. They rose again on July 2, and reassembled 
at Reading on November 12 ; but at that date Henry VI. was 

* Ramsay, Lancaster and York, vol. 2, p. 160. 


lying at Windsor Castle mentally and physically incapaci- 
tated, and, as Parliament could not then even be reopened 
after an adjournment save in the presence of the King or some 
one authorized by him to act on his behalf, the Houses were 
immediately prorogued until February 11, 1454. The King 
was still unwell when Parliament met at Westminster on 
that date, and consequently it was further adjourned for 
three days. On February 14, however, it was opened by the 
Duke of York as the representative of the King. 

The Commons now found themselves without a Speaker. 
Baron Thorpe, in fact, was a prisoner in the Fleet. Acting, 
probably, by orders of the King, he had seized a large 
quantity of arms which the Duke of York had stored in 
Durham House, the residence of the Bishop of Durham ; 
and, on being sued for trespass by the Duke in his own 
Court of Exchequer,^ damages of ;^iooo were awarded 
against him, in execution of which he was committed to 
prison. The Commons declared that the imprisonment of 
Thorpe was a breach of their privilege of freedom from 
arrest, and they demanded his immediate liberation. The 
constitutional point was referred by the Lords to the 
Justices. The Chief Justice of the King's Bench at the time 
was Sir John Fortescue, a great judge and the writer of The 
Governance of England, one of the earliest treatises on the 
English Constitution. In his report to Parliament he ex- 
pressed the opinion of all the judges, that they ought not to 
answer the question put to them by the Lords — 

" For it hath not be used afore tyme, that the Justices 
shuld in eny wyse determine the Privelegge of this High 
Court of Parlement ; for it is so high and so mighty in his 
nature, that it may make lawe, and that that is lawe it may 
make noo lawe ; and the determination and knowledgge of 
that is Privelegge belongeth to the Lordes of the Parlement 
and not to the J ustices." ^ 

But they suggested that Thorpe might be released to 
attend to his duties in Parliament, as the charge against him 

^ Ramsay, Lancaster and York, vol. 2, p. 167. 
"^ Rot. Pari., vol. 5, p. 248. 


was not treason, felony, or surety of the peace, but simply 
trespass. The Lords, however, at the prayer of the Duke 
of York, came to the following resolution : " That the said 
Thomas Thorpe should remain in execution, notwithstanding 
his privilege as a Member and being Speaker of the House 
of Commons." The Commons submitted without further 
protest. Thorpe was kept in prison till he paid the ;^iooo 
damages. Sir Thomas Charlton, Member for Middlesex, 
was chosen in his place as Speaker for the remainder of the 
Parliament, which was dissolved in April 1454. The Duke 
of York was appointed Protector and Defender of the Realm 
during the incapacity of the King. 



THE next Parliament met at Westminster on July 9, 
1455. Only seven weeks before the Lancastrians and 
Yorkists had met in deadly conflict at St. Albans, the 
first battle of the long Wars of the Roses. The Yorkists 
were completely victorious. Their influence, consequently, 
was predominant in the Parliament. The Speaker chosen 
was Sir John Wenlock, Member for Bedfordshire. He had 
fought under the Lancastrian banner for the King, and was 
wounded at St. Albans. Now he was a Yorkist. It was 
a quick change of sides. We shall meet with other examples 
of what seems to be inconsistency on the part of Speakers 
before the White and Red Roses arc united. 

The next Parliament was held in 1459 at Coventry. It 
was opened by the King in person in the Chapter House of 
St. Mary's Abbey. In sentiment it was furiously Lancastrian. 
None of the Yorkist peers were summoned to the House 
of Lords, and knights and burgesses who were staunch 
supporters of the reigning dynasty were returned to the of Commons by the Sheriffs without due election and 


in obedience to letters from the King, The Speaker chosen 
was Thomas Tresham, Member for Northamptonshire, and 
son of William Tresham who was Speaker in 1449. The 
father was assassinated for his partisanship in the interest 
of the House of York. The son was just as violent a 
Lancastrian. Almost the sole business of the session was 
the passing of Bills of Attainder against the Duke of York 
and his adherents. Conspicuous in the proceedings was the 
Lancastrian ex-Speaker Thomas Thorpe ; and among the 
attainted were two Yorkist ex-Speakers, Sir William Oldhall 
and Sir John Wenlock, A statute was also passed declaring 
that the election of all Knights of the Shire as were returned 
to the Parliament " by virtue of the King's Letters " was valid. 
It was passed on the petition of the Sheriffs, and was, in 
fact, an Act of Indemnity to them for having packed the 
Parliament with Lancastrians by command of the King. 
The Parliament came to an end on December 20. It is 
known as the Parlianiejitum Diabolicum. 

Such was the ever-varying fortunes of the conflict that 
within a few months the control of affairs was again in the 
hands of the Yorkists. Their cause had received the bloody 
sanction of success in battle. At Northampton, on July 
10, 1460, the Lancastrians were defeated. On the follow- 
ing 6th October a Parliament assembled at Westminster, 
which was opened by Henry VI. in person, though he was 
virtually a prisoner in the hands of the Yorkists. John 
Green, Member for Essex, was chosen Speaker. The entire 
proceedings at Coventry, including, of course, the attainders 
against the Yorkists, were annulled, on the ground that the 
Parliament was unlawfully summoned, and that the knights 
and burgesses were not duly returned. It was also decided 
by both Houses that on the death of the King the Crown 
should descend, not to his son and heir, the Prince of Wales, 
but to the Duke of York, Within a few weeks the Duke 
was dead. He fell at the Battle of Wakefield, December 
29, 1460, and his cause seemed to be completely 
overthrown. But his son Edward, the young Earl of 
March, defeated the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross on 


February 2, 1461, and towards the end of the same month 
entered London in triumph. Henry VI. fled to Scotland. 
Ex-Speaker Thorpe was beheaded at Haringay, Middlesex. 
Finally, Edward IV. was crowned at Westminster on June 
28, 1461. 

In the first Parliament of Edward IV., which met at West- 
minster on November 4, 1461, Sir James Strangewaies, or 
Strangeways, a lawyer of eminence and a strong partisan 
of the House of York, who sat for the county of York, was 
chosen Speaker He is notable among the Speakers in that 
he began a custom which continued with some intermissions 
down to the eighteenth century. This was the delivery by 
the Speaker, on being presented by the Commons to the 
King, of a fulsome address in praise of the mental and 
physical qualities of the Sovereign. Strangeways' address 
has fortunately been preserved. It is fully recorded in the 
Rolls,^ which shows the importance attached to it by the 
Parliament. It is interesting not only for its theories of 
Royalty, but for the examples it affords of the literary style 
and orthography of the period. 

The speech thus opens : " Most Christen Kyng, right 
high and mighty Prynce, and our aller most drede Soveraigne 
and naturall Liege Lord " ; and then proceeds : — 

" We your humble and true subgetts, the Commyns of this 
your noble Reame, comyn to this your high Courte of Parle- your high Commandment.have as grete cause to calle, 
and calle to the tendernesse of our Mynde, as ever had people 
lyvying under eny Christen Prynce, the honorable and noble 
Devoir, that it hath pleased Your Highness to put the same in 
of pryncely and knyghtly Prowesse and corage for the re- 
dempcion of your scd Reame and subgetts from the Perse- 
cucion and Tyrannye of your and theire great and insatiable 

The King was only nineteen years of age. He was a tall 
and handsome youth, of undoubted courage and great military 
talent, as he had shown especially at the bloody battle of 
Towton, fought on Palm Sunday, 1461, in which the 

' Kol. Par!., vol. 5, p. 4C2. 


Lancastrians were utterly routed. His exploits in subduing 
the enemies of his House and the infamies of these adversaries 
was enlarged upon by the Speaker in glowing terms, and in 
the same high style the address proceeds : — 

" Moost Christen Kyng, right high and myghty Prynce, 
and our allermoost drede and naturall Soverayne and Liege 
Lord, the noble and condigne merites, pryncely and knyghtly 
corage, in the grete and victorious acts afore rehearsed, the 
beauty of personage that it hath pleased Almighty God to 
send you, the wisdom that, of his Grace, is annexed there- 
unto, and the blessed and noble disposition and application 
of your seid Highnesse to the Commyn wele and policie of 
your seid Reame, and to Godd's chirch of the same, calleth 
upon us to give therefor as herty and entier lovying to God 
as we can ; and with all humblenesse possible thanke your 
good and benigne Grace shewed to our seid redempcion and 
salvacion in manner and fourme afore declared." 

The Parliament recognized Edward's title to the Throne 
without the need of confirmation by the Estates. It may 
have come through the Wars of the Roses subdued and 
chastened ; but it certainly emerged from that violent and 
bloody struggle unchanged in its form or Constitution. 
Neither of the protagonists, however triumphant and un- 
scrupulous, intrigued against it, or attempted to introduce 
any new elements into its composition, much less to destroy 
it. It was essential, and therefore permanent. Each party 
in its hour of success seized the machinery of Parliament, 
for it was found to answer even the most autocratic and 
tyrannical ends. 

Despite the statute of Edward III. for the holding of 
annual Parliaments, the meeting of the Houses was in- 
frequent under Edward IV. In his reign of twenty-two years 
there were but six meetings of the Estates. Two years 
elapsed before he summoned his second Parliament. He 
was not so dependent as his predecessors on the supplies 
granted by the Commons, owing to the forfeitures of the 
Lancastrians. But the country continued in a very dis- 
turbed state, and in time the King's wealth was exhausted. 


Parliament, accordingly, was summoned to meet at West- 
minster on April 29, 1463. John Say, Esquire, of 
Hertford, who filled the Chair of the Commons in 1449, 
under Henry VI., was again appointed Speaker. The next 
Parliament assembled at Westminster on June 3, 1467. 
Sir John Say — for he was now a knight — was chosen 
Speaker for the third time. 

All this time the deposed Henry VI. was in captivity. 
After more than five years' imprisonment he was set free 
and placed upon the Throne by Warwick, the King Maker, 
in October 1470. On his summons a Parliament met 
at Westminster on November 26, 1470. Here there is a 
blank in the roll of Speakers. Who it was that presided 
over the Commons in this the 23rd Parliament of Henry vi. 
is not known. The records which declared Edward IV. a 
traitor and usurper are supposed to have been destroyed by 
that monarch when, having defeated and slain Warwick at 
the Battle of Barnet, Easter Sunday, 1 471, he was restored 
to power. 

Edward IV, summoned the sixth Parliament of his reign, 
which met at Westminster, October 6, 1472. The Speaker 
was William Alington, Esquire, Knight of the Shire for 
Cambridge, and son of William Alington, who also repre- 
sented Cambridge and was Speaker in the Parliament of 
Henry VI. in 1429. The Parliament elected in 1472 was 
the longest that had yet been held. It was five times 
prorogued, and was not dissolved until March 14, 1475. The 
next Parliament assembled at Westminster on January 16, 
1478. William Alington — whose services in the last Parlia- 
ment had been rewarded by a pension — was chosen Speaker 
for the second time. Five years elapsed before a Parlia- 
ment was again summoned. It met at Westminster on 
January 20, 1483. The Speaker was John Wode, Esquire, 
Member for Sussex, and the son of a burgess of Horsham 
in Surrey. It was the last Parliament of Edward IV. The 
King died on April 9, 1483. 




ONE of the dying injunctions of Edward iv. was that his 
brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, who had been 
faithful to him through all his troubles, should take 
charge of the kingdom and his family during the minority of 
his eldest son Edward, then in his thirteenth year. Richard, 
accordingly, was appointed Protector. His usurpation of the 
Crown and the murder of the dethroned Edward v. and his 
brother in the Tower belong to the broader course of history. 
Richard was crowned at Westminster on July 6, 1483. 
He met his first and only Parliament at Westminster on 
January 23, 1484. The Speaker was William Catesby, 
Esquire, one of the knights of the shire for Northampton, 
who had been for years " Esquire of the Body " to the 
Duke of York. He came of a family of position in that 
county, a lawyer, " a man wel lerned in the lawes of this 
lande," — as Sir Thomas More describes him in his History 
of King Richard the Third. An Act was passed declaring 
that the right, title, and estate of Richard to the Crown was 
"grounded upon the lawes of God and nature; and also 
upon the auncien lawes and laudable customs of this said 
Reame " ; and recognizing the King's son, Prince Edward, as 
heir-apparent to the Throne.^ 

Catesby was on the stricken field of Bosworth, August 
22, 1485, when Richard was defeated by Henry Earl of 
Richmond, and killed. He himself was taken prisoner, and 
three days later was beheaded, without trial, at Leicester. 

The victorious Earl of Richmond was crowned as 
Henry VII. — the first Tudor King — on October 30, 1485. He 
was then twenty-eight years of age. His first Parliament 
assembled at Westminster on November 7 of the same 
year. One of the knights of the shire for Northampton was 
Sir Thomas Lovel, a lawyer and a member of an ancient 
^ Rot. Pari., vol. 6, pp. 240-2. 


Norfolk family. He had shared the exile of the Earl of 
Richmond, returned with him to England, and fought under 
his banner at Bosworth. The Commons selected him as 

In the second Parliament of Henry VII., which met on 
November 9, 1487, Sir John Mordaunt of Bedford, who 
was both soldier and lawyer, was Speaker, and in the 
subsequent Parliament which met on January 14, 1489, the 
Speaker was Sir Thcimas FitzWilliam. Nothing more can be 
said of these Speakers than the bare mention of their names. 
Indeed, there is little of note to be recorded of the Parliaments 
which met during the four-and-twenty peaceful years of the 
reign of Henry VII. The Estates were summoned by the 
King only seven times. They met but once during the last 
thirteen years of his rule. Of the Speakers, only two are re- 
corded in the general history of the country ; and Empson and 
Dudley — names of evil conjunction — are known to ill-fame 
not as Speakers, but as cruelly extortionate tax-gatherers 
outside the law. Richard Empson, one of the representatives 
of Northamptonshire, was Speaker in the Parliament which 
met on October 17, 1491. His father, Peter Empson of 
Towcester, Northamptonshire, was a man of humble origin 
and a sievemaker by trade. Richard became a lawyer, and 
was so successful that he was able to purchase an estate in 
Norfolk. He was knighted in 1503. 

Sir Robert Drury of Suffolk was Speaker in 1495, and 
Thomas Ingelfield, or Englefield, of Berkshire, was Speaker 
in 1497.^ The Estates were not summoned again until 
1504. In ,this Parliament, which was the last of Henry Vll., 
Edmund Dudley was Speaker. He was the son of John 

^ Manning, in his Lives of the Speakers, stales that Sir Reginald Bray, the 
eminent architect, whose genius survives in St. George's Chapel, W^indsor, 
and the Chapel of Henry vii. in Westminster Abbey, was Speaker in 
1497. There is no mention of Bray in the " Rolls of Parliament," but 
there is of Engelficld, or " Ingclfcld " — as his name is therein rendered 
— as Speaker of the only Parliament of 1497 of which we have certain 
knowledge. Manning also says that Bray sat for Bedfordshire. It is 
likely that Bray was in llic Pailiamcnt of 1497; but there is no authority for 
saying that he occupied the Chair. 



Dudley of Atherington, Sussex, who was Sheriff of that 
county in 1485. He was at Oxford University, and was 
called to the Bar. In conjunction with Empson he formul- 
ated a scheme for the raising of money without the consent 
of Parliament, which received the sanction of the King. In 
carrying out their scheme they reported to the most oppres- 
sive forms of chicanery, fraud, and oppression ; and so 
successful were they in their extortions that at his death 
Henry Vll. was able to leave a horde of two millions sterling 
to his heir, Henry VIII. The exaction of these illegal taxes 
and penalties, fines and ransoms, naturally raised up a host 
of enemies against Empson and Dudley. So widespread 
and fierce was the outcry against them that the young King, 
Henry VIII., had to yield to it shortly after his succession. 
They were convicted of constructive treason, — a groundless 
or at least frivolous charge trumped up against them to 
bring them to the block, — and both were beheaded on Tower 
Hill in 1 5 10. 



HENRY VIII., the second son of Henry vil., who 
became heir-apparent on the death of his elder 
brother, Arthur, in 1502, ascended the Throne on 
April 22, 1509. He was eighteen years of age at the 
time, and one of the handsomest and most intellectually 
gifted of the Princes of Europe. The Coronation took place 
at Westminster Abbey on June 25, 1509. 

The first Parliament of the reign met at Westminster on 
January 22, 15 10. Sir Thomas Ingelfield of Berkshire, who 
was Speaker in 1497, and had been knighted by Henry VII., 
was again called to the Chair of the House of Commons. 
In the course of his speech at the Bar of the House of Lords 
he praised the King for the gifts of nature, fortune, and grace 
which God so liberally bestowed upon him, and enlarged 


more particularly on His Majesty's "promising valour, 
wonderful temperance, divine moderation, and justice," 
The second Parliament of Henry VIII, met on February 5, 
1 5 12. The Speaker was Sir Robert Sheffield, one of the 
Knights of the Shire for Lincoln. He was succeeded in 
the next Parliament, which assembled on February 6, 
1 5 15, by Thomas Neville of Mereworth, Kent, one of the 
Members for that county, upon whom the King bestowed 
the dignity of knighthood. 

Eight years elapsed before another Parliament was 
summoned. It met on April 16, 1523. The Speaker 
was perhaps the greatest man that ever sat in the Chair 
of the House of Commons, Sir Thomas More, though the 
lustre which his name and reputation carry undimmed 
through the centuries was obtained for virtue and genius 
unassociated with the Speakership. He was born in the 
City of London in 1478, the son of a barrister who subse- 
quently became a Judge of the King's Bench, and was 
brought up in the household of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop 
of Canterbury, Having been called to the Bar, Henry vill. 
gave him a position at the Court, and he rose so rapidly in 
the favour of the King that he was knighted in 1521, and 
received more substantial marks of the royal favour in the 
form of grants of land in Oxfordshire and Kent. 

In the Parliament of 1523, More sat for Middlesex. It 
met not at Westminster, but in the monastery of the dark- 
robed Dominicans, known as " Black Friars," lower down 
the river Thames ; and here it was that More, having been 
chosen Speaker on the recommendation of Cardinal Wolsey, 
then Lord Chancellor and all-powerful, was presented to 
the King for the royal approbation. He had a cultivated 
gift of speech, and no doubt a fine outburst of eloquence 
was expected of him on this interesting occasion. He 
began with the traditional affected protestation of unfitness 
for the office. He told the story of Hannibal, who went by 
invitation to hear the philosopher Phornico on chivalry. 
" What an arrant fool I " cried the warrior, " to presume to 
teach me, who am already master of chivalry and all the 





arts of war." " So," said More, " if I should presume to 
speak before His Majesty of learning and the well-ordering 
of Government, or suchlike matters, the King, who is so 
deeply learned, such a master of prudence and experience, 
might say to me as Hannibal said to Phornico." Where- 
fore he humbly besought His Majesty to command the 
Commons to choose another as Speaker. But the King 
had no intention of doing anything of the kind. Wolsey 
declared that His Majesty was well acquainted with More's 
wit, learning, and discretion, and therefore thought the 
Commons had selected the fittest person of them all to be 

More then made two petitions to the King. The first 
was on his own behalf. If, when speaking for the Commons, 
he should by mischance mistake their message, "and for 
lack of good utterance, by my misreporting, pervert or 
impair their prudent instructions, it may then please your 
most noble Majesty of your abundant grace to pardon my 
simplicity," and give him liberty to confer with the 
Commons again, so that their " prudent advices and affairs " 
should not by his folly be hindered or prejudiced. The 
second petition was in the interest of the Commons. It 
was that the King should interpret every man's word, " how 
unseemly so ever couched," as inspired by zeal for the 
prosperity of the kingdom and the honour of His Majesty. 
More next proceeded to give a most interesting analysis of 
parliamentary discussion and oratory, which is still fresh 
and pertinent, for human nature remains the same amid the 
changes of the centuries. He said it could not be doubted 
that the House of Commons was an assembly of "wise 
and politique" persons. 

" Yet, most victorious Prince," he continued, "sith, among 
so many wise men, neither is every man wise alike, nor, 
among so many alike, well-witted, every man alike well- 
spoken ; and it often happeth that likewise as much folly is 
uttered with painted, polished speech, so, many boisterous 
and rude in language, see deep indeed and are of sound 

^ Hall, Chronicles, 652-3 (1809 edition). 


judgment and prove the wiser counsellors. And sith also 
in matters of great importance, the mind is often so taken 
up in them, that a man rather studieth what to say than 
how ; by reason whereof the wisest men and best spoken in 
a whole country, fortuneth, while his mind is ferment in the 
business, somewhat to speak in such wise as he would after- 
ward wish to have been uttered otherwise, and yet no worse 
will had he when he spake it, than he hath when he would 
so gladly change it." ^ 

One of the first historic parliamentary scenes of which 
we have contemporary accounts occurred during More's 
Speakership. For the prosecution of the war with France 
the King demanded the then enormous sum of ;^8oo,ooo, to 
be raised by a tax of four shillings in the pound on all 
men's lands and goods; and, in order to overcome the expected 
opposition of the independent Members to the subsidy, 
VVolsey attended the meeting of the Commons. He came 
in state as Cardinal Archbishop of York, Papal Legate, Lord 
High Chancellor, the proudest and most powerful man in 
the Realm, second only to the King, fierce, rash, and im- 
petuous, wearing his ecclesiastical crimson robes, attended 
by a retinue of prelates and peers in scarlet and gold, 
sure that with all this pomp and splendour he who was 
accustomed to drive his chariot with triumphant ease over 
the necks of his prostrate foes would easily overawe the 
Commons. But the Cardinal and Lord Chancellor, despite 
all his glowing magnificence, was coldly and sullenly re- 
ceived by the Commons. They were enraged and dismayed 
by this violation of the privacy of their deliberations, from 
which every outsider, however exalted, was by ancient right 
excluded. Wolsey made a great speech, which the House 
received in resentful silence. He had thrown himself against 
perhaps the strongest and most abiding passion that has 
ever and always animated the Commons — the upholding 

' The speech is given at length, probably from a draft of it left by More in The 
Mirrotir of Vcrtue in Worldly Greatness, or The Life of Sir Thoinas More, 
Knight, some time Lord Chancellor of England, which was written by William 
Roper, More's son-in-law. 



of the independence of their House. " Masters," said he, 
" you have many wise and learned men amongst you, and 
sith I am from the King's own person sent hither unto you 
for the preservation of yourselves and all the realm, I 
think it meet you give me some reasonable answer." Still, 
not a sound broke the spell of the impassive and resentful 
silence of the Commons. "Whereat every man holding his 
peace," says Roper in his Life of Sir Thomas More, " then 
began he to speak to one Master Marney, afterward Lord 
Marney. ' How say you,' quoth he, * Master Marney ? ' who, 
making him no answer neither, he severally asked the same 
question of divers others accounted the wisest of the 
company." But no one spoke. As the custom was, only 
their spokesman, Mr. Speaker, should express their views. 
Then the reason of their silence appeared to dawn upon 
Wolsey. " Masters," he exclaimed, " unless it be the manner 
of your House, as in likelihood it is, by the mouth of your 
Speaker, whom you have chosen for trusty and wise (as indeed 
he is), in such cases to utter your minds, here is without 
doubt a marvellous obstinate silence." 

The Cardinal and Lord Chancellor then turned to the 
Speaker and asked for an answer. More, as Speaker, was 
the defender of the liberties of the House. He did not 
meet this outrage on the privilege of the Commons by any 
daring and rash condemnation. On the contrary, he dis- 
played the utmost deference of expression and demeanour, 
but at the same time he met Wolsey with the weapon he 
had best at command — the weapon of dialectical acumen. 
Humbly falling on his knees before the Cardinal and Lord 
Chancellor, he begged his Grace to excuse the silence of the 
House. The Commons, he said, were "abashed in the 
presence of so noble a personage, who was able to amaze 
the wisest and most learned in the land " ; and, moreover, 
" for them to make answer was neither expedient nor 
agreeable with the ancient liberty of the House." More 
then went on to explain in an ingenious passage his own 
inability to give a reply to the Cardinal's question. It was 
true that all the Members had with their voices trusted 


him as Speaker. " Yet," he added, except every one of them 
could put into his head all their " several wits, he alone in 
so weighty a matter was unmeet to make His Grace answer." 

The Cardinal, thus baffled and beaten by the impassivity 
of the Commons and the intellectual acumen of their 
Speaker, departed in a rage. That evening he encountered 
the Speaker at a reception in his gallery at Whitehall. " I 
would to God you had been at Rome, Mister More, when 
I made you Speaker," he cried. " Your Grace not offended, 
so would I, too, my Lord ; for then I should have seen 
the place I long have desired to visit," said More in a 
characteristic pleasantry.^ 

It is not so certain that More exhibited the manly and 
independent spirit with which Roper credits him. VVolsey 
in the end had his way in regard to the subsidy, and in 
getting it he was aided by More. In the State Papers 
relating to the times of Henry VIII. there is preserved a 
letter, written shortly after the dissolution of Parliament in 
the autumn of the same year, and addressed to the King " at 
your Manor of Hampton Court, the 24th day of August, 
by your most humber chaplain, T. Card, Ebor" which was 
delivered by More personally to Henry. It shows that 
More gave entire satisfaction to Wolsey by his conduct 
in the Chair, and that the most cordial relations existed 
between them. 

Wolsey says : " And, Sire, whereas it hath been ac- 
customed that the Speaker of the Parliaments, in con- 
sideration of their diligence and pains taken, have had, 
though Parliament had been right soon finished, above the 
;^ioo ordinary, a reward of ;^ioo for the better maintenance 
of their household, and other charges sustained in the same." 
He adds: " I suppose. Sir, that the faithful diligence of the 
.said Sir Thomas in all your causes treated in this your late 
Parliament, as well for your subsidy right honourably 
passed, as otherwise considered, no man could better deserve 
the same than he hath done ; wherefore, your pleasure known 

' Sec the biofjraphics of More by his son-in-law, William Roper, and Cresacre 
More, his great-grandson. 


therein, I shall cause the same to be advanced to him 
accordingly — ascertaining Your Grace that I am the rather 
moved to put Your Highness in remembrance thereof, 
because he is not the most ready to speak and solicit his 
own cause." ^ 

The fee and allowance to More as Speaker were con- 
firmed by the King. 



OVER six years elapsed before a new Parliament was 
summoned. It met under the shadow of mighty 
coming events. Wolsey was in disgrace for having 
exercised jurisdiction and authority as the Pope's Legate in 
usurpation of the King's power as established by the Courts 
of law. More succeeded him as Lord Chancellor, the first 
layman to fill an office that by ancient custom had hitherto 
been always held by an ecclesiastic. 

The opening stage of the Reformation, the casting off by 
the Crown and Nation of allegiance to the Papacy under 
Henry vni., was about to be enacted, to be further developed 
by the doctrinal changes introduced under Edward VI., and 
completed by the final establishment of the Protestant religion 
under Elizabeth. 

The new Parliament met on November 3, 1529, and 
continued in existence for seven years. It was prorogued 
from year to year — an unusual course at this period of 
parliamentary history — until it was dissolved on April 14, 
1536. The Assembly took place at the monastery of the 
Black Friars. Hall, in his Chronicles, relates that the 
Mass of the Holy Ghost was first solemnly sung. "And 
after the Masse," he goes on, " the Kyng, with all the Lordes 

' See Introduction by Mr. J. S. Brewer to the Letters atid Papers of the 
Reipt 0/ Henry viii., vol. 3, part I, p. ccxii. This letter is also given in the 
Rev. T. E. Bridgett's Life and M'ritmgs of Sir Thomas More, pp. 193-4. 


of the Parliament and the Commons which wer somened to 
apcre at that day, came in to the ParHament Chamber, 
where the Kyng sat on his throne, or seate royal, and Sir 
Thomas More, his Chauncelor, standying on the right hand 
of the Kyng, behynde the Barre, made an eloquent oracion." 
More concluded his speech with the following injunction to 
the Commons : — 

"And because you of the Common house be a grosse 
multitude and cannot speake all at one time : Therefore 
the Kynge's pleasure is that you shall resorte to the nether 
house, and there amongst your self, accordying to the olde 
and auncient custome, to chose an able person to be your 
common mouth and Speaker ; and after yourc election so 
made to advertise his Grace thereof, which wyll declare to 
you his pleasure what day he wil have hym present in this 
place." ^ 

The Commons elected as Speaker, Thomas Audley, 
attorney of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Knight of the 
Shire for Essex. ParHament then adjourned to Westminster, 
On November 6, Audley was presented to the King, and, 
protesting that he lacked the wit, learning, and discretion 
necessary for the high office which had been imposed upon 
him against his will, besought His Majesty to cause the 
Commons to chose another as Speaker. Of course, the 
request met with the customary royal refusal. Audley, 
who was a Court favourite, had, in fact, been selected by 
Henry. " The Kyng," says Hall, " by the mouth of the Lord 
Chancellor, answered that where he disabled hym selfe in 
wit and learnying, his own ornate oracion there testified the 
contrary ; and as touching his discretion and other qualities, 
the Kyng him self had well knowen him and his doynges, sith 
he was in his service, to be both wise and discrete, and so for 
an able man he accepted him, and for the Speaker he him 

Audley was Speaker for four years of the Parliament. 
In May 1532, More, finding himself unable conscientiously 
to support Henry in seeking to obtain from the Pope a Bull 

' Hall, Chronicles, 764. 


to divorce the first of his wives, Catherine of Aragon, with 
a view to his marriage with Anne Boleyn, resigned the office 
of Lord Chancellor. The Great Seal was given by the King 
to Audley. He was called Keeper of the Great Seal, the 
title of Lord Chancellor being withheld from him, though he 
discharged all the legal duties of the office, in order that he 
might still continue to act as Speaker. In January 1533 he 
was constituted Lord Chancellor, and thereupon resigned the 

The next occupant of the Chair of the House of 
Commons was Humphrey Wingfield, who was also a 
lawyer, and a Knight of the Shire for Suffolk. He was 
chosen on February 5, 1533, and acted as Speaker until 
April 4, 1536, when the Parliament — the longest that had 
yet been held — was after many prorogations finally dissolved- 

Within a month of the dissolution of the Reformation 
Parliament, which is sometimes also called the " Black 
Parliament," writs were issued for a fresh election under 
the pressure of trouble in the domestic life of the King. 
The Houses assembled at Westminster on June 8, 1536, 
and the Parliament was opened by Henry with a new 
Queen, Jane Seymour, whom he had married the day after 
Anne Boleyn was beheaded on Tower Hill, about a fort- 
night previously. 

Sir Richard Rich, Member for Essex, was appointed 
Speaker. Born in the City of London, he was bred to the 
law, and in 1533 was appointed Solicitor-General and 
knighted. He was one of the meanest unscrupulous tools 
in the hands of Henry vili., and, indeed, throughout his 
life was a typical time-server, taking care always to be 
on the winning side. At the trial of More he played a 
detestably base part. He was examined as a witness, and 
by retailing a private conversation which he alleged he had 
with More in the Tower of London, supplied just the evidence 
that was deemed necessary to condemn More for hi'^h 
treason. More, he said, protested, among other things, that 
Parliament had no more right to set aside the Pope and 
make Henry the supreme head of the Church than it had to 


declare that God should not be God. " In good faith, Mr 
Rich," said More, after hearing his evidence, " I am more 
sorry for your perjury than for mine own peril." 

On presenting himself to the King as Speaker, Rich made 
a most fulsome speech in praise of Henry. It is recorded 
in the Journals of the House of Lords in Latin, the language 
in which for many years the Clerk of the Parliaments 
learnedly kept his records. Rich began by extolling the 
King for his amazing gifts of mind and person. He was 
like Solomon for his justice and prudence, Samson for 
strength and fortitude, and Absalom for beauty and come- 
liness. As for himself, he was but a worm grovelling in the 
mire. The Commons had unaccountably chosen him, " the 
most unworthy of them all," for the exalted honour of the 
Speakership. Surely the King would see that he had not 
the learning, experience, and boldness fit for the office, and 
accordingly would at once direct the Commons to appoint 
another in his place. But the King, speaking through Lord 
Chancellor Audley, refused to look upon Rich's excuses as 

The Parliament was very brief It lasted only five 
weeks. At its dissolution, Rich again addressed the King 
in terms of flattery more exaggerated still. His Majesty 
was now like unto the sun. Just as the sun expels all 
noxious vapours and brings forth the seeds, plants, and fruits 
necessary for the support of human life, so the King, he 
said, enacted only such laws as would be a defence to the 
good and a great terror to evil-doers.^ 

The next Parliament of Henry VIII. assembled at West- 
minster on April 28, 1539. After High Mass of the Holy 
Ghost, which was celebrated at Westminster Abbey, there 
was a grand procession to the Palace of Westminster of the 
King, attended by the officers of the Household, the Lords 

' Lords Journals, vol. I, p. lOI. 

- In the reign of Edward vi., Rich was made a peer and appointed Lord 
Chancellor. Under Mary, according to Foxc's Book of Martyrs, he was active 
in burning Protestants in Essex, where he had his country scat, regarding it, no 
dou'il, as an agreeable recreation in his retirement from public life. 


and the Commons. Nineteen abbots appeared in the 
House of Lords for the last time this session, for by the dis- 
solution of the great monasteries the ancient monastic life 
was brought to an end in England. 

The Speaker chosen by the Commons was Sir Nicholas 
Hare, one of the representatives of Norfolk, by whom the 
long line of lawyers as occupants of the Chair was continued. 

On February 23, 1540, Hare, while still Speaker, was 
deprived of his offices and committed to the Tower by order 
of the Star Chamber. According to Hall's Chronicles, his 
offence was that, with other King's counsel, he advised Sir 
John Skelton how to make a fraudulent will to the violation 
of the Sovereign's prerogative. He was released, however, 
in the Easter term of 1540, and on April 12, when a new 
session of the Parliament was opened, he was again in the 

On July 24, 1540, when Henry dissolved the Parliament, 
Hare addressed His Majesty in a speech in which he com- 
pared the English Constitution to a microcosm " in which 
the King was the head, the Peers the body, and the 
Commons the rest of the machine " ; and, turning from 
political philosophy to courtly adulation, he " congratulated 
the kingdom, and thought great praises were due to God, 
for the blessing of such a ruler" as Henry Vlli. 

Sir Thomas Moyle, a Cornishman, who sat for Kent, and 
a lawyer, was Speaker in the Parliament of 1 542. Of him it 
is recorded that in his speech to the King he was the first 
to include in his petitions on behalf of the Commons the 
claim for freedom of speech. 

Henry, at the opening of the Parliament, received a 
remarkably loyal greeting from the Estates, of which the 
inspiration was the discovery of the unfaithfulness of his fifth 
wife, Catherine Howard. Lord Chancellor Audley, in a 
long speech, extolled the understanding and wisdom of His 
Majesty. At each mention of the King's name every peer 
rose from his seat and bowed ; and at the conclusion of the 
address Lords and Commons together went on their knees in 
thanksgiving to God for His goodness to them in having 


permitted so pfreat a prince to rule over them so long.^ The 
session was also marked by a constitutional departure, 
owing to this fresh domestic trouble of the King. The Bill 
for the attainder of the Queen on a charge of high treason 
having passed both Houses, His Majesty, at the solicitation 
of Lords and Commons, spared himself the grievous distress 
of appearing at Westminster in person to listen to the 
recitation of it, and conveyed the Royal Assent by Letters 
Patent issued under the Great Scal.- 

There were two other Parliaments of Henry VIII. — one ot 
which met on January 30, 1545, and the other on November 
23, 1545- All the contemporary authorities are curiously 
silent with regard to the Speakers. It may be that Moyle 
was re-elected in both Parliaments. 

The first session of the second of these Parliaments was 
prorogued by the King on Christmas Eve, 1545. The usual 
address was made by the Speaker, and it contained the 
customary compliments to the Sovereign. The Lord 
Chancellor rose to reply in the King's name, when Henry 
unexpectedly intervened and asked to be allowed to speak 
in his own person. His remarks are deeply interesting, for 
they give his view of the flattering orations of the Speakers. 
He said he regarded such expressions as rhetoric, intended 
to put him in remembrance of qualities which he lacked, 
and which he would use his endeavours to obtain, if the 
Commons helped him with their prayers.^ This was the 
last appearance of Henry Vlll. before the Lords and 
Commons. He died on the following January 28, 1547. 

^ Lords Journal s, vol. I, p. 164. 

^ Ibid., pp. 171-6. This course has now for many years been invariably 
followed in giving the Rr)yal Assent to Bills that have passed both Houses. 

^ Hall, in his Chrouitics (p. 864), gives the speech, "as near as I was able 
to report it." 




IN the succeeding reign of Edward VI. there were only 
two Parhaments. The first assembled at Westminster 
on November 4, 1547. It was opened in person by the 
boy King, then only ten years of age, accompanied by his 
uncle, the Duke of Somerset, who was appointed Protector. 
Sir John Baker, Member for Huntingdonshire, was appointed 
Speaker. The Parliament lasted, with several prorogations, 
for nearly five years. In its first session the meeting-place 
of the Commons was changed from the Chapter House of 
Westminster Abbey to St. Stephen's Chapel in the Palace 
of Westminster. This ancient chapel, dating back to the 
reign of Edward I., became vested in the Crown on the 
passing of the statute for the suppressing of free chapels in 
the reign of Henry VIII., and was allotted by Edward vi. for 
the accommodation of the Commons. Here the elected 
representatives of the people held their sittings, with but 
few exceptions, until the old Palace of Westminster was 
destroyed by fire in 1834. 

The second and last Parliament of Edward VI. assembled 
at Westminster on March i, 1553. The King was so far 
gone in consumption that he was unable to go to West- 
minster, and accordingly both Houses proceeded to the 
Palace of Whitehall, when the Parliament was opened in 
the presence of the sick Sovereign. James Dyer, Member 
for Cambridgeshire, was appointed Speaker. 

His election is the first recorded in the Journals of the 
House of Commons, which began with the meeting of the 
first Parliament of Edward vi., though there is no mention 
in them of its Speaker, Sir John Baker. The account in 
the Journals of the opening of the second Parliament states 
that " before the King's Majesty in his royal seat at the 
Palace in the Waiting Chamber," the Lord Chancellor 
(Lord Rich) declared the causes for the calling of the 


Parliament, and "shewed the King's pleasure to be that 
the Commons at their accustomed place should choose their 
Speaker." The first official description of the election of a 
Speaker is as follows : " On Thursday, 2° Martii, was chosen 
to be Speaker, first nominate by Mr. Treasurer of the King's 
House, the right worshipful Mr. James Dyer, one of the 
King's Majesty's Servients at the Law, and set in the Chair." 
This was on Wednesday. On the Saturday following, at 
2 o'clock in the afternoon, Dyer was presented to the King 
at the Palace of Whitehall. " Mr. Speaker," says the 
Journals, " made his ornate oration before the King's 
Majesty, in his Royal Scat at the Waiting Chamber afore- 
said, all the Nobles and Commons called to the Parliament 
then and there attendant."^ The Parliament lasted only 
a month. It was dissolved on March 31, 1553. The King 
died on the following July 6, in the sixteenth year of 
his age. 

Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. by his first wife, Catherine 
of Aragon, was forty-seven years old when, on the death of 
Edward, she succeeded to the Throne. A fervent Roman 
Catholic, she at once proceeded to abolish the Protestantism 
set up by her father and step-brother. In those times every 
Sovereign found in Parliament a convenient and docile 
instrument for effecting his or her own particular policy, 
no matter how violent a departure it might be from what 
had been done before. As Parliament subserviently decreed 
whatever seemed serviceable to Henry VIII. and Edward 
VI., for the transfer to the Crown of all the ecclesiastical 
powers and privileges hitherto acknowledged to have been 
vested in the Pope, and the establishment of the Protestant 
Church in England, so, under Mary, Parliament with equally 
singular obsequiousness passed any measure that was thought 
necessary by the Queen to restore the ancient Roman 
Catholic faith to its pristine glory in the land. All the Acts 
in favour of the Reformation were repealed. Married clergy- 
men were expelled from their parishes. Celibacy was restored 
as a condition of the priesthood. The Protestant prayer-book 

' Commons Journals, vol. i, p. 24. 


of Edward was burned. The Mass was revived as the form 
of public worship. 

The first Parliament of Mary met at Westminster on 
October 5, 1553. The cspening of the Assembly was pre- 
ceded by the singing of the High Mass of the Holy Ghost 
in Westminster Abbey, at which the Queen and the Lords 
and Commons were present. Once more the office of Lord 
Chancellor was filled by a prelate, Gardiner, Bishop of 
Winchester, who lay in the Tower during the reign of 
Edward vi. The Speaker chosen by the Commons was 
John Pollard, a Devon man, who sat for Oxfordshire. Ac- 
cording to custom, he was the selection of the Court. The 
Journals record runs : — 

" And immediately at the Common House, by the first 
motion and nomination of Mr. Treasurer of the Queen's 
House, the worshipful Mr. John Pollard, Esquire, excellent 
in the Law of this Realm, was chosen to be Speaker and 
sat in the Chair." 

It was in the second Parliament of Mary, which met at 
Westminster on April 2, 1554, that the long succession of 
Knights of the Shire as Speakers was broken by the 
appointment of a citizen to the Chair. This was Robert 
Brooke, Member for the City of London. But he was a 
lawyer, — serjeant-at-law and Recorder of London, — so 
that the monopoly of the Speakership by gentlemen bred 
to the law nevertheless remained uninterrupted. An Act 
was passed by this Parliament authorizing the marriage of 
Mary with Philip of Spain. Brooke was shortly afterwards 
knighted and made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. 

The most notable Parliament of the reign was the next 
— the first Parliament of Philip and Mary, — which met on 
November 12, 1554. It was thoroughly Roman Catholic in 
its sympathies. Following the example of almost all her 
ancestors on the Throne, Mary took care that Parliament 
should be packed with supporters of her policy. In a letter 
to the Sheriffs, as returning officers, she commanded them 
to admonish her good loving subjects to return to the 


House of Commons, kni^^hts, citizens, and burgesses "of 
the wise, grave, and Catholic sort." In this Parliament sat 
Clement Heigham, for the borough of Portpigham, other- 
wise West Looe, in Cornwall. lie came of an ancient 
Suffolk family, and was a strong adherent of the Roman 
Catholic faith. The Commons, according to the Journals, 
"did elect and choose the Right Worshipful Mr. Clement 
Heigham, Esquire, one of the Privy Council, to be their 
Mouth and Speaker, who was brought to the Chair by 
Mr. Treasurer and Mr. Comptroller." Here is also recorded 
for the first time in the Journals the Speaker's petition for 
the privileges of the House of Commons made at the com- 
mencement of every Parliament. " Mr. Speaker," says the 
Journals, dealing with the presentation of Heigham to their 
Majesties, " made an excellent oration, comparing a body 
politick to a body natural, and in the end made three 
petitions, namely — for Free Speech in the House, privilege 
from Arrest and Troubles for the Common House and their 
Servants, and to have access to the King and Queen for the 
cases of the House, which, being granted, the Lord Chancellor 
prorogued the Court until the Saturday following." ^ 

There was a brief Parliament in 1555, lasting from 
October 21 to December 9, in which John Pollard, who now 
sat for the borough of Chipenham, was again Speaker of the 
House of Commons. The last Parliament of Philip and 
Mary met on January 20, 1558. William Cordell, knight of 
the shire for Suffolk, was chosen Speaker. One of his observa- 
tions, interesting from a Speaker of the House of Commons, 
has been preserved in Lloyd's State Worthies. " There is no 
man that talks, but I may gain by him ; and none that holds 
his tongue, but I may lose by him." While still Speaker he 
was knighted by the Oucen and appointed Master of the 
Rolls. The Parliament was dissolved by the death of Mary 
on November 17, 1558. 

' Co/iinious ffournalSf vol. i, p. 37. 




ELIZABETH was in her twenty-fifth year on her 
accession to the Throne. She was crowned at West- 
minster Abbey on Sunday, January 15, 1559. Mean- 
time the writs had been issued for the election of a new 
ParHament. The Protestant rehgion was to be restored 
and finally established. " The Catholics," says Froude, " left 
the field to their adversaries, and town and country chose their 
representatives among those who were most notorious for 
their hatred of popes and priesthoods." The Parliament 
assembled at Westminster on January 23, 1559. It was 
opened by the young Queen in person. 

Sir Nicholas Bacon (father of the more famous Lord 
Chancellor, Francis Bacon) having explained to the Lords 
and Commons the causes for which they had been sum- 
moned, concluded by declaring the Queen's pleasure to be 
that the Commons should repair to their accustomed place 
and there choose their Speaker. Sir Thomas Gargrave, a 
soldier as well as a lawyer, who represented the county of 
York, was the selection of the Commons. He was nomin- 
ated by " Mr. Treasurer of the Queen's House," according 
to D' Ewes' /o2irnals. And now evidence is forthcoming, for 
the first time, that it was customary for the Speaker humbly 
to protest his incapacity on being led to the Chair in the 
House of Commons, as well as subsequently to the Sovereign 
at the Bar of the House of Lords. Gargrave declared to 
the Commons his utter unfitness for the post, and appealed 
to them to select some one else more able and worthy. But 
his protests were unheeded. He was led reluctantly 
to the Chair, and placed in it. " Having sat awhile 
covered," says D'Ewes, "he arose, and so standing bare- 
headed he returned his humble thanks to the whole 
House for their good opinion of 'him, and promised 
his best and uttermost endeavour for the faithful dis- 


charge of the mighty place to which they had elected 

In fact, out of the fabric of secrecy in which they had so 
sedulously enclosed themselves for centuries, the Commons 
have now emerged. No glimpse whatever was afforded us 
of the aspect of the interior of the Chapter House of West- 
minster Abbey as the Commons sat there in deliberation. 
But the doors of St. Stephen's Chapel have been unlocked 
to us, and we can gaze on the scene inside as long and as 
curiously as we please. The Jourtials of the House of 
Covimons^ which began in 1 547 — twelve years before the 
period at which we have now arrived, tell us not only of the 
things that were done, but how they were done, with many 
refreshing descriptive details. There are also some contem- 
porary accounts of the House of Commons and its proceed- 
ings, written by Members who, moved by a human interest in 
things, took notes which happily were put into print, though 
not until the writers were long since dead and gone. 

The first of those authorities who have thus enabled us 
clearly to see the Speaker in the Chair, for the first time, 
is Sir Thomas Smith, Secretary of State in the reigns of 
Edward VI. and Elizabeth, who wrote TJie Commomvcalth of 
England, the first descriptive account extant of the procedure 
of the Houses of Parliament. He died in 1 577. That was 
exactly two centuries after the first Speaker was appointed. 
The next writer was that learned antiquary, John Hooker, 
who went to Ireland in the sixth decade of the sixteenth 
century, and from his previous experiences as a Member 
of the I'^nglish House of Commons compiled The Order 
and Usage of Keeping of the Parliaments in England for the 
guidance of the Irish House of Commons, to which he was 
also returned. The next authority, and the most valuable 
of all, is Sir Simonds D'Ewcs, a Puritan Member of the 
Long Parliament during the Civil War, who collected 
fournals of all the Parliajnents during the Reign of Queen 

On the opening of a new Parliament the Sovereign sat 

' H'VLyits, Journals, 15-17. 


on the Throne in the House of Lords, surrounded by the 
three Estates of the Realm, the Lords spiritual and 
temporal, and the Commons. Since the reign of James II 
the Speaker has been elected before the Sovereign makes 
the Speech from the Throne. In the time of Elizabeth 
the ancient custom prevailed of the causes for the summon- 
ing of the Parliament being first declared before the 
Commons were commanded by the Sovereign to choose a 
Speaker. This direction or permission from the Crown 
appears — as I have already stated — for the first time on the 
occasion of the election of Sir Arnold Savage to the Chair, 
140 1, in the second Parliament of Henry IV. After that it 
regularly occurs. By the time of Elizabeth it is regarded as 
an indispensable proceeding, without which the choice of a 
Speaker would be null and void. 

The Commons, having thus got the authority of the 
Crown to elect a Speaker, retired to St. Stephen's Chapel. 
Were they, at this time, free and untrammelled in their 
selection ? Sir Thomas Smith, who as a Secretary of State 
ought to know, says the Speaker was commonly appointed 
by the King or Queen, though accepted by the assent of the 
Commons. Sir Edward Coke, the eminent lawyer, who also 
ought to know, for he was an Elizabethan Speaker, says in 
the Fourth of his Institutes : — 

" It is true that the Commons are to choose their 
Speaker, but seeing that after their choice the King may 
refuse him, for avoiding the expense of time and contesta- 
tion, the use is that the King doth name a discreet and 
learned man, whom the Commons elect." ^ 

On the other hand, D'Ewes asserts that the choice 
of Speaker lay absolutely with the Commons. But it can 
hardly be disputed that until the Revolution, at least, if the 
Speaker was not actually nominated by the Crown, the 
Commons were guided in their selection by the wish of the 
Sovereign, or his most intimate advisers and servitors. In 
times of national crises, when the interests of Crown and 
* Tlu Instiiutes of the Laws of England, part 4, p. S (1648). 


people came into conflict, the Sovereign, with a view to the 
return of a complaisant House of Commons, interfered, as 
we have seen, in parliamentary elections to the extent of 
commandinj^ the Sheriffs to secure the election of reliable 
Members. It may be inferred from this that the Sovereign 
also used his tremendous influence and power to induce, if 
not to compel, the Commons to elect a Speaker devoted to 
his cause. He was not so much concerned to know the 
wishes and claims of the House of Commons, as to secure 
its co-operation in the carrying out of his designs, which he 
could not effect without its help. We therefore find at this 
period the Speaker, as the servant of the King, not only 
advising the House as to the course it should take, but 
actually enjoining that this must be done, or that. 

During the long reign of Elizabeth, extending to forty- 
five years, only ten Parliaments were summoned. In these 
Parliaments the Speaker was invariably proposed by a 
Member of the Queen's Council or an officer of the 
Household, — dependent on the good graces of the Sovereign, 
— and the royal nominee was always a lawyer. In the 
earlier Parliaments there was an objection to lawyers, because 
they seemed to have more at heart their professional 
advancement than the interests of the nation. By a statute 
passed in 1372, and renewed in 1404, lawyers were made 
ineligible for membership of the House of Commons. This 
ban, however, had long since been removed. Gentlemen 
bred to the law were returned to Parliament in large 
numbers. Indeed, from the reign of Henry Vll. to the 
Revolution, a period of two hundred years, the Chair was 
held by lawyers in succession, except in the solitary instance 
of Sir Edward Seymour, — a noted Speaker in one of the 
Parliaments of Charles il., — and he was ultimately sacrificed 
to the royal disapprobation. Probably it was not easy to 
find outride the lawyers, gentlemen trained in the manage- 
ment of affairs, and with the needful knowledge of 
Constitutional law and procedure successfully to fill the 
position of Speaker. But it is to be feared that the chief 
reason why sturdy and independent squires were set aside 


and lawyers were nominated for the Chair by the Crown, 
was that the very calling of the lawyers made them 
obsequious and subservient to the will and passions of the 
Sovereign, for it was only by the Crown their desire for 
advancement in their profession could be gratified. 

Thus the Speaker was at once the mouth of the Commons 
and the servant of the King. His duties in these separate 
and distinct capacities were often conflicting. But the 
Commons could confer on him no rewards or honours. 
Neither could they punish him for betraying them, if while 
false to them he was true to the King. He was recompensed 
solely according to his zeal for the interests of the King. 
Only through the good grace and pleasure of the King could 
his ambition be realized. And if from the King he had 
everything to gain, so from the King he had everything to 
lose, save the approval of his conscience ; for with the King 
lay also the power of depriving him of liberty, of property, 
and even of life. 

Was there much scheming and contriving, much exercise 
of influence and pressure, on behalf of rival claimants or 
candidates for this high post of distinction and advancement ? 
One would suppose, from the disabling speech of the Speaker- 
elect, that his nomination took him completely by surprise, 
that he had no wish for so exalted a position, that he felt 
himself incapable of discharging its duties, that he was 
content with the greater freedom and less responsibility of 
an obscure Member. But even in the reign of Elizabeth 
these apologies were regarded as insincere, or simply inspired 
by the pride that apes humility. " The excuse of the 
Speaker," says D'Ewes, " is at this day merely formal and 
out of modesty. For he first excuseth himself unto the 
Commons when they elect him, and afterwards to the 
Sovereign when he is presented. But antiently it seemeth 
they were both hearty and real, or else no excuse at all was 
made." In truth, each Speaker, despite the impression he 
intended to convey that he was ignorant he had been 
designated by the Crown for the office till his name fell from 
the lips of the Court official in the House of Commons ; despite 


also his self-abasements and declarations of nnwillinc^ncss to 
serve, was quite ready, even at this apparently shortest of 
notice, to take the office, for he knew as a lawyer that it was 
the £^ate to preferment and hii^h judicial office. It was an 
age, indeed, in which complete disinterestedness was the rarest 
of all virtues. 

Then, as now, the Commons were summoned to the 
"Upper Mouse" by the Gentlemen-Usher of the Lords, 
commonly called " Black Rod," the day after they had 
selected a Speaker, to present their choice for the royal 
approval. They went immediately to the House of Lords, 
" and being let in as many as conveniently could," — so 
D'Evves relates — the Speaker-elect " was led up to the Rail 
or Bar at the lower end of the said House by two of the 
most honourable personages of the House of Commons," 
where, " after three reverences to Her Majesty, he modestly 
and submissively excused himself as being unable to undergo 
the many and great difficulties of the weighty charge." As 
a frontispiece to D'Kwes' Journals there is a rude but very 
interesting woodcut of the scene during the reign of 
Elizabeth. The work, it should be mentioned, was not 
published until 1682, nearly thirty years after the death of 
D'Ewes and eighty years after Elizabeth held her last 
Parliament. It suggests perplexing questions to which no 
answers are forthcoming. Three unfamiliar features in the 
picture at once attract the eye that has often looked upon 
the same spectacle in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 
The first is the dress of the Speaker as he stands at the Bar, 
facing the Queen on the Throne, He is arrayed in the 
flowing black gown, but is bareheaded. The big grey wig 
did not become a permanent part of the Speaker's attire 
until the first half of the eighteenth century. Arthur Onslow 
is supposed to have been the first Speaker who wore it.^ 

' Lord Acton, in his Historical Essays and Studies (p. 387) says : 
"Garlach, the leader of the Prussian Conservatives, used to say that he 
admired most in England was Mr. Speaker's wig. I'or when he spoke of it as 
a time-honoured relic, an historically minded told him that it was 
nothing of the sort, but quite a modern institution, not two centuries old." 


It is noticeable also that the three Clerks at the Table are 
kneeling while they ply their quill-pens. But the most un- 
expected detail is that the Serjeant-at-Arms, standing to 
the left of the Speaker — Black Rod being on his right — is 
seen carrying the Mace. It is difficult to suppose that this 
is a mistake of the artist. And yet, so far as subsequent 
records show, the Mace has not been permitted entrance to 
the Lords' Chamber since early in the eighteenth century 
at least, save when the Speaker has gone to the Upper 
House to demand an impeachment on behalf of the 
Commons. The symbol of the Speaker's authority is 
humbly left at the threshold of the House of Lords in the 
charge of a House of Commons' attendant. Even D'Ewes 
noticed that in the progress of the Speaker-elect across the 
lobbies between the Lords and Commons the Mace was 
carried by the Serjeant-at-Arms — as he carries it now on 
similar occasions — in the curve of his left arm, and not 
shoulder-high, in which manner it is borne only after the 
Speaker-elect has been approved by the Sovereign. 

If we may believe the Speakers at the Bar of the House 
of Lords, all the Sovereigns were, without exception, of noble 
mien, of surpassing beauty of face and grace of form, of 
puissant wisdom and understanding, while they themselves 
were poor and miserable creatures, fit only to lick the dust 
from the soles of the royal feet. It remained for the 
lawyers who occupied the Chair in the Tudor period to carry 
this traditional self-debasement, coupled with adulation of 
the Sovereign, to the last phase of whimsical absurdity. 
Each Speaker endeavoured particularly to surpass all his 
predecessors as an inventor of fantastic phrases of compliment 
and ornaments of figurative diction, with respect to the 
Sovereign's mental gifts and physical attributes. Bacon, in 
his essay Of Praise (written in 161 2), has a passage which 
perhaps discloses the true inwardness of these fulsome 
flatteries. He says there is a form due in civility to kings 
and great persons, " when by telling men what they are 
they represent to them what they should be." It will be 
remembered that Henry Vlil. gave expression to the same 



thought in his last speech in Parliament. Or was it that 
the inspiring motive was the desire of the Speakers to win 
the favour of the Crown, upon whose good graces they 
depended for advancement and rewards ? At any rate, 
we can smile indulgently at the absurd and unexpected 
struttings and posturings, conceits and ecstasies, of these 
grave and reverend gentlemen of the long robe, in the 
presence of the Sovereign at the Bar of the House of Lords. 
Maybe they, too, smiled at themselves "in their sleeves " — 
a saying that has come down from these very Tudor times, 
when gowns with wide sleeves were the fashion. 

The scene within the House of Commons is also pictured 
for us. Sir Thomas Smith makes the first reference to the 
Chair, which is described as a high seat giving the Speaker 
a commanding view of the Chamber. The powers of the 
Speaker are also defined. He had no control over the 
course of business. Hallam says that Members called 
confusedly for the business they wished to have brought 
forward. D'Ewes records an incident illustrative of the 
jealousy with which the House restricted the influence of 
the Speaker to the utmost possible extent. Probably 
with a view to obviate the confusion to which Hallam has 
referred, a Member suggested that the Speaker might 
appoint the order in which Bills should be read ; and the 
House expressed its disapprobation by hissing. " The 
Speaker has no voice in the House," says Smith, " nor 
will they suffer him to speak in any Bill to move or 
dissuade it." Hooker also furnishes particulars of the 
extent of the Speaker's powers. " His office is to direct 
and guide the House in good order, and to see the 
ordinances, usages, and customs of the same to be firmly 
kept and observed." " If any speak to a Bill, and he 
be out of the matter, he shall put him in remembrance 
and will him to come to the matter." " Also, if any of 
the House do misbehave himself, and break the order of 
the House, he hath to reform, correct, and punish him, and 
yet with the advice of the House." 

It is clear from all this that in the time of the Tudors 


the office of Speaker had reached a high stage of development. 
It was an institution established on a stable and lasting 
basis. Henceforth we can observe it, undergoing many 
transformations as time moves on, shaped by the Commons 
to a more exact adaptation to their needs as conditions 
changed, also modified, deflected, or retarded in its 
evolution by the individual action of strong Speakers, 
or even by mere accident, but on the whole adding to 
and enlarging its functions and responsibilities. 



THE second Parliament of Elizabeth assembled on 
January 12, 1563. On the nomination of Sir 
Edward Rogers, Comptroller of the Queen's House- 
hold, Thomas Williams, a Devon man, who sat for the 
city of Exeter, was chosen Speaker by the Commons. 
His appointment is the subject of the fullest of the 
earliest contemporary descriptions of the ceremony of 
electing to the Chair. D'Ewes is the reporter, and he 
says : — 

" Immediately the Commons resorted to their Common 
House, where, after they were set, Mr. Comptroller, standing 
up, rehearsed the Lord Keeper's oration for the election 
of a Speaker, and said that in his opinion Mr. Thomas 
Williams, Esq., one of the Fellows of the Inner Temple, 
being grave, learned, and wise, was very meet to that Office, 
whereupon the whole House with one entire voice cried, 
'Mr. Williams, Mr. Williams!' And then Mr. Williams, 
standing up and reverently disabling himself, required 
the House to proceed to a new election, unto whom Mr. 
Secretary Cecill answering that the House had gravely 
considered of him, and therefore required him to take the 
place, and he approaching was led and set in the Chair by 
Mr. Comptroller." 1 

^ D'Ewes, Journals, 79. 


This Parliament continued for four years, though its sit- 
tings were few, for often when it met for the transaction of 
pubh'c business it was immediately prorogued on account 
of the plague and pestilence which were then rife in 
London. The death of Williams on July i, 1566, caused 
a hitherto unprecedented parliamentary situation. It was 
the first death of a Speaker during his term of office. 
When the Parliament mcton the following September 30, 
the Commons were puzzled as to how they should act 
in the circumstances. They decided to seek advice of 
the Lords. Headed by Sir Edward Rogers, Comptroller 
of the Queen's Household, and Sir William Cecil, her 
Majesty's Principal Secretary, they went in a body to 
the House of Lords, and reported to the Lord Keeper 
and the assembled peers their untoward position. " Their 
Speaker," they said, " was bereft from them by death, which 
had been openly and manifestly made known and 
testified unto them, for remedy of which defection they 
humbly prayed their Lordships' advice."^ 

It was decided to report the matter to the Queen. On 
the next day the Lord Keeper read to the assembled 
Lords and Commons a Commission from the Queen, 
under the Great Seal. It directed him in Her Majesty's 
name "to will and command the knights, citizens, and 
burgesses of the said House of Commons to resort unto 
their accustomed place, and there to elect and choose 
amongst themselves one able and sufficient person to 
be their Speaker for the rest of this present Parliament 
yet to come." 

The choice of the Commons was Richard Onslow, 
Solicitor-General, who sat for the borough of Steyning in 
Sussex. His duty as law officer required him frequently 
to attend the House of Lords, and as he was to remain 
Solicitor-General he urged in his speech to the Commons 
disabling himself that this was a disqualification for the 
Chair. Many of the Members took him at his word, though, 
doubtless, it was not seriously intended, for a division 

' D' Ewes, /ourna/s, 95. 


took place, — the first recorded on the election of a Speaker, — 
and by eighty-two votes to sixty his nomination was 

Onslow, who thus became Speaker without ceasing to be 
Solicitor-General, was the younger son of Roger Onslow 
of Shrewsbury. He married the daughter and heiress of 
Richard Harding of Knoll, Surrey, and from him were to 
descend two other Speakers, Sir Richard Onslow, in the 
reign of Queen Anne, and the more celebrated Arthur 
Onslow, in the reign of George II. On his presentation to 
Queen Elizabeth for the royal approval, Richard Onslow 
made an odd speech. It illustrates the extent to which, in 
obedience to a curious parliamentary tradition, the great, 
wise, and learned men selected for the Speakership indulged 
in the exquisitely absurd performance of childish make- 
belief in their incapacity, supplicating the Sovereign to 
intercede between them and the Commons, and save them 
from a responsibility beyond their powers. The Commons 
"have commanded and forced me, to my great grief," 
said Onslow, to announce to Her Majesty that they had 
chosen him as Speaker; "and," he proceeded, "for that I 
would not be obstinate, I am forced to wound myself with 
their sword, which wound, yet being green and new. Your 
Majesty, being the perfect physician, may cure in disallowing 
that which they have allowed, for that, without your cons'^nt, 
is nothing." He pleaded several causes of his unfitness for 
the post. One protestation may be set forth in his own 
carefully selected phrases of humiliation — uttered, no doubt, in 
a voice of suitable dolorous pitch, or quavering humbleness : — 

" For, first, I consider I have to deal with many well 
learned, the flower and choice of the realm, whose deep 
understanding my wit cannot attain to reach into. No, if 
they, for great carefulness, would often inculcate it into my 
dull head, to signify the same unto Your Highness, j^et my 
memory is so slippery by nature and sickness that I should 
lose it by the way. Yet, if perhaps I kept part thereof, I 
have no other knowledge to help myself withal, but a little 
in the law, far inferior to divers in this House, and so should 


want learning and utterance to declare their meanings, as it 
requircth, especially when I consider Your Royal Majesty, a 
Princess endowed with so many virtues, learning, and flowing 
eloquence, it will abash and astom'sh me, and therefore 
finding these infirmities, and others in me, I think myself 
most unworthy of this place." 

But the Queen announced through Sir Nicholas Bacon, 
the Lord Keeper, that as Onslow was chosen so he must 
serve. And she did so, not in spite of Onslow's protestations, 
but because of them. Like every Speaker who had preceded 
him, in striving to escape from the Chair he had but tightened 
the bonds that bound him to it. He had overreached him- 
self. The role of simpleton was played by him uncon- 
vincingly. He established his possession of ability by the 
very way in which he depreciated his capacity. It was easy, 
therefore, for the Queen to see through this attempt to 
awaken her royal pity and consideration for an undeserving 
object. To add to the comedy of the occasion, Her Majesty 
possibly assumed an air of well-affected surprise. " In dis- 
abling yourself you abled yourself," said the Lord Keeper, 
on behalf of the Queen, to Onslow in a compliment that, 
even thus early, was time-worn, so often had it been used on 
similar occasions. 

And Onslow received the pronouncement of his fate 
with the utmost fortitude and composure. Indeed, how 
taken aback he would have been had the Queen accepted 
him at his own valuation, and commanded the Commons 
to select a fitter Speaker ! He would have returned to " the 
nether House " in desolate eclipse. For he was an ambitious 
and aspiring man, and wished for the Chair of the House of 
Commons as a stepping-stone to higher things. 

Onslow then made two petitions to the Queen : one on 
behalf of the Commons, for "free access to Her Highness," 
and the other on his own behalf, for pardon if he should 
unwittingly fall into error in the discharge of his duty as 
Speaker. He is taken to task by D'Ewes and scolded for 
that he " did very ignorantly omit, or carelessly forget to 
mention, those other ancient and undoubted privileges of 



the same House, viz., liberty of speech and freedom from 
arrest for themselves and followers." D'P^wes goes on to 
offer this excuse for Onslow's remissness : " or else, perhaps, 
he thought and conceived that those said rights of the 
House were so evident and unquestionable as they needed 
no further confirmation." ^ But Onslow acted strictly accord- 
ing to precedent. The claims for liberty of speech and 
freedom from arrest were made by the Speaker then, as 
now, only at the meeting of a new Parliament. 



UPWARDS of four years elapsed before Elizabeth 
summoned another Parliament. It met on April 2, 
1 571, and had a short existence, for before May 
was out it was dissolved. The Speaker was Christopher 
VVray, serjeant-at-law, who represented Ludgershall, a 
borough in Wiltshire. He made the usual petitions to 
the Queen on behalf of the Commons for freedom from 
arrest, free access to Her Majesty, consideration for any 
mistaken thing which might be said by them, and free 
speech for all in the House of Commons, 

The artificiality of the passages between the Commons 
and the Sovereign on these occasions was for once relieved 
by the introduction of a note of sincerity. It was a stern ex- 
pression of royal disapprobation, indicating two momentous 
things — the extension by the Commons of the subjects 
which they considered themselves entitled to discuss, and 
the resolute stand of the Crown against it as an unwarrant- 
able constitutional innovation. Lord Keeper Bacon, speak- 
ing for the Queen, declared that Her Majesty most readily 
granted the first three of the Speaker's petitions. " The 
fourth," said he, "was such that Her Majesty, having ex- 

* D'Ewes, /ouma/s, 121, 122. 


perience of late of some disorder and certain offences which, 
though they were not punished, yet were they offences still, 
and so must be accomptcd, therefore said they should do 
well to meddle with no matters of State but such as should 
be propounded unto them, and to occupy themselves in 
other matters concerning the Commonwealth." ^ 

Elizabeth was especially annoyed by the persistence of 
the Commons in urging upon her the need of her taking a 
husband, in the interest of the State, and also of settling the 
question of succession. She was reluctant to marry — owing, 
it is supposed, to a physical incapacity; and she thought the 
naming of a successor would be like the tolling of her death- 

What did the Commons do on returning to their 
Chamber after they had thus been warned that matters of 
government and administration were the prerogative of the 
Crown, and therefore outside their province ? At the request 
of the Speaker the first thing they did was to make an order 
that the prayers, which had for the first time been recited in 
the last Parliament before the opening of business, should 
be continued. The order, which is additionally interesting 
for showing the hour at which the House of Commons met, 
is as follows: — 

" It was this day finally agreed, upon the motion of Mr. 
Speaker, that the Letany should be read every day in the 
House, during this Parliament, as in the last was used ; and 
also a Prayer by Mr. Speaker, such as he should think fittest 
for the time, to be begun every day at half an hour after 
eight of the clock in the morning, and that each one of this 
House then making default should forfeit every time four 
pence to the Poor Man's Box." ^ 

Wray was subsequently knighted and made Lord Chief 
Justice. The profession of the law, it will be seen, continued 
through the centuries to monopolize the Chair of the House 
of Commons. A lawyer was also Speaker in the fourth 
Parliament of Mlizabcth, which assembled on May 8, 1572- 
This was Robert Bell, who was born in Norfolk, and repre- 

' D'EviCs, /ourna/s, 141. * /did., 142. 


sented the borough of Lyme Regis. Shortly after his 
election to the Chair he was made a serjeant-at-law, and 
knighted. In January 1577 he became Chief Baron of the 
Exchequer without ceasing to be Speaker, and while pre- 
siding in the following summer at criminal trials at Oxford 
he caught gaol fever from the prisoners, and died in a few 

Such a conjunction of offices as the Speakership and a 
Judgeship has long since been impossible. But even in the 
last quarter of the sixteenth century it was doubted whether 
it was constitutionally proper. When the Parliament met 
on January 18, 1581, the House of Commons petitioned 
the Queen for leave to choose a new Speaker. They gave 
two reasons in support of their prayer. The all-sufficing and 
conclusive ground that the Speaker was dead and the Chair 
vacant was given but the second place. The cause they 
first advanced was that Her Majesty had made Sir Robert 
Bell, their former Speaker, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, 
" by which many supposed his place as Speaker was void in 
the Commons House, because he was called by writ as a 
necessary attendant of the Upper House." ^ 

The new Speaker was John Popham, Solicitor-General, 
and Member for Bristol. He was nominated by Sir Francis 
Knollys, Treasurer of the Queen's Household. The Lord 
Chancellor, in confirming his appointment on behalf of 
the Queen, concluded with what D'Ewes calls " a special 
admonition " — " that the House of Commons should not deal 
or intermeddle with any matter touching Her Majesty's 
person, or State or Church government." 

When the Commons returned to their Chamber and 
Popham took the Chair, it is recorded that the Litany was 
read by the Clerk, and that the old prayer which was used 
in former sessions was read also by the Speaker.- Thus it 
will be seen that the opening of the House of Commons 
with prayer had become a settled practice. The House 
was also concerned about its decorum. On the same 

^ T>^'Ev;ts, /ourtials, 279. 

^ Commons Journals, \o\. i, p. ii8. 


day the following rule was laid down for the guidance of 
Members : — 

"That Mr. Speaker and the residue of the House of the 
better sort of calling, would always at the rising of the House 
depart and come forth in comely and civil sort, for the 
reverence of the House in turning about with a low courtesie, 
like as they do make at their coming into the House, and 
not so unseemly and rudely to thrust and throng out as of 
late time had been disorderly used ; which motion made 
by Sir James Croft, Knight, Comptroller of Her Majesty's 
Ilousehold, was very well liked of and allowed of all this 
House." 1 

Despite the admonition of the Lord Chancellor that they 
were not to meddle with Church matters, the Commons 
passed a resolution in favour of a public fast that God might 
deliver the Realm from its troubles. The Queen w-as greatly 
offended. She sent for the Speaker, and sternly rebuked 
him for having permitted the House to pass such a reso- 
lution without her authority. She did not blame the 
Commons for being fond of fasting and prayers, she said, 
but they did wrong in taking upon themselves powers which 
belonged only to the Crown. Popham meekly acknowledged 
his fault, and promised not to offend again. But one good 
saying is attributed to him as Speaker. It finds a place 
in Bacon's Apophthegms. At the prorogation of the Parlia- 
ment in March, after a brief session, Elizabeth asked him 
what had passed in the House of Commons. "If it please 
Your Majesty, seven weeks," was his witty and uncom- 
promising reply. 

This Parliament did not sit again, though it continued in 
existence until April 1583. It assembled many times, only 
to be immediately prorogued without having done any busi- 
ness. Popham, while still Speaker, in 15S1, was appointed 
Attorney-General. He succeeded Sir Christopher Wray 
as Lord Chief Justice in 1592, and presided at the trials of 
Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkcs in the reign of James I. 

Queen Elizabeth's fifth Parliament met on November 23, 

' D'Ewes, y^M/v/a/r, 282. 


1584. On the motion of Sir Francis Knollys, Treasurer of 
the Household, the Speaker chosen was John Puckering, 
serjeant-at-law, who represented the borough of Bedford. 
At the close of the Parliament in September 1585, he 
addressed a long and tedious speech to the Queen in which 
he assured Her Majesty that he had ever found the Commons 
ready to obey her pleasure in all things. In conclusion, he 
asked for her Royal Assent to the Bills of the session in the 
following quaint words : " Lastly, I am in their names to 
exhibit our most humble and earnest petitions to Your 
Majesty to give life to the works, not of our hands but of our 
minds, cogitations, and hearts which, otherwise than being 
lightened by the beams of your favour, shall be but vain, 
dumb, and dead." ^ 

But the Commons were by no means so amenable to 
the wishes of Elizabeth as Mr. Speaker Puckering repre- 
sented them to be, speaking at the Bar of the House of Lords 
in the dread presence of the Queen. In the course of the 
next Parliament, which met on October 29, 1586, Puckering 
— who now sat for the borough of Gatton, Surrey — being 
re-elected Speaker, the Commons insisted, more or less 
boldly, upon their right to discuss all affairs of State, and 
especially religious matters, which the Queen continued to 
insist was reserved to herself by prerogative. Puckering 
himself was charged in the House with having been luke- 
warm in defence of the Commons as against the Crown. In 
the course of this session a Puritan Member named Cope 
presented a Bill and a book to the House. The Bill proposed 
to annul all laws respecting ecclesiastical government then 
in force ; and the book contained a new form of Common 
Prayer. The Speaker interrupted Cope on the ground that 
he was acting in contravention of the Queen's command to 
the Commons not to interfere in ecclesiastical matters ; and 
furthermore, being summoned that evening to the Palace, the 
Speaker delivered to the Queen the obnoxious Bill and 

Next day the Speaker's conduct was the subject of 

^ Parliamejitary History, vol. i, p. 830. 


debate in the House of Commons. Paul Wentworth put in 
writing a scries of questions rclalintT to the privileges of the 
House, which he submitted to Puckering. The first was : 
" Whether this Council be not a place for any Member of 
the same here assembled, freely and without controulment of 
any person or danger of laws, by Bill or speech to utter any 
of the griefs of this Commonwealth, whatsoever, touching the 
service of God, the safety of the Prince, and this noble 
Realm?" He further asked whether the Speaker could 
disclose to the Sovereign any matter of weight mentioned in 
the House without the con.sent of the House? and whether 
the Speaker might interrupt any Member in his speech, or 
might overrule the House in any matter or cause ? The 
Speaker refused to put the questions to the House, 
" These questions," says D'Ewes, " Mr. Puckering pocketed 
up and shewed Sir Thomas Heneage, who so handled the 
matter that Mr. Wentworth went to the Tower, and the 
questions not at all proved." ^ 

The dominant political idea of the period was still 
the power and supremacy of the Crown. But we have 
advanced from the slavish Parliament of Henry Vlll. to the 
murmuring Parliament of Elizabeth. The democratic spirit 
was beginning to rise, and insist, with ever-growing force, 
on the free expression of opinion in an independent and 
uncontrolled House of Commons. 

Before the dissolution of the Parliament, Puckering as 
Speaker presented to Elizabeth the resolutions of the 
Commons in favour of the speedy execution of Mary, Queen 
of Scots. His successor in the Chair, in the next Parliament, 
which met on P'ebruary 4, 1589, was Thomas Snagge, 
serjeant-at-law, who represented the town of Bedford. One 
sage saying of his survives: "That in making of laws, 
plainness of speech should be used, all entrapments to be 
shunned and avoided." 

' IVEwcs, /ounia/s, 411. 



THE eighth ParHament of EHzabeth met on February 19^ 
1593. Edward Coke, the great law-writer, whose 
vast legal learning and ability are displayed in 
his Coke upon Lytteltoti, was its Speaker. He was born 
in 1552 at Mileham, Norfolk, where his father was lord 
of the manor, and was one of the knights of the shire for 
that county, and Solicitor-General, when he was appointed to 
the Chair on the nomination of Sir Francis Knollys, Treasurer 
of the Queen's Household. 

As Coke stood at the Bar of the House of Lords to receive 
from Elizabeth the royal approbation of his appointment, 
what pains he took to feign and pretend to be the most 
inferior among the rude and untutored country squires who 
formed the bulk of the Commons, and to weave artificial 
flowers of speech to the surpassing glory of the person and 
mind of the old lady who sat in gorgeous apparel on the 
Throne before him ! He humbly presented himself to Her 
Majesty as the choice of the Commons for the Chair. " Yet 
this," he proceeded, " is only as yet a nomination, and no 
election until Your Majesty giveth allowance and approbation. 
For as in the heavens a star is but spacurn corpus until it 
have received light from the sun, so stand I corpus spacuin, 
a mute body, until Your Highness's bright-shining wisdom 
hath looked upon me and allowed me." Of his incapacity 
for the office of Speaker these, his poor words of speech, doth 
sufficiently tell. There were many grave, deep, and wise 
men in the House from whom a worthy selection might well 
have been made. But what was he ? "I am untimely fruit, 
a bud scarcely blossomed," he cried. However, there was 
one happy and comforting thought which relieved the gloom 
of his mind as he dwelt upon his many imperfections. " I 
never knew any in this place, " said he in a grandiloquent 
passage of adulation, " but if Your Majesty gave them favour. 


God, who called them to the place, gave them also the 
blessing to discharge it." 

The Lord Keeper of the Great Seal was Sir John 
Puckering, the late Speaker. In his reply to Coke, on 
behalf of the Queen, he declared that Her Majesty had 
always a high opinion of Mr. Solicitor. " But," he proceeded, 
" by this your modest, wise, and well-composed speech, you 
gave Her Majesty further occasion to conceive of you about 
that which she ever thought was in you." Then came the 
inevitableolder and stereotyped compliment: " By endeavour- 
ing to deject and abase yourself and your desert," said 
Puckering to Coke, " you have discovered and made known 
your worthiness and sufficiency to discharge the place you 
are called to." 

After this exchange of compliments, things stern and 
more in touch with realities were uttered. Coke made the 
traditional petitions. " Privilege of speech is granted," said 
the Lord Keeper in reply, " but you must know what 
privilege you have. Not to speak every one what he listeth, 
or what cometh into his brain to utter that, but your 
privilege is Aye or No." Puckering added words utterly 
contemptuous of the Commons assembled at the Bar. 
" Wherefore, Mr. Speaker," said he, " Her Majesty's pleasure 
is that if you perceive any idle heads which will not stick to 
hazard their own estates, which will meddle with reforming 
the Church and transforming the Commonwealth, and do 
exhibit any Bills to such purpose, that you receive them not 
until they be viewed and considered by those who is fitter 
should consider of such things and can better judge of 
them." 1 

The House of Commons met on Saturday, February 24, 
I 593, but there was no Speaker. It was the first occasion — 
so far as the records show — of the interruption of business 
caused by the illness of the Speaker, for in his absence no 
one had authority to take the Chair. D'Ewes gives a quaint 
account of the incident. Some of the Members said they 
had called at Coke's house that morning and found him ill in 

' V>']Lvics, Journals, 459-60. 




bed. It was decided, however, to await a message from 
Coke, and the Clerk was directed in the meantime to read 
the Litany and prayers. The Serjeant-at-Arms soon brought 
a communication from the Speaker. " He had been this 
last night and also was this present forenoon," it ran, " so 
extremely pained with a wind in his stomach and a looseness 
of body that he could not, as yet, without his further great 
peril and danger, adventure into the air, which otherwise 
most willingly he would have done." He asked the Members 
for their " gentle and courteous acceptance of that his 
reasonable excuse," and trusted to God to be well enough 
to attend on the Monday following. " The effect of this 
message being then signified unto this House by the said 
Clerk of the House," says D'Ewes, " all the said Members of 
the House, being very sorry for Mr, Speaker his sickness, 
rested well satisfied. And so the House did rise, and every 
man departed away." ^ 

Within a few weeks of the Lord Keeper's charge to the 
Commons that any interference by any Member with 
ecclesiastical matters would earn Her Majesty's high dis- 
pleasure and bring the offender to the Tower, the House was 
engaged in the discussion of the prohibited subject. On 
February 27, 1593, Mr. Morrice, Attorney of the Court ot 
Wards, — a place then under the Crown, — presented a Bill for 
the reform of the abuses of the Ecclesiastical Courts which, it 
seemed, were using their powers not so much against Papists 
as against Puritans. After the debate the Bill was given to 
Mr. Speaker Coke, and he promised not to disclose its 
provisions to any one outside the House. The next day he 
informed the House that he had been summoned to the 
Court, and was commanded to deliver to the House a 
message from the Queen. Her Majesty, he said, had not 
pressed him to give her the Bill. The House might feel 
assured that he still retained the Bill in his possession, and 
that no eyes but his own had seen it. But the Queen had 
asked him what were the things spoken of by the House, and 
he had thought it his duty to tell her the points of the debate. 

^ D'Ewes, Journals^ 470. 


Then he c^ave the messaEje entrusted to him by the Oueen. 
It was to the effect that no Bills " touching matters of State, 
or reformation in causes ecclesiastical," could be introduced. 
" And upon my allc<^iancc I am commanded," said the 
Speaker, " if any such Bill be exhibited not to read it." ^ 

The Parliament lasted less than two months. It was 
dissolved by the Queen in person on April lo, 1593. Coke 
in his speech to Elizabeth, standing with the Commons at 
the Bar of the House of Lords, likened Parliament to a bee- 
hive with llcr Majesty as the queen bee. " Under your 
happy government," said he, in conclusion, " we live upon 
honey, we suck upon every sweet flower ; but where the bee 
sucketh honey there also the spider draweth poison. Some 
such venom there be with us. But such drones and door- 
bees we will expel the hive, and serve your Majesty, and 
withstand any enemy that shall assault you. Our lands, 
our goods, our lives, are prostrate at your feet to be 

But the finest and most sustained exhibition of absurdity, 
if not of insincerity in thought and expression, remains to be 
recorded in relation to the election of Speaker for the next 
Parliament, which met on October 24, 1597. The Member 
chosen was Christopher Yelverton, who was born at 
Rougham, Norfolk, was serjeant-at-law, and one of the 
knights of the shire for Northampton, He was proposed 
by Sir William Knollys, Comptroller of the Queen's House- 
hold, the son of Sir Francis Knollys, on whose motion so 
many of the previous royal nominees for the Chair were 
accepted by the Commons. D'Ewes, whose Journals throw 
so much light on the proceedings of the Elizabethan Parlia- 
ments, gives a graphic descrii)tion of the scene. First there 
was a speech from Sir William Knollys : " I will deliver my 
opinion unto you who is most fit for this place, being a 

> D'Ewes, Journals, 47S-9. In Calendar of State Papers (Domestic Series, 
1591-94), p. 322, there is another version of Coke's speech which does not 
materially differ from that given by D'Ewes. In one passage Coke explains 
that the Queen did not require to sec the Bill, in view of his engagement lo 
the House to keep it secret. 


Member of this House, and those good abilities which I 
know to be in him." Here he made a little pause, and the 
House " hawked and spat." 

This seems to have been the way the House expressed 
impatience in the days of Elizabeth. D'Ewes, writing a 
few years later — in 1601 — in reference to "an old Doctor 
of the Civil Law," who was regarded as a bore " because 
he was too long and spoke too low," says " the House hawked 
and spat and kept a great coil to make him make an end." ^ 

Knollys then proceeded with his speech. " Unto this 
place of dignity and calling, in my opinion (here he stayed 
a little) Mr. Serjeant Yelverton (looking unto him) is the 
fittest man to be preferred (after which words Mr. Yelverton 
blushed and put off his hat, and after sat bareheaded), for I 
know him to be a man wise and learned, secret and circum- 
spect, religious and faithful, no way disable, but every way 
able to supply this place." This appeared to be the general 
view of the Members. " The whole House," says D'Ewes, 
" cried, * Aye, aye, aye, let him be ! ' and the Master Comp- 
troller made a low reverence and sat down, and after a little 
pause and silence, Mr. Serjeant Yelverton rose, and, after a 
very humble reverence, said : — 

" ' Whence your unexpected choice of me to be your 
mouth or Speaker did proceed I am utterly ignorant. If 
from my merits, strange it were that few deserts should 
purchase suddenly so great an honour. Not from my 
ability doth this your choice proceed, for well known it is 
to a great number in this place now assembled that my 
estate is nothing correspondent for the maintenance of this 
dignityj for my father dying left me, a younger brother, 
nothing to me but my lease annuity. Then growing to 
man's estate, and some small practice of the law, I took a 
wife by whom I have had many children, the keeping of us 
all being a great impoverishment to my estate, and the daily 
living of us all nothing but my early industry. Neither 
from my person nor nature does this choice arise, for he 
that supplieth this place ought to be a man big and comely, 
stately and well-spoken, his voice great, his courage 

^ D'Ewes, foumahy 640. 


majestical, his nature haughty, and his purse plentiful and 
heavy ; but, contrarily, the stature of my body is small, 
myself not so well-spoken, my voice low, my carriage 
lawyer-like and of the common fashion, my nature soft 
and bashful, my purse thin, light, and never yet plentiful.'"^ 

But the House refused to accept these excuses, and 
Yelverton was placed in the Chair, doubtless to his high 
gratification. He composed a very beautiful prayer which 
he said as Speaker at the opening of each sitting, reverently 
beseeching God " to expel darkness and vanity from our 
minds and partiality from our speeches," and to grant 
" wisdom and integrity of heart." ^ He was subsequently 
appointed a Judge of the Queen's Bench. 



THE next Parliament was the tenth of Elizabeth, and 
the last of her long reign. It assembled on October 

27, 1 60 1, and was opened by the Queen, who was 
then close on seventy years old. At three o'clock in the 
afternoon she rode to Westminster Abbey, wearing her 
royal robes and the crown, says D'Ewes, " in a chariot 
made all open, only like a canopy at the top, being of cloth 
of silver and tissue," escorted by the officers of the House- 
hold and attended by peers, and having heard a sermon, 
went to the House of Lords for the opening ceremony. 
D'Ewes mentions that a number of the Commons who, in 
obedience of the summons of Black Rod, proceeded to the 
Upper House, were denied admittance. No explanation is 
given. But the hasty closing of the doors before all the 
Commons could enter the House of Lords was due to the 
fact that the Queen, overcome by the weight of her elaborate 
robes, had fainted, and she had to be supported on the 

' D'Ewe&, /oumals, 548-50. * /did., 551. 


Throne while' the Lord Keeper hurriedly explained the 
causes for the summoning of Parliament. 

On the nomination of Sir William Knollys, the Commons 
chose as Speaker John Croke, Recorder of the City of 
London, and its representative in Parliament. On the 
following day he was presented to the Queen in the House 
of Lords. His appeal to Her Majesty to direct the election 
of one more able and efficient thus concluded : " And I 
beseech your most excellent Majesty not to interpret my 
denial herein to proceed from any unwillingness to perform 
all devoted, dutiful service, but rather out of Your Majesty's 
clemency and goodness to interpret the same to proceed 
from that inward fear and trembling which hath ever pos- 
sessed me, when, heretofore, with most gracious audience it 
hath pleased Your Majesty to license me to speak before 
you. For I know and must acknowledge that, under God, 
even through Your Majesty's great bounty and favour I am 
that I am ; and, therefore, none of Your Majesty's most dutiful 
subjects more bound to be ready, and, being ready, to perform 
even the least of Your Majesty's commandments."^ 

Croke appears to have been the first Speaker to rule 
that a Member has the right to be heard, no matter how 
objectionable to the House generally his views may be. 
On November 9, 1601, the House was debating the question 
of a subsidy. " Then," says D'Ewes, " Serjeant Heyle 
stood up and made a motion, saying, ' Mr. Speaker, I marvel 
much that the House will stand upon granting a subsidy 
when all we have is Her Majesty's, and she may lawfully, 
at her pleasure, take it from us. Yea, she hath as much 
right to all our lands and goods as to any revenue of her 
Crown," " At which," D'Ewes continues, " all the House 
hemm'd and laughed and talked." But Heyle was not to 
be shouted down. " ' Well,' quoth Serjeant Heyle, * all your 
hemming shall not put me out of countenance.' So Mr. 
Speaker stood up and said : ' It is a great disorder that 
this should be used, for it is the ancient use of every man to 
be silent when any one speaketh, and he that is speaking 
' D'Ewes, Jourtta/s, 6cxj-i. 


should be suffered to deliver his mind without interruption.' " 
" So the said Serjeant proceeded," says D'Ewes, " and when 
he had spoken a little while the House hemm'd again, and 
so he sate down. In his latter speech he said he could 
prove his former position by precedent in the time of Henry 
the Third, King John, King Stephen, etc., which was the 
occasion of this hemming."^ 

Later on in the session a remarkable scene took place on 
the occasion of the presentation of an address from the 
Commons to the Queen. The House was moved to in- 
dignant protest against patents issued by the Crown giving 
monopolies in the sale of cloth, starch, tin, fish, oil, vinegar, 
and salt, whereby high prices were charged for these articles 
of prime necessity. On the following day the Speaker 
announced that he had been commanded to attend the 
Queen, and that Her Majesty had graciously consented to 
revoke all patents that should be proved to be injurious to 
the people by trial at law. The House unanimously adopted 
a glowing address of thanks to the Queen. Her Majesty 
consented to receive it at the Palace of Whitehall, on 
November 30, 1601 ; but as the Audience Chamber was 
not large enough to accommodate the whole House, it was 
arranged that all the knights of the shire and a selection 
of the citizens and burgesses should accompany the Speaker. 
Before leaving for the Palace the Speaker asked the House 
" what it was their pleasure he should deliver unto Her 
Majesty?" Sir Edward Hobbie stood up and said," It was 
best he should devise that himself." And all the Members 
cried, "I, I, I!" 

At the Palace Croke made a speech to the Queen of 
the fulsome loyalty so characteristic of the time. " We 
come not, sacred Sovereign," said he, " one of ten to render 
thanks, and the rest to go away unthankful. But all of 
us, in all duty and thankfulness, do throw down ourselves 
at the feet of Your Majesty, do praise God and bless Your 
Majesty. Neither do we present our thanks in words or 
any outward thing, which can be no sufficient retribution for 
' D'Ewcs, Joiirna/s, 633. 


so great goodness ; but in all duty and thankfulness, prostrate 
at your feet, we present our most loyal and thankful hearts, 
even the last drop of blood in our hearts to be poured out 
and the last spirit of breath in our nostrils to be breathed 
up for your safety." " And after three low reverences made 
he," says the chronicler, " with the rest kneeled down." 

Elizabeth, in reply, made a most interesting speech. 
" Of myself I must say this," said she, " I never was any 
greedy, scraping grasper, nor a straight, fast-holding Prince, 
nor yet a waster. My heart was never set on worldly goods, 
but only for my subjects' good. What you do bestow on 
me I will not hoard it up, but receive it to bestow on you 
again. Yea, mine own properties I count yours to be 
expended for your good." At this point the Queen in- 
terrupted her remarks to say, " Mr. Speaker, I would wish 
you and the rest to stand up, for I shall yet trouble you 
with longer speech." Accordingly, they all stood up, and 
Her Majesty in the course of her subsequent remarks said : 
" I know the title of a King is a glorious title, but assure 
yourself that the shining glory of princely authority hath not 
so dazzled the eyes of our understanding but that we will 
know and remember that we also are to yield an account of 
our actions before the Great Judge. To be a King and wear a 
crown is more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasure 
to them that bear it. For myself, I was never so much enticed 
with the glorious name of a King, or royal authority of a 
Queen, as delighted that God hath made me this instrument 
to maintain His truth and glory, and to defend this kingdom 
from peril, dishonour, tyranny, and oppression." Finally, 
Elizabeth invited them all to come and kiss her hand.^ 

The Parliament was dissolved by the Queen on Decem- 
ber 19, 1601. Croke made the customary flattering address. 
What was thought of these unctuous performances by those 
who heard them may be surmised from a letter written by 
Dudley Carleton, a Member of the House of Commons who 
stood with Croke at the Bar of the House of Lords on that 
occasion. " I was present as a burgess," he says, " and heard 

^ D'Ewes, Journals, 658-60. 


good counter-clawing and interchangeable flattery between 
the Speaker and my Lord Keeper in behalf of the Queen." ^ 
" The peace of the kingdom," said Crokc, referring to the 
defeat of the insurrection of Essex, " has been defended by 
the mighty arm of our dread and sacred Queen." " No, 
no!" cried Elizabeth, nipping his blossoming eloquence, 
"but by the mighty hand of God, Mr. Speaker." 

Thus was received the last compliment that was paid to 
the most flattered Sovereign that has sat on the Throne of 
England. The Commons had their final sight of that 
weirdly impressive woman, the last of the Tudors. 



THE accession of James l. opens a stirring and moment- 
ous chapter in the history of the Chair. In the long 
conflict between the Parliament and the Crown, which 
lasted practically through the whole of the seventeenth 
century, — it was not interrupted even under the Common- 
wealth, the relations of the Parliament with the Lord 
Protector Cromwell being not less strained than in the 
time of the Stuart kings, — the Chair passed through many 
amazing vicissitudes, but it emerged from the ordeal with its 
position strengthened and its reputation enhanced, to begin its 
development as a non-partisan and independent institution. 
The first Parliament of James I. as.sembled on March 19, 
1604, and was opened by the King. He introduced the 
custom of the Sovereign personally declaring to the assembled 
Lords and Commons the of the summoning of 
Parliament, a duty which was previously discharged by the 
Lord Chancellor or the Lord Keeper on the Sovereign's 
behalf Being pedantic and garrulous, James inflicted long 
and learned speeches upon the Estates on these occasions. 
' S(a/e Papers (Domestic Series, 1601, 1603), 134. 


But he was more than pedagogic. He was overbearing and 
truculent, especially to the Commons ; and as a new temper 
was arising in the Lower House, more jealous of its privileges, 
more aggressive in their defence, more mutinous towards the 
exactions of the Crown, he soon found himself at cross- 
purposes with the representatives of the people. 

Still there was no diminution in the strains of the 
perfervid loyalty in which the always honey - mouthed 
Speaker indulged on being presented to the King at the 
Bar of the House of Lords, The speech of the Speaker 
of the first Parliament of James I., Sir Edward Phelips, 
serjeant-at-law, who sat for Somerset, equalled, if indeed it 
did not surpass, in flattery and adulation of the Sovereign, 
anything which had been said during the long reign of 
Elizabeth, and that without the courtly excuse of saying 
pretty things to a woman. 

" Most renowned, and of all other most worthy to be 
admired. Sovereign," exclaimed Phelips, " as the supreme 
and all-powerful King of Heaven hath created man to 
govern His works, so did He depute terrestrial kings, in 
whom His image was, to govern men, but yet so as still to 
think that they themselves are but men. And to that end 
He adorned them with three imperial ensigns of honour, — a 
crown, a sceptre, and a sword ; commanding to the crown, 
reverence, to the sceptre, obedience, and to the sword, fear. 
Wherewith in His divine distribution of kings and kingdoms, 
He hath magnified and invested your sacred person, on the 
imperial throne of this most victorious and happy nation, 
wherein you now do, and, Nestor-like, long may sit, not as 
a conqueror by the sword, but as an undoubted inheritor by 
the sceptre ; not as a stepfather by match or alliance, but 
as a true tender father by descent of Nature, to whom we, 
your children, are truly naturalized in our subjection, and 
from whom in our loyalty we expect unto us a paternal 

The Speaker then proceeded to make the time-honoured 
entreaty to the King to excuse him from the performance of 
the high office to which the Commons had so unworthily 


elected him. He set out a long litany of the qualities which 
were necessary adequately to fulfil the duties of Speaker: 
" The absolute perfection of experience " ; " The mother of 
prudence " ; " The father of true judgment " ; " The fulness 
and grace of Nature's gifts." There were others besides of 
equal mystification. But not one of them did he possess. 
" From the virtues of all and every part I am so far strayed," 
said he, " that not tasting of Parnassus's springs at all, nor of 
that honey left upon the lips of Pluto and Pindarus by the 
bees, birds of the Muses, as I remain touched with the error 
of contrary, and thereby am disabled to undergo the weight 
of so heavy a burthen, under which I do already groan, and 
shall both faint and fail if not by your justice disburthened 
or by your clemency commiserate."^ 

The King, of course, neither relieved him of his troubles, 
nor thought his fate deserving of commiseration. 

The session was not a month old when, as the Journals 
of the House of Commons show, there was deliberate obstruc- 
tion, — which is generally supposed to have been unknown 
until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, — and the 
powers of the Speaker were increased in order to cope with 
it. On April 14, 1604, Sir Henry Jenkins and other Members 
of the Court party in the House appear to have impeded the 
progress of a Bill touching the abuses of purveyors. The 
end of the contest was that Sir Henry Jenkins was at last 
interrupted by the Speaker, and thereupon the House, as 
stated in the Joiirnals, "to prevent the idle expense of time," 
resolved that, " if any man speak impertinently, or beside 
the question in hand, it standeth with the order of the House 
for Mr. Speaker to interrupt him and to know the pleasure 
of the House whether they will further hear him." Three 
days later, on April 17, the House agreed to a general rule, 
" that if any superfluous motion or tedious speeches be 
offered to the House, the party is to be directed and ordered 
by Mr. Speaker." On May 9, in the same year of 1604, 
Sir Roland Litton, offering to speak, it grew to a question 
whether he should .speak any more in the matter, and it was 

' Parlianicntary History, vol. I, p. 990. 


overruled that he ought not. On May 19, Sir William 
Paddy, entering into a " long " speech, it was agreed for a rule 
that " if any man speak not on the matter in question the 
Speaker is to moderate." Thus at the opening of the 
seventeenth century the Speaker was empowered to call 
Members to account for garrulousness and irrelevancy. 

In the session of 1606, Phelips fell sick. As there was 
no precedent for the appointment of any one to take the 
Chair in the temporary absence of the Speaker, the House 
was unable to sit during his illness, and for several days 
parliamentary business was suspended. The incident illus- 
trates the innate conservatism of the race, the national 
willingness to put up with inconvenience to the uttermost, 
if the only way to terminate it is the taking of a new step 
which creates a precedent. 

On Monday, March 16, i6o6,t\\e Journals relate that the 
House was informed by the Clerk that the Speaker was very 
ill, and desired to be " spared attendance " till Wednesday. 
When Wednesday came it was reported that the Speaker's 
infirmity was " a great pain in his neck and head," that he 
was unable to be present, and asked for further leave of 
absence till Friday. " So they arose and departed," say the 
Journals, "yielding assent by a necessity to the motion." 
On Friday, Members again assembled, only to hear a 
message from the still absent Speaker propounding that 
he might have leave to use means for the recovery of his 
strength till Monday. " To this the Assembly seemed to 
assent, and so departed." 

The Journals are careful to say not " House," but 
" Assembly." Yet on that day a motion was agreed to 
for the liberation of a poor prisoner. It is interesting to 
note, however, that the prisoner was not pardoned. The 
pardon was only to be given when the House was con- 
stituted by the presence of the Speaker, By Monday the 
Speaker's strength had not returned. A debate then took 
place on a motion to instruct Committees of the House, 
appointed " for Returns and Privileges," to consider what 
ought to be done in the future should the same contingency 


arise. The mover said he had heard of precedents of a 
Speaker having been appointed from day to day, in cases 
of the temporary absence of the duly elected Speaker, so 
that the business of the House might proceed. Another 
Member supported the taking of this action. His argument 
is thus put in the Journals : " That we are an entire body of 
ourselves ; that the Speaker is not our head, but one of 
ourselves, and hath a voice amongst us ; that we have power 
to choose a Speaker, for he is only to moderate, and for that 
purpose we might appoint any other." But this opinion was 
controverted. " Answered," say the Journals, " that there is 
no such precedent, that the King must give leave and 
approve after choice, that it were fit the Committees should 
consider what were to be done in after times." The discus- 
sion was ended by a motion, "assented to by such Members 
of the House as were assembled " (as the Journals are careful 
to record), that the Committees should consider all precedents 
as could be produced with a view to deciding what it were 
meet should be done in future upon occasions of the Speaker's 
absence through sickness or otherwise. 

But on the following day, March 24, the Speaker, after an 
absence of eight days, returned to the House, and no report 
was made by the Committees.^ For nearly two centuries and 
a half afterwards the anomaly of the transaction of the public 
business of the nation being dependent on the accident of 
one man's health, was tolerated by the House of Commons. 
It was not until 1853 that the subject was referred to a Select 
Committee, and that upon their report a Deputy Speaker was 

' Commons Journals, vol. I, pp. 353-4. 

- The rep(jrl of the Select Committee of 1853 erroneously states that the case 
of I'helips is the fust recorded instance of the sitting of the House of Commons 
haviny had to be suspended owing to the illness of the Speaker. The case of 
Edward Coke in 1592 is, of course, earlier. 




THIS Parliament, which Guy Fawkes attempted to blow 
up, endured for seven years. Throughout it all the 
King and the Commons were constantly at variance, 
principally on questions relating to the ecclesiastical system 
of the Established Church. It came to an end on Februar}' 
9, 161 1. 

A new Parliament was not summoned until 1614. At 
its opening on April 5, Randolph Crewe, born at Nantwich, 
the son of a tanner, it is said, and bred to the law, who sat 
for the borough of Brackley in Northamptonshire, was chosen 
Speaker. It did not long survive. The King, exasperated by 
its unyielding obstinacy to his wishes, dissolved it on June 7, 
1614. Thus, after an existence of little more than two months, 
the " Addled Parliament," as it is called, came to an end. 

Close on seven years elapsed before James called his 
third Parliament. It met on January 30, 1621. The 
Commons selected for the Chair, Thomas Richardson, born 
in Norfolk, serjeant-at-law, and Member for St. Albans. He 
made the usual appeal to the Commons to choose another 
for the post. It appears to have been real and earnest on 
this occasion, for Richardson desired to devote himself to 
the Bar, and finding that his excuses were unavailable, that 
he was bound to take the Chair, he " wept downright," accord- 
ing to an eye-witness.^ He seems, nevertheless, to have con- 
tinued his practice at the Bar. Lord Campbell, in his Lives 
of the Chief Justices, says that it was not considered incorrect 
for Richardson to sit in the Chair of the House of Commons 
in the morning and to consult with his clients at his chambers 
in the evening. Moreover, he appeared as counsel in the 
Court of Common Pleas on days that the House of Commons 
did not sit. 

The King received the Commons in a stubborn mood. 
^ Campbell, Lives of the Chief Jttstices, vol. i, p. 388. 


In reply to the Speaker's request for the royal recognition 
of the privileges of the House, His Majesty said he could have 
wished that the Commons had intimated " that their privileges 
were derived from the grace and permission of Our ancestors 
and Us," rather than to have used, " the stile of your antient 
and undoubted right of inheritance."^ The Commons and 
King were in conflict as to the real meaning of this reiterated 
request to the Sovereign at the opening of every Parliament, 
for the granting of the privileges of the Lower House. As 
far back as 1604, in the course of the first Parliament of 
James I., the Commons in their famous petition to the King, 
entitled An Apology of the House of Commons touching their 
Privileges^ declared that the making of this request at the 
opening of a new Parliament was intended merely as a 
notification of their privileges, " an act only of manners," and 
that their privileges could not be denied, withheld, or impaired. 

To this view the King never yielded his assent. In the 
constitutional struggle the Speaker sided more with the King 
than with the Commons. At any rate, Richardson is one of 
the few Speakers who have been censured in the House for 
servility to the Crown. On March 9, 1621, he was called 
to account for stopping debate when the conduct of the 
Sovereign was in question. " Mr. Speaker is but a servant 
to the House, not a master, nor a master's mate," said one 
Member. Another Member advised the Speaker to " sit still," 
and not to be so interfering. Evidently they did not want 
Mr. Speaker to exaggerate his personal importance in the 
scheme of things, or to appreciate too highly the rights and 
functions of the Chair. 

The imperious James insisted that he could adjourn the 
two Houses of Parliament as well as prorogue them. On 
May 28, 1 62 1, he sent down a message to the Commons 
commanding an adjournment of the House, within a week, to 
November 20. This arbitrary and despotic presumption was 
resisted by the House, or at least by the independent 
Members, who held that the House could be adjourned only 
by its own motion. But the Speaker, without putting the 
* Parliamentary History, vol. 2, p. 327. 


question, declared the House to be adjourned till November 
20, in obedience to the King's order. The decision of the 
Speaker was accepted, as the question whether or not the 
House could be adjourned by any authority but the House 
itself had not yet been clearly settled, and, moreover, the 
majority of the Members were indisposed to resist outright 
the will of the Sovereign. Shortly afterwards, however, 
Richardson had to sit and listen to bitter things being said 
in condemnation of his action. The Speaker assumed the 
power himself to adjourn the House, entirely untrammelled 
by any limitations or conditions, and he especially developed 
a habit of leaving the Chair as soon as any matter disagree- 
able to the Court was raised.^ 

In the course of the session the Commons sent a remon- 
strance against the growth of Popery to the King, and 
tendered him the advice that Prince Charles, heir to the 
Throne, should marry a Protestant wife. James wrote 
to the Speaker commanding him to inform the House that 
they must not meddle with the " mysteries of State," which, 
he said in a cutting phrase, " went far beyond their sphere 
and capabilities." The Commons, meeting on December 18, 
1621, entered in the Journals a long protest that all affairs of 
State were proper subjects for counsel and debate in Parlia- 
ment. The answer of the King was most contemptuous. 
He sent for the manuscript Journals, and tore out the leaf 
on which the protest was written. The printed Journals 
record the resolution of the House. Then follow a number 
of asterisks — * * * * * * — and there is a marginal note 
which says : " King James, in Council, with his own Hand, 
rent out this Protestation." ^ 

It only remains to be added that Richardson had his 
reward for his subserviency. The year after the dissolution 
of the Parliament he became Chief Justice of the Common 
Pleas, and was subsequently promoted to the headship of the 
King's Bench. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. One 
of the few President of the House of Commons whose remains 

^ Campbell, Lives of the Lord Justices, vol. i, p. 390. 
^ Commons Journals, vol. I, p. 668. 


have been so honoured is this legal puppet of the Crown 
dressed up in the robes of Speaker.^ 

The last Parliament of King James I. met on Feb- 
ruary 19, 1624. The Speaker was Thomas Crewe, the 
younger brother of Sir Randolph Crewe, who was Speaker 
in the " Addled Parliament " of King James. He was a 
serjeant-at-law, and sat for Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. 
This Parliament was dissolved by the death of James on 
March 27, 1625. 



CHARLES I. was in his twenty-fifth year when he began 
his memorable reign. He opened his first Parliament 
on June 18, 1625. This formal scene was marked by 
an incident of unusual grace and distinction. It showed the 
high personal dignity of Charles in splendid contrast with the 
vulgar antics of his father on like occasions. When the 
Estates were assembled His Majesty commanded prayers to 
be said, and during the devotions he put off his crown and 
knelt by the Chair of State.^ 

Sir Thomas Crewe, who now represented Gatton, in 
Surrey, was again chosen Speaker. There is an interesting 
passage in a narrative of the debates and incidents of this 
Parliament left by Sir John Eliot, — the distinguished parlia- 
mentary leader, — which shows once more that, even in 
the eyes of contemporaries, much of the ceremony of the 
election of Speaker was mere play-acting. In reference to 
the appointment of Crewe he writes of the " pretended 
unwillingness in him, and importunity in us, with much art 
and rhetoric on both sides." ^ At the Bar of the House 

' The other Speakers buried in the Abbey are John Puckering and Charles 

' Parliamentary History, vol. 2, p. 2. 

'John Forsler, Sir John Eliiot, vol. i, p. 235. 


of Lords, Crewe again, according to the usual formality 
desired to be excused, and the King replied by confirming 
his election. Crewe then said : " Before, hee offered the 
sacrifice of his lipps, which was refuced. But now he offered 
his obedience which, being accepted, was declared to be the 
better sacrifice." ^ 

Sir Heneage Finch, son of Sir Moyle Finch of Eastwell, 
Kent, Recorder of London, which city he represented in the 
House of Commons, was Speaker in the brief Parliament of 
1626, It lasted only from February 7 to June 15. Sir John 
Finch, a first cousin of Sir Heneage Finch, who was chosen 
Speaker in the next Parliament, which met on March 17, 
1628, was the central figure in one of the most extraordinary 
scenes that has ever occurred in the House of Commons. He 
represented Canterbury, of which city he was also Recorder. 
During the second session of the Parliament, in 1629, 
the claim of the King to levy tonnage and poundage without 
the consent of the representatives of the people was hotly 
disputed. On March 2 the Speaker delivered a message 
from the King commanding the House to adjourn to the 
lOth, A few days before, a similar order from Charles had 
been in fact obeyed by the House, although, with a view 
to avoiding the appearance of acknowledging the authority 
of the King in the matter, a motion for adjournment was 
formally moved and agreed to. But on March 2, when 
the Speaker put the question of adjournment in obedience to 
the King's command, there was a loud shout of " No, no ! " The 
Patriots had at last determined to insist that the question of 
adjournment was entirely for the Commons to decide. There 
was a grave matter to be settled, and as soon as it was 
settled — but no sooner — they would consent to the House 
being adjourned. 

Sir John Eliot rose to address the House. The Speaker 
at once interposed, and said he had an absolute command 
from the King instantly to leave the Chair if any one 
attempted to speak after the order to adjourn had been 
delivered. Accordingly he moved from the Chair. The 
^ Commons^ Debates in 162J (Camden Society), p. 3. 


Patriots rushed to stop him, but the Courtiers clustered round 
him and he got down to the floor. But Finch got no farther. 
His way out of the Chamber was barred by a throng of 
excited Members, who seized him and forced him back into 
the Chair again. " God's wounds I " cried Denzil Holies, 
"you shall sit till we please to rise." To prevent timid 
Members from leaving the House, Sir Miles Hobert locked 
the door and put the key in his pocket. 

Eliot then submitted a spirited remonstrance against the 
arrogation by the Crown to itself of the right to make in- 
novations in religion and impose taxes and loans without 
the consent of Parliament. Finch refused to put the question 
to the House. He might be detained by superior force in 
the Chair, but by no means could he be compelled to dis- 
charge the functions of Speaker. The Commons, accordingly, 
found themselves in a curious quandary. The Speaker was 
in the Chair, and yet the House was without the regulative 
authority of the Speaker. 

What was to be done ? The enraged Patriots rose one 
after another to try to induce the Speaker by entreaties and 
threats to obey the order of the House. But Finch was 
resolute. He was perturbed in mind by the clashing claims 
of his duty to the House as Speaker and his devotion to the 
King as Courtier. The two emotions pulled him in different 
directions, and perplexed him with their conflicting yet 
powerful mutual appeal. But on one thing at least he was 
determined — on no account must be incur the fearful dis- 
pleasure of the King. He pleaded that he knew of no 
precedent of the House continuing to do business after it 
had received a command from the Sovereign to adjourn. 
"What would any of you do, if you were in my place?" he 
asked plaintively, and to impress them further with the 
difficulties of his position he concluded with the appeal : " Let 
not my desire to serve you faithfully be my ruin." Opposition 
to the King's wishes would be fatal to his personal interests. 
He was the Speaker of the Commons, and as such he was 
entrusted with the high distinction of safeguarding their 
privileges ; but, apparently, he regarded the will of the 



Sovereign as paramount, and at any rate he was not prepared 
to do the bidding of the Commons at the risk of offending 
the King. 

"If you refuse obedience," said Eliot, "you shall be 
called to the Bar." 

" That," answered Finch, " is one of the greatest miseries 
that could befall me." He begged to be allowed to go and 
consult with the King. "If I do not return, and that 
speedily," said he, "tear me in pieces." William Strode 
pointedly asked him if he was their servant — as he had 
declared himself to be — why he did not obey them ? Did 
not the Scripture say, " His servants ye are whom ye 
obey ? " Finch burst into tears and exclaimed, " I am not 
the less the King's servant for being yours." The King, and 
not the House, had the first place in his mind, not perhaps 
that he loved the King more, but that he feared the House 
less. " I will not say I will not put the reading of the paper 
to the question," said he ; " but I must say I dare not." 

Eliot was most desirous of having his remonstrance 
regularly put by the Speaker and adopted by the House. 
Otherwise, it was but the mere expression of his own personal 
opinion. John Selden, the jurist, declared that the Speaker 
by refusing to discharge his duty of putting the question had 
virtually abdicated his office, and he moved that Eliot 
should take the Chair and submit the remonstrance to the 
judgment of the House. This, however, was too violent an 
innovation for Eliot. Seeing that the obduracy of the 
Speaker was immovable, he threw his paper into the fire. 

Just then a knocking was heard at the locked door. It 
was a messenger from the King who, having had news of 
the proceedings in the House of Commons, sent a command 
to his Serjeant-at-Arms to bring away the Mace. The 
Commons permitted that officer to go, but refused to part 
with the Mace, and the door was again locked. 

Meanwhile the Patriots continued to upbraid the Speaker. 

He was assailed with fierce denunciations, and reviled in terms 

of unmitigated contempt. In the Chair he sat, silent through 

it all. The depression of his spirits was reflected in his down- 



cast countenance. The instinct of self-preservation impelled 
him so to act as to deserve well of the more exalted and 
stronger of the two contending powers between whom he 
stood, even though he thereby incurred the unqualified odium 
of the other ; but perhaps his best armour against the slings 
and arrows of the Patriots was the steadfastness of his sense 
of duty to the King. 

Again there were loud knocks at the door. This time it 
was the Usher of the ]?lack Rod from the House of Lords 
He, too, was denied admittance, nor would his message be 
received. The King had sent for the Captain of his Guard 
to force a way into the Chamber and disperse the Commons 
by force. Holies then put to the House from memory the 
effect of Eliot's Remonstrance, and it was declared carried 
with acclamation. A motion for the adjournment of the 
House was agreed to. Then it was that the Speaker was 
released from his painful and deeply humiliating position.^ 

All the foremost and most virile men who were con- 
spicuous in that great scene in the House of Commons — 
Eliot, Selden, Holies, Strode — were subjected to heavy fines 
and imprisonment. Eliot died in the Tower. Selden was not 
released for four years. To Finch came the promotion which, 
no doubt, he thought his fidelity and zeal deserved. As Lord 
Chief Justice of the King's Bench he was just as devoted 
and servile a champion of prerogative as he had been as 
Speaker of the House of Commons. When Parliament again 
assembled he was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. But one 
of the first acts of the " Long Parliament " — as the Parliament 
which followed came to be called — was to impeach him of 
high crimes and misdemeanours. The chief count in the 
indictment was his arbitrary and unconstitutional conduct as 
Speaker on the great day that Eliot moved his Remon- 
strance. He appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons 
on December 21, 1640, and spoke in his own defence, and then 
fled the country before the impeachment was finally 

■ Parliamentary ffislory, vol. 2, pp. 4S7-91 ; also Gardiner's History of 
England (160^-/^2), vol. 7, pp. 67-75. 




ELEVEN years were to pass without a Parliament — the 
longest interval of the kind, so far — during which 
Charles I. ruled as an absolute monarch. In 1640 he 
was driven to summon the Estates. When the new Parlia- 
ment met on April 13, the person chosen by the Commons 
as Speaker was John Glanville, serjeant-at-law, Recorder of 
Plymouth, and Member for Bristol, He had sat in Parlia- 
ment for Plymouth from 1614 to 1629, and was active in 
resisting the King's arbitrary use of the prerogative; but 
he seems to have intimated at this stage that he was ready 
to serve the interests of His Majesty, and certainly was 
appointed to the Chair with the previous assent of 

To the King, on being presented at the Bar of the House 
of Lords, Glanville made the usual excuses. He began by 
defining the Speaker and his duties. " One of themselves, 
to be the mouth, indeed the servant of all the rest; to steer 
watchfully and prudently in all their weighty consultations 
and debates ; to collect faithfully and readily the genuine 
sense of a numerous Assembly, to propound the same season- 
ably, and to mould it into apt questions for final resolutions, 
and so represent them and their conclusions, declarations, and 
petitions, upon all occasions, with truth, with life, with lustre 
and with full advantage to your most Excellent Majesty," 
He then proceeded to appeal to the King to have compassion 
upon him, declaring himself to be the most unworthy Member 
of the Commons, and ready to faint with the fears of the 
burden which had been placed upon him against his will. 
" Let not your Majesty through my defect stand exposed 
to any hazard of disservice," he cried. " I have only a 
hearty desire to serve you, very little abilities for perform- 
ance." He was not permitted to escape. Finch, as Lord 
Keeper, said the King had listened with gracious ear and 


princely attention to the humble and modest excuses of 
Granville; but he had "so well decyphered and delineated 
the parts, duties, and office of a good Speaker," that he had 
proved his eminent fitness for the post.^ 

This Parliament is known as " the Short Parliament." 
The old quarrels between King and Commons broke out 
afresh. Nothing was done during the three weeks it 
existed. It was dissolved on May 5, 1640. 

The next Parliament to assemble was the most momentous 
of all. During the protracted and troubled period of the 
'Long Parliament" there were not only incessant surprises, 
and actions and chan,ges of the most dramatic nature, but 
there was a terrific breach with the historic past, for a 
Sovereign was executed, the House of Lords was abolished, 
and a new Constitution devised. William Lenthall, who 
occupied the Chair of the House of Commons, is 
the most vivid and arresting figure in the long line of 
Speakers. He is notable, not so much for the qualities of 
mind and character which he displayed, as for the greatness 
of the events with which his name is associated. No Speaker 
was faced with so many moments of crisis and catastrophe 
as fell to Lenthall while president of the House of Commons. 
His lot was cast in times of national trouble and disruption. 
He was not an inspirational force, ruling the whirlwind and 
guiding the storm. Rather was he the accidental plaything 
— at times the unheroic, if not the pitiful, plaything — of the 
tremendous human passions which raged for many a year 
round the Chair of the House of Commons. 

Lenthall, the second son of William Lenthall of Lachford, 
Oxfordshire, was born at Henley-on-Thames, in the same 
county, in June 1591. He was educated at Thame School 
and St. Alban Hall, Oxford, and was called to the Bar at 
Lincoln's Inn in 1616. In the House of Commons he had 
represented the borough of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, for 
several years, and at the opening of the Long Parliament, 
on November 8, 1640, he was chosen Speaker. Lenthall 
was selected by Charles for the office, but he was not the 

* Parliamentary History, vol. 2, pp. 535-7. 




King's original choice. When Charles summoned the 
Parliament he had intended, according to Clarendon's 
History of the Rebellion, that Sir Thomas Gardiner, the 
Recorder of London and a staunch Royalist, should be 
Speaker. But Gardiner failed to get returned. The 
citizens of London preferred to be represented by Patriots 
and Puritans. Thus it fell to Lenthall to act as Speaker 
in the most famous House of Commons. 

There is a graphic description of the election by John 
Rushworth, the Assistant Clerk of the Commons. Lenthall 
was proposed by Sir Henry Vane ; and the House " with 
one consent" called him to the Chair. " He stood up," says 
Rushworth, " and desired to be excused for the weightiness 
of the affairs, and for his own sake, knowing his own weak- 
ness, or, at least, for their sakes. But they called him the 
more, ' To the Chair ! To the Chair ! ' and two Members 
of the House, the one on the right hand and the other on 
the left, led him up ; and after he was placed in the Chair 
the House adjourned until Thursday the fifth of November, 
at nine of the Clock." 

On November 5, Lenthall was presented to the King 
in the House of Lords. Charles was accompanied by the 
Queen and the young princes, subsequently to become 
Charles li. and James II. At the Bar were assembled the 
Speaker and the Commons who were destined to be instru- 
mental in consigning His Majesty to the headman's axe. 
In the circumstances, Lenthall's speech to the King is of 
the highest interest. " Most gracious and dread Sovereign," 
he splendidly began ; and then proceeded woefully to lament 
that the Commons had selected him to be their Speaker. If 
they had but left him in the mean condition in which they 
found him, and chosen one more fitted for the post, the 
sacred and pious intentions of his most exalted Majesty 
might have obtained their full advancement. " But is it 
yet too late?" he cried, "May I not appeal to Csesar? 
Yes, I may ; and in the lowest posture of humility " — (here 
Lenthall fell upon his knees) — " I humbly beseech Your 
Sacred Majesty to interpose your royal authority to com- 


mand a review of the House, for there were never more than 
now fitted for such employments," 

But the Lord Keeper, by the King's direction, highly 
commended the choice of the Commons and approved of 
his appointment. Lenthall then made the customary second 
speech. "It pleaseth not Your Majesty to vouchsafe a 
change," he began; "actions of Kings are not to be by me 
reasoned. Therefore, being emboldened by this gracious 
approbation, give me leave a little, dread Sovereign, to 
express my thoughts unto our gracious Lord the King." 
Fanciful compliments poured in a honied stream from the 
poetic lips of the Speaker. The King was " the glory of 
times, the history of honour." The Queen was " the 
monument of glory, the progeny of valiant and puissant 
princes." The royal children were " those olive branches set 
round your tables, emblems of peace to posterity." 

Two passages which followed had relation, more or less 
direct, to the absorbing constitutional question of the time. 
" It is reported of Constantine the Great that he accounts 
his subjects' purse his Exchequer, and so it is," said Lenthall. 
" Subtle inventions may pick the purse, but nothing can 
open it but a Parliament." He added that the Commons 
were determined to labour for two things — the continuance 
of their liberties, and the making of His Sacred Majesty 
terrible to the nations abroad and glorious at home. Then 
having made the usual claim for the privileges of the House 
of Commons, he concluded with the fervid outburst: " And 
God will have the honour. Your Sacred Majesty the spendour, 
the Kingdom safety ; and all our votes shall pass, that Your 
Sacred Majesty may long, long, long reign over us, and let 
all the people say Amen ! "^ 

"Amen!" "Long live the King!" So shouted the 
very Commons who, within nine years, were to cut off the 
head of His Most Sacred Majesty. 

^ Rushworlh's Historical Collectiofis, Part in. vol. i, pp. 16-19. 



ONE of the most thrilling scenes of the Parliament was 
the armed raid which Charles I. made on the House 
of Commons on January 4, 1642, to demand that five 
of its Members, most conspicuous in opposing his arbitrary 
authority — Pym, Hampden, Holies, Stroud, Hazelrig — should 
be surrendered to his will on a charge of treason. The five 
Members were in the House when it met after dinner for 
its afternoon sitting that day, and just as the King appeared 
in Palace Yard they fled into the Speaker's garden at the 
back of the Chamber, and taking to the river in boats 
escaped to the protection of the City. 

Charles, bidding his three or four hundred soldiers to 
remain in the lobby and corridors, entered the Chamber, the 
first Sovereign who had ever crossed the sacred Bar of the 
House of Commons, and the last. The Members stood up 
barehead in homage to their King, and Charles, not to be 
outdone in courtesy, took off his hat and bowed to them. 
As it was always with him, he was suave and dignified in 
manner. He did everything with a kingly grace, even this 
unprecedented and most unconstitutional invasion of the 
Chamber in which the elected representatives of the people 
were supposed to sit and deliberate in the closest secrecy. 
He paid them the compliment of coming himself, and he 
was a King, when he might have sent a captain and a com- 
pany of his guards to effect his purpose equally as well. 

As Charles walked up the floor, Lenthall stepped out of 
the Chair to meet him. " By your leave, Mr. Speaker, I 
must borrow your Chair a little," was the King's greeting. 
The inference from most of the histories of the period is that 
His Majesty did not take the Chair, in the sense of actually 
sitting in it. But in the Journals of the House of Commons — 
both in the record of the visit and in the Remonstrance 
which the Commons drew up the next day — it is cate- 


gorically stated that His Majesty " placed himself in the 
Speaker's Chair." The entry in the Journals regardinj^ the 
visit is brief and laconic. " His Majesty came into the 
House and took Mr. Speaker's Chair. Gentlemen, I am 
sorry to have this occasion to come unto you. . . ." ^ 

At the Table below the King sat John Rushworth, the 
Assistant Clerk, who wrote a system of shorthand. On his 
appointment, two years before, Rushworth was prohibited 
from taking notes of the proceedings, except by order of the 
House.2 On this occasion he did take notes, and the King, 
even in the absorbing care of this desperate enterprise, 
noticed with surprise his hieroglyphic writing. That same 
evening the King sent for Rushworth and demanded a 
report of his observations. The Clerk Assistant pointed out 
that it was a breach of privilege to disclose things spoken in 
the House. " To which," says Rushworth, " His Majesty 
smartly replied, ' I do not ask you to tell me what was said 
by any Member of the House, but what I said myself.'" 
Rushworth there and then transcribed his notes of the King's 
speech, and His Majesty had it sent to the Press. 

Charles first apologized for his visit. It was due entirely 
to the disobedience of the House to his command that the 
five members should be delivered up to the Serjeant-at- 
Arms. No King that ever was in England was more careful 
than he of the privileges of the Commons, but they must 
know that in cases of treason no person whatever had a 
privilege. He called over the names of some of the five 
Members. "Is Mr. Pym here?" No answer. "Is Mr. 
Holies here?" Still silence from the upstanding and bare- 
headed Members. Then he turned to the Speaker and 
said, "Are there any of those persons in the House? 
Uo you see any of them ? " Lenthall's reply is famous for 
all time. He showed a measure of courage and resource 
which raised him to the height of a great occasion. " May 
it please Your Majesty," said he, falling on his knees to utter 
the historic words, " I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to 
speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, 

• Commons Journals, vol. 2, p. 368. "^ Ibid., vol. 2, pp. 12, 42. 



whose servant I am here, and I humbly beg Your Majesty's 
pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to 
what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me." ^ This is 
the true voice of the Speaker of the House of Commons. 
The time was gone and for ever when the King could rely 
with confidence upon the Speaker to carry out his behests 
even against the will of the Commons. 

" Well," said the King, good humouredly, " I see all the 
birds are flown." Thus did he leave the House with a joke 
upon his lips. In the lobby a shout from the Chamber 
reached his ears. He stopped for a moment and turned his 
head to listen. " Privilege ! Privilege ! " The indignation 
of the Commons against this daring and outrageous innova- 
tion by the Sovereign, threatening the last vestige of their 
importance and authority, was solemnly kept in check in 
the presence of the King — for he was still " His Most Sacred 
Majesty" — but as soon as he disappeared through the doors 
it swelled forth into those fierce cries of " Privilege ! 
Privilege ! " 

The Civil War was soon to follow. On January 10, 
Charles left Whitehall for the provinces. On the nth, the 
five Commons returned by river from the City to West- 
minster in triumph, amid the cheers of the populace, the 
firing of cannon, the beating of drums, and were welcomed 
by the Speaker as heroes. On the 12th, the House of 
Commons significantly ordered " That another lock be set 
upon the door of the House, and daily care be taken that 
all places thereabouts be safeguarded and set secure." ^ 
About a year later, the Chair in which Charles sat was 
removed, as is indicated by the following curious order, which 
was made by the House on January 3, 1643, "That the 
House be fitted and accommodated with Curtains for the 
Windows and a New Chair, so fitted that it may keep off 
the injury of the extreme Cold Weather from Mr. Speaker 
and the Members that sit near the Chair." 

Lenthall achieved great renown for the discretion and 

^ Rushworth, Historical Collections, Part ni. vol. i, pp. 477-S. 
' Commons Journals, vol. 3, pp. 371-2. 


dignity he displayed in the encounter with the King ; and 
desiring to appropriate to himself something more substantial 
than the mere glitter of this national glory, he informed the 
House that " his strict and long attendance had very much 
hurt him both in body and state." On the recommendation 
of a committee, presided over by Hampden, the House voted 
him a grant of £6000. To this the curious rider was added 
" that ;6^2000 thereof shall be paid as soon as conveniently 
may be." ^ Lenthall was appointed Master of the Rolls 
in 1643 by both Houses of Parliament. 



ANOTHER remarkable scene took place in the House 
of Commons on July 26, 1647. The Chamber was 
invaded by the mob, and in his dealings with them 
Lenthall, who had successfully coped with the King, came 
off second best, for he was not only roughly handled but 
compelled to yield to their behests. 

The apprentices of Westminster and London, fierce and 
relentless enemies of the Monarchy, saw backsliding and 
treachery in the attempt of the Parliament to disband the 
army, and its indecision in pursuing the King to the death. 
So they poured into the Palace of Westminster in a mood 
tempestuous and arrogant. They first went to the House of 
Lords. Eight peers only were present. These the apprentices 
quickly terrified into repealing an ordinance which both 
Houses had passed only a few days before, re-establishing 
parliamentary control over the Militia of London, and into 
sending a message to the Commons requesting their agree- 

' Commons Journals f\o\. 2, pp. 518-19. After the Restoration, Lenthall 
declared that *' he never received the one-half of this grant, nor any part of that 
/"5 per diem which is due to the Speaker as Speaker whilst he so continues " 
(Parliamentary History, vol. 8, p. 68). 


ment with the resolution. The apprentices then surged 
round the closed doors of the House of Commons. They 
would not be put off with the answer sent out to them that 
their petition would be taken into speedy and serious con- 
sideration. For six hours they brawled in the lobbies, shout- 
ing " Vote, Vote," and pounding at the doors. At 8 o'clock 
they forced their way into the Chamber, and pouring tumultu- 
ously across the Bar, with vituperative cries, coerced the 
Members into concurring with the message from the Lords.^ 

The House then adjourned till July 30. As the 
Members were dispersing another whim took possession of 
the mob. They seized Lenthall on his way to his carriage 
and carrying him bodily back into the Chamber, placed him 
in the Chair and compelled him to put a resolution to the 
House and declare it carried, directing that the King, who at 
this time was a prisoner of the Parliamentary Army, should 
be forthwith brought to London for trial. 

When the House of Commons met on the 30th, there 
was no Speaker. Lenthall had fled for protection to the 
headquarters of the Parliamentary Army under the com- 
mand of Fairfax, and with him were the Earl of Manchester, 
Speaker of the House of Lords, and several Members of both 
Chambers. In a statement of the reasons that moved him 
to absent himself from the service of the House, which 
Lenthall had immediately printed and circulated, he stated 
that the mob, as they jostled and pulled him about in the 
lobby on July 26, declared that on the 30th they would 
assemble in larger force, and that after they had made the 
Commons vote as they pleased, they would destroy him.^ 

Accordingly the Commons, or rather the puritanical and 
anti-monarchical remnant, which met at Westminster on 
July 30, 1647, at 8 o'clock in the morning, found them- 
selves without a Speaker. " After long expectation," the 
Journals record, " about noon the Members present desired 
other Members to repair to the Speaker's House," which 

^ Commons Journals, vol. 5, p. 259. 

' A Declaration of William Lenthall, Esq. , Speaker of the Noble Hottse of 
Commons (London, 1647). 


adjoined the Roll's Court in Chancery Lane, and they, on 
their return, reported that the Speaker " was not heard of." 
Cominc^ to the conclusion, evidently, that Lenthall, by 
abandoning the service of the House, had in fact resigned, 
they proceeded to the election of a new Speaker. Their 
choice fell upon Henry Pelham, a lawyer, who sat for the 
borough of Grantham. All the ancient forms were adhered 
to, especially those which appear to modern eyes eccentric 
and affected. The official entry in the Journals is as 
follows : — 

"After prayers, Mr. Henry Pelham was nominated 
Speaker and called to the Chair by general approbation. 
Mr. Pelham, first in his place excused himself for his in- 
abilities for so great a charge, which would not be admitted. 
Sir Anthony Irby and Mr. Richard Lee went to the place 
where Mr. Pelham sat, and, according to custom, took him 
by each arm and conducted him and placed him in the 
Chair. He there again made his earnest excuses, which 
not being admitted, he submitted to the commands of the 
House." 1 

So far so good. But now the distracted Commons found 
themselves in a constitutional difficulty. There was no 
King. Though they had appointed a Speaker without 
having received the customary direction to do so from the 
Throne, they were doubtful of their power to elect him 
absolutely of themselves, and in their desire, even in that 
time of revolution, to do things in the ancient fashion, and 
according to the settled law and order of Parliament so far 
as that was possible in the circumstances, they decided to 
present him to the House of Lords for approbation. The 
Lords had selected Lord Willoughby of Parham as their 
Speaker, and on this particular day he was presiding over 
a conclave of seven other peers, when, as may be read in the 
Journals of the House of Lords, a message was brought from 
the House of Commons by Sir Robert Harley "to desire 
their Lordships would please to sit awhile, for they had an 
intention to come and present their Speaker to their Lord- 

' Commons Journals, vol. 5, p. 259. 


ships." The answer returned was " that this House will sit 
awhile as is desired." The Lords retired for a few minutes 
to put on their robes, and then " the House of Commons 
came up " and presented Pelham with all the old ceremony. 
Here is the official record of the interesting occasion : — 

" The House of Commons came up. And Henry Pelham, 
Esquire, made a short speech to this effect : ' That the 
knights, citizens, and burgesses, being in present want of a 
Speaker, had made choice of so bad a Speaker as himself; 
and had commanded him to acquaint their Lordships with 
such their bad choice.' Then the Speaker (Lord Willoughby) 
returned this answer : 'That this House very well approves 
of the choice of the House of Commons ; he being a person 
of such abilities, integrity, and faithfulness to the Parliament.' 
Hereupon the Commons, with their Speaker, returned to 
their own House." ^ 

The Speakership of Pelham ended abruptly within a 

On August 6th, Lenthall and the Commons and Lords 
who had fled with him were escorted by Fairfax and the 
Army to Westminster, and the proceedings of both Houses 
on July 26, and all " Acts, Orders, and Ordinances made or 
pretended to be made " in their absence, were declared null 
and void.2 



THE question is " Many were the momentous 
decisions which, preceded by this formal phrase, 
Lenthall put from the Chair. None was more 
stupendous than the question of the appointment of a 
Judicial Commission to try Charles I. on a charge of high 
treason against the people of England. 

^ Lords Journals, vol. 9, p. 358. 

' Commons Journals, vol. 5, pp. 268, 280. 


There can be little doubt that Lenthall performed with 
reluctance his part as Speaker in the proceedings which 
ended in the execution of the King at Whitehall on January 
30, 1649, ^^^^ that it weighed heavily on his conscience to 
the end. In a tract called " Speaker Lenthall, his Deathbed 
Repentance," written in September 1662, there is an account 
of his last hours by the clergyman who attended him, Dr. 
Bredock, afterwards Bishop of Chichester. Lenthall declared 
that no excuse could be made for his having put the question 
for the trial of Charles I., but it was consoling to him to know 
that he had the pardon of King Charles II., and he hoped 
Almighty God would show him mercy also. "Yet, sir," he 
added, " even then, when I put the question, I hoped the 
very putting the question would have cleared him, for I 
believed Four for One were against it, but they deceived me 
also." He went on to explain why, in the circumstances, he 
did not resign, but continued to act as Speaker. " I make the 
candid confession," said he, " that it was my own baseness 
and cowardice and unworthy fear to submit my life and 
state to the mercy of those men that murther'd the King 
that hurried me on against my own conscience to act with 
them. Yet then I thought also I might do some good, and 
hinder some ill." ^ 

Soon after they had beheaded the King, the Commons 
abolished the House of Lords. In May 1649 an Act was 
passed declaring England to be a " Free Commonwealth," 
governed by the elected representatives of the people in 
Parliament assembled without the intervention of Sovereign 
or peers. The Speaker of the Mouse of Commons was now 
supposed to be the greatest man in the country. At least 
he took the place of the King as the symbol or head of the 
nation. The Corporation of the City of London entertained 
the Commons at a banquet in the Guildhall on June 7, 1649, 
in thanksgiving for the establishment of the sovereignty of 
the people, whereat Lenthall was received with the honours 
accorded before only to the Sovereign. The Lord Mayor 

' Memoirs of tlu Two Last Years 0/ the Kcign of King Charles 1. (1702), 


surrendered his sword to the Speaker, and had it graciously 

Yet the most powerful personage in the country was not 
William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, but 
Oliver Cromwell, Captain-General of the Army. In 1653 
the Commons and Cromwell were at variance. The 
Commons, indeed, were but the " Rump," or those Members 
who survived " Pride's Purge," which was administered on 
December 6, 1648, and had become a mere clique of 
crotcheters and talkers. On April 20, 1653, as they were 
discussing a Bill for the constitution and election of a new 
representative Assembly, Lenthall being in the Chair, Crom- 
well came in, wearing plain black clothes with grey worsted 
stockings, and sat and listened to the debate. But when the 
Speaker rose and put the question, " That this Bill do pass," 
he sprang to his feet and contemptuously putting on his hat 
strode up and down the floor, rating the House for their 
neglect of the public good and their desire only to perpetuate 
themselves in power. From this general attack he proceeded 
to revile individual Members as whoremasters and drunkards. 
Sir Peter Wentworth ventured to rise in protest. Such 
language, he said, was most unbecoming from the servant 
whom the House had so highly trusted and honoured. 
" Come, come ! I will put an end to your prating," cried 
Cromwell. " You are no Parliament. I say you are no 
Parliament. I will put an end to your sitting." At his 
word, Thomas Harrison called in the guard, and thirty or 
forty musketeers tramped into the Chamber. 

Lenthall's conduct was manly and dignified. He refused 
to leave the Chair. Cromwell directed Harrison to bring 
him down. One contemporary description says that Harri- 
son caught the Speaker by the gown and roughly pulled 
him out of the Chair.^ But Harrison in an account, which 
he furnished in 1660, when, after the Restoration, he was 
sentenced to death for his part in the execution of Charles I., 
denies that he used any compulsion. " I went to the Speaker," 
he says, and told him, " Sir, seeing things are brought 

* Commons Joufiiais, vol. 6, p. 222. - Blencome, Sydney Papers, 140. 


to this pass, it is not requisite for you to stay there. He 
answered he would not come down unless he was pulled out. 
Sir, said I, I will lend you my hand ; and he, putting his 
hand in mine, came down without any pulling, so that I did 
not pull him." ^ 

There remained the Mace. Cromwell's eye fell upon it as 
it lay at the end of the Table. He was in a most irreverent 
and sardonic humour. The emblem of the Speaker's authority 
reminded him of the jester's staff with bells. " What shall 
we do with this bauble?" he first asked. Then he quickly 
answered the question himself by turning to the Captain of 
the Musketeers and saying, " Here, take it away ! " He 
also got the Bill of Elections from the Clerk. Finally, he 
saw that the doors of the Chamber were locked. That even- 
ing some wit scribbled on the doors — " This House to be let 
unfurnished." Cromwell himself said that after he had thus 
dispersed the House of Commons by force not a dog barked. 
Then began the absolute military dictatorship of Crom- 
well. On his summons a House of Commons, not elected 
but nominated by himself, met at St. Stephens on July 5, 
1653. This is known as " Barebone's Parliament" — so called 
after the religious fanatic, " Praise-God Barebones," a leather- 
seller in London, and a shining light of the Assembly. The 
Speaker selected was Francis Rous, a lawyer, but more 
interested in theology, who had been nominated to represent 
Devonshire.^ The election was totally divested of all cere- 
mony. There was a sweeping departure from the usage 
which even then had been ancient. It was resolved "That 
Francis Rous, Esquire, he called to the Chair," just as formal 
a matter as the appointment of a chairman of a public 
meeting is in these days. Rous did not disable himself. 
He made no protestation of his unsuitability for the post. 
Nor did he need to be conducted to the Chair by two 
sponsors. He took it without any ado. The Commons on 
their part did not think it necessary to submit their choice 

* Lives and Speeches of those Persons lately executed, 9 (1661). 
' Rous was appointed Provost of Eton College, and dying in 165S, was 
buried in the Chapel of the College. 


to the approbation of any one, not even Cromwell, being 
content, no doubt, with the knowledge that Rous was in 
fact the nominee of the Captain-General. Yet they had the 
same distrust and jealousy of the Speaker as was entertained 
by their forefathers who sat under Kings. They decided 
that the term of office should be only a month. Rous there- 
fore was re-elected every four weeks. They also decided on 
July 6 to drop the name of "Assembly" for that of 
" Parliament," and they recovered the Mace from the 

It was inevitable that such a Parliament, composed as it 
was of fanatical and turbulent men, should have a short life, as 
well as an exciting and emotional one. Soon they came into 
collision with the Captain-General, or rather with the " Lord 
Protector," which they themselves decided should be his title. 
Cromwell was unwilling to dissolve by force another Parlia- 
ment in so short a time, and he found in the Speaker as 
ready an instrument to effect his purpose as if he were a 
King. On December 12, 1653, it was proposed that the 
House should deliver up to the Lord Protector the powers 
it had received from him. Rous did not put the question, 
for he had reason to believe it would be defeated. 
Acting with that wild and untutored freedom which 
Speakers gave themselves at this time, at the call of circum- 
stances, he hastily quitted the Chair, and attended by the 
Serjeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace, and followed by about 
forty Members, proceeded to the Palace of Whitehall, and 
there, on behalf of the House, resigned its commission into 
the hands of Cromwell." 

^ ParJiatncnta)-)) IIisto>y, vol, 3, p. 1410. 

- Gardiner, History of the Covimon-vealth and Protectorate, vol. 2, pp. 279- 





CROMWELL summoned his first Parliament in 1654. 
Consisting of a single Chamber of 400 Members, 
— including 30 from Scotland and 30 from Ireland, 
— it met on September 4, and was opened by the Lord 
Protector with almost all the ancient regal pageant. There 
was first of all a service and sermon in Westminster 
Abbey, after which the opening ceremony took place 
in the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. 
Cromwell occupied a Chair of State raised on a platform, 
while the Commons sat bareheaded on benches around him. 
He explained the grounds of their being called together, and 
ended a long speech with those words : " I desire you to 
repair to your House and to exercise your own liberty in 
the choice of a Speaker, that so you may lose no time in 
carrying on your work."^ 

Lenthall was not in the nominated, or " Barcbone's " 
Parliament. He was returned both by the City of Gloucester 
and the county of Oxford to the first Parliament of the 
Protectorate, and he elected to sit for the latter constituency. 
On the recommendation of Cromwell he was unanimously 
voted to the Chair. The brief record in t\\Q Journals simply 
states " That Mr. Lenthall, Master of the Rolls, was called 
to the Chair as Speaker," - and, as in the case of Rous, there 
was no presentation to Cromwell for approbation. 

This Parliament was dissolved on January 22, 1655. 
Lenthall was again returned for the county of Oxford in 
the second Parliament of the Protectorate, which was opened 
by Cromwell on September 17, 1656. But Sir Thomas 
Widdrington, a lawyer, who represented Northumberland, 
was chosen Speaker on the motion of Lord Commissioner 
Lisle. The election was marked by some return to the 
traditional procedure. 

' Parliamentaty History, v<j1. 3, p. 1134. - Commons Jouitia Is, vol. 7. p. 365. 


Widdrington pleaded his unworthiness, and asked the 
House to think of some one more fitted for the post. But 
the reply of the House was a general call " to the Chair," and 
Widdrington thereupon submitted himself to be led to the 
Chair by the Lord Commissioners Lisle and Fiennes, " As 
it was their love that called him to the service," said he from 
the Chair, " so if he did err therein, as he was of all men 
most apt to do, the same love would pardon it." ^ 

Nevertheless this Parliament did not look upon the 
Speaker as an inviolable personality, like a King or priest, 
anointed with the sacred oil, who continued Speaker, whatever 
happened, until the Dissolution, for when Widdrington got 
indisposed they did not adjourn until his recovery, but 
promptly elected another to fill the Chair. On January 27, 
1657, Widdrington attended, but felt so ill that he had 
immediately to leave. It was at once moved and agreed to 
that Lord Commissioner Whitelocke should preside so long as 
Widdrington's indisposition lasted. Whitelocke was accord- 
ingly conducted to the Chair in the ancient fashion by two 
Members. " And being there set," the Journals say, " desired, 
since the House was pleased to command his services in 
that place on this occasion, that the House should be 
pleased to construe with all candour his words and actions 
therein, and that they will give him a freedom of minding 
them and keeping them to the Orders of the House, for the 
service and honour of the House." The House then resolved 
" That these ceremonies and respects that were used to 
the former Speaker shall be used to the present Speaker, and 
that he have the profits due to the Speaker." ^ 

Widdrington was absent for three weeks. On his return, 
February 1 8, a resolution was passed " That the Lord 
Whitelock have the thanks of the House for his great and 
faithful service to the business of the House as Speaker, 
during the absence of the present Speaker."-^ 

It appears as if Whitelocke got no "profit" out of his 
"great and faithful service." On February 13 a question 

^ Commons Journals, vol. 7, p. 423. ^ Ibid., vol. 7, pp. 482-3. 

^ Ibid., vol. 7, p. 493, 


arose as to which of the two Speakers the fees of five pounds 
on each private liill — then the most valuable perquisite of 
the Chair — were to be paid ; and it was decided that if 
Widdrington did not return by a certain date the money 
should go to Whitclocke. By that date Widdrington was 
back in the Chair. The fees were accordingly lost to 
Whitelocke. " At the hazard of his life his old colleague, 
though very feeble still," we are told, " did come back, since 
the collective fees proved much too strong a temptation."^ 

Oliver Cromwell died on September 3, 1658, and was 
succeeded by his son Richard as Lord Protector. In the 
two years which followed before the Restoration of Charles II. 
there were as many as four Parliaments and seven Speakers. 
Richard Cromwell summoned a Parliament which met on 
January 27, 1659. Chaloner Chute, a lawyer of distinction, 
and one of the knights of the shire for Middlesex, was chosen 
Speaker. The part played by the Clerk in the election of 
the Speaker, and the moment when the Mace is produced, 
are on this occasion recorded for the first time in the 
Journals. It is stated that the Clerk sat in his place as 
director during the ceremony, and that not until the 
election was completed was the Mace laid upon the 

Chute fell ill, and on March 9, 1659, begged that he 
might be totally discharged from his office as Speaker, or 
else be allowed a long respite from its service. The House 
decided to give him leave of absence. " Whereupon, by 
leave of the House," it is written, "he left the Chair, and 
went home to his own house, and the Serjeant attended him 
with the Mace out of the House, and to his coach, and 
afterwards brought the Mace back and placed it below, 
under the Table." ^ Sir Lislebone Long, Recorder of 
London, and Member for the City of W\'lls — one of Oliver 
Cromwell's knights — was thereupon chosen by the House to 
" supply the Speaker's place during his absence, occasioned 
by his present indisposition of health and no longer," say 

' Memoirs of Biihlrodc Whitclocke, 420. 

^ Commons Journals t vol. 7, p. 594, * Ihid.^ vol. 7, p. 612. 


the Journals. Long may therefore be described as " Deputy 
Speaker," though the title was not given to him. 

Long himself was forced by sickness to retire from the 
Chair five days later, and died the next day. Chute survived 
for another month, but did not return to the House of 
Commons. Thomas Bampfylde, Recorder of Exeter, and 
the representative of that city in the House of Commons, 
was appointed to take Long's place as Speaker pi'o tempore 
on March 16, and on April 15 — the day after Chute's death 
— he was elected Speaker. Just a week later Richard 
Cromwell was compelled by the Army to dissolve the 

William Lenthall reappeared once more on the scene 
of his strange vicissitudes as Speaker. Richard Cromwell 
threw up the post of Lord Protector ; and the Army 
decided to send a deputation to Lenthall with the request 
that he would return to his post, and assist in the 
restoration of the " Rump " of the Long Parliament. 
Lenthall at first hesitated. He pleaded that age and 
feebleness unfitted him for long sittings in the Chair. 
Moreover, he was disposed to think that the Long 
Parliament was not legally in existence, having been 
brought to an end by the death of Charles I., according 
to the law of the Constitution. However, he yielded, and 
on May 7, 1659, headed a procession of forty-two of the 
old Members into St. Stephens and took the Chair as 
Speaker. He had further strange experiences. This 
Parliament was dispersed by the " Committee of Safety," 
and after two months was restored on December 26, 1659. 
On January 13, 1660, Lenthall acquainted the House that 
he was suffering from an attack of gout, and asked " that 
he might have liberty, for his health's sake, to retire himself 
for ten days." ^ It is believed that distress of mind, rather 
than of body, was Lenthall's disorder. Being now convinced 
of the coming restoration of the Monarchy, and, indeed, 
heartily desiring it, he absented himself so as to avoid any 
responsibility for the Bill by which the Republican Party 

' Com/nor. s Journals, vol. 7, p. 811, 


sought to impose upon the Members of the House of 
Commons an oath abjuring the House of Stuart. William 
Say, one of the regicides who signed the death-warrant of 
Charles II., was chosen to act as " Speaker /rt? tempore" 
during Lenthall's absence.^ He was a lawyer, and repre- 
sented the Cornish borough of Camelford. 

Lenthall came back on January 21. On February 13 
the excluded Members of the Long Parliament were re- 
admitted to the House of Commons by General Monk, now 
head of the Army and the leader of the popular movement 
for free and constitutional Parliaments, and on March 16 
the Long Parliament declared itself dissolved after a 
chequered existence of close on twenty years. 



THE " Convention Parliament," which, under the 
dominating influence of Monk, was to decree the 
restoration of Charles II., assembled on April 25, 
1660. Lenthall failed to get re-elected for Oxford- 
shire, though pressing letters in his interest were 
addressed to the electors by Monk. The Speaker chosen 
was Sir Harbottle Grimston, a member of an old Essex 
family, and a lawyer, who represented Colchester. He was 
conducted to the Chair by Monk, who sat in the House 
as one of the knights of the shire for his native Devon. 

Charles II. came back from his exile. On May 29, 1660, 
both Houses of Parliament waited upon him at the Palace 
of Whitehall with congratulations on his return to his 
dominions. The Lords were first received. At 7 o'clock 
in the evening the Commons, headed by the Speaker, 
walked barehead from St. Stephens to the Palace. In the 
Banqueting Hall the Speaker, preceded by the Serjcant- 

' Commons Journals, vol. 7, p. Si I. 


at-Arms, carrying the Mace "turned downwards" and 
followed by the Members, went to the foot of the Throne 
and delivered an oration to the King.^ " Most gracious and 
dread Sovereign," he began, " if all the reason and eloquence 
that is dispersed in so many several heads and tongues as 
are in the whole world were conveyed into my brain and 
united in my tongue, yet I should want sufficiency to 
discharge that great task I am now enjoined." Then he 
proceeded to praise the King in the old traditionary terms, 
at once verbose and ponderous, fulsome and servile, and 
finally, going on his knees, declared that he had a Petition 
of Right to which he begged the Royal Assent. 

" Sir," said he, " it had already passed two great Houses 
— Heaven and Earth — and I have Vox Populi and Vox Dei 
to warrant this bold demand. It is, that Your Majesty would 
be pleased to remove your Throne of State and set it up in 
the hearts of your people ; and, as you are deservedly the 
King of hearts, there to receive from your people a crown 
of hearts. Sir, this crown had three excellent and rare 
properties — it is a sweet crown, it is a fast crown, and it is 
a lasting crown. It is a sweet crown, for it is perfumed 
with nothing but the incense of prayers and praises. It is 
a fast crown, for it is set upon your royal head by Him 
who only hath the power of hearts, the King of kings. 
And it is a lasting crown. Your Majesty can never wear it 
out, for the longer you wear this crown it will be the better 
for the wearing ; and it is the hearty desires and most earnest 
prayers of all your loyal, loving, and faithful subjects that 
you may never change that crown till you change it for a 
better, a crown of eternal glory in the highest heavens, and 
the Lord say. Amen." ^ 

During the popular rejoicings Lenthall had fallen into 
the background. His sole desire now was to remain in 
obscurity. But soon he was sought out by those in authority, 
not with liking and appreciation, but with the rage and 
violence with which all who had in any way participated 

' Commons Journals, vol. 8, p. 49. 

- Parliamentary Htsto}y,\o\, 4, pp. 56-8. 


in the death of Charles I. were pursued to death, to exile, 
to ruin, with disgrace and infamy. The House of Commons 
of the Convention Parliament, in June 1660, included 
Lcnthall among the twenty persons whose rank offences 
must be expiated by the sacrifice of their lives ; but the 
House of Lords, moved by Monk's intercession on account 
of his services in forwarding the Restoration, reduced the 
penalty to deprivation of his office of Master of the Rolls. 

Lenthall was decidedly unheroic. He was not base, for 
it cannot be said he prostituted his office to serve his own 
private and selfish aims and ambitions, but there was one 
act by which he demeaned himself, and cast a stain on the 
Speakership. He appeared as a witness at the trial of 
the regicides, and testified to compromising words spoken 
by one of the prisoners in the House of Commons during 
his tenure of the Chair. This was Thomas Scot, who on 
the eve of the Dissolution of the Long Parliament made 
a speech in which he said he desired no better epitaph than 
this — " Here lies one who had a hand and a heart in the 
execution of Charles Stuart." At the trial Scot pleaded 
that the words were covered by the privilege of Parliament, 
but the plea was set aside. Among those called to prove 
they had been spoken was Lcnthall. He contented himself 
with deposing that Scot had justified the death of the 
King. " I confess to you, upon my oath," said he, " touching 
his speech of the inscription upon his tomb, I did not 
hear that. Justifying the death of the King he made a long 
harangue about, and he sate at the upper end of the 
gallery, but these words of having it written upon his 
tomb, and to have all the world take notice of it, I do not 
remember."^ Lenthall was obviously a reluctant witness; 
but in giving evidence at all he violated his historic declara- 
tion that " he had neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak " 
in regard to things said and done in the House of Commons. 
I le died in 1662. 

The second I'arliament of Charles II., though the first 
actually elected in his reign, met on May 8, 1661. Sir 

' :S(alc Trials, vol. 5, p. 1003. 


Edward Turnour, who represented the shire of Hertford, was 
chosen Speaker. In him the long succession of lawyers, un- 
broken amid all the changes of the fall of the Monarchy and 
the rise of the Protectorate on its ruins, was continued by 
the restored King. He was proposed by Sir Charles 
Berkeley, Comptroller of the Household,^ showing that 
with the Restoration the old intimate relations between 
the Crown and the Chair were revived. The Speakership 
was again in the gift of the King. 

The long and austere years of puritanical, democratic, 
and republican influences through which the country had 
just passed, did not in the least diminish or chasten the 
hyperbole of the Speaker's address to the King at the Bar 
of the House of Lords. Indeed, Turnour was as skilful 
and absurd as any of his predecessors in the weaving of the 
flowery garnishment of his oration. In the sentimental 
pleading to the King to discharge him as one unfit for so 
weighty an employment, he introduced, however, an original 
and fresh simile. 

" Your Majesty well knows," said he, " when a ship puts 
forth to sea she should be provided with mariners of all sorts. 
In case a storm doth rise, some must trim and lower the 
sails, some must watch aloft the decks, some must work at 
the pump, but he had need be a very good seaman that is 
the pilot. Sir, I hope I may be useful to this your sovereign 
vessel in some of these inferior places, but I dare not under- 
take to be their steersman. I do most humbly therefore 
beseech Your Majesty that you will not take us at our first 
word. Our second thoughts are best. Pray, therefore, be 
pleased to command the Members of the House of Commons 
to return to their House to recollect themselves, and to 
present Your Majesty with a better choice." 

The spectacle of the King on his Throne, surrounded 
by Lords and Commons, after a lapse of twenty years, seems 
to have dazzled the Speaker and lifted him to the topmost 
regions of ecstatic emotion and rapture. " Sir," he cried, in 
his transports, " a weak head is soon giddy, but the strongest 

' Cointnons Journals, vol. 8, p. 245. 


brain may here be turned. The presence of this glory and 
the glory of this presence do transport me. Whilst I con- 
template the incomparable beauty of this body politic, and 
the goodly order of this High Court of Parliament, where 
at once I behold all the glory of this nation, I am almost 
in the condition of St. Paul when he was taken up into the 
third Heaven. All he could say upon his return was, ' he 
saw things unutterable.' " As he proceeded he became more 
lyrical, and ended appropriately with this rhapsodical burst : 
"If the affections of all Englishmen can make you happy, 
if the riches of this nation can make you great, if the strength 
of this warlike people can make you considerable at home 
and abroad, be assured you are the greatest monarch in the 
world. Give me leave, I beseech you, to double my words 
and say it again. I wish my voice could reach to Spain and 
the Indies too. — You are the greatest monarch in the world." ^ 

Turnour was well rewarded by the Crown for his services 
in the Chair. In December 1663 he was paid ^2000; in 
July 1664, ^5000; and in September 1671, ;if4000, as free 
gifts,^ and therefore presumably in addition to the usual fees 
and allowances of the Speaker. In May 1670, while still 
Speaker, he was made Solicitor-General. He was appointed 
Chief Baron of the Exchequer in May 1671, and thereupon 
resigned the Speakership. 

On the nomination of Sir William Coventry, Secretary of 
State, Sir Job Charlton, the son of a London goldsmith, 
and a lawyer, who sat for Ludlow, was chosen to succeed 
Turnour in the Chair on February 4, 1672. He discharged 
the duties of the office for ten days only. On February 1 5, he 
was so indisposed that as soon as he took the Chair the House 
had to adjourn. It met again on the i8th, when the following 
letter, which he wrote that morning, was read by the Clerk : — 

" Honourable Gentlemen, I am in duty forced to move 
)'ou that you would, with His Majesty's leave, proceed to the 
choice of another Speaker, and permit me to retire into the 

■ rarliainentary History, vol. 4, pp. 200-5. 

"^ National Dictionary of Biography, ^ Commons Jouniah, vol. 9, p. 253. 


Charlton had also sent a letter to the King, praying his 
Majesty to move the Commons "to permit him to retire 
into the country, and to give them leave to choose another 
Speaker," and the King's permission having been intimated, 
the House immediately proceeded to fill the vacant Chair. 
Edward Seymour, Member for Totnes, was selected, on 
the motion of Mr. Secretary Coventry, as a fit person " both 
in respect of his ability and experience, as also of his 
constitution and health of body,"^ say the Journals^ thus 
for the first time officially recording the reasons for the 
choice of a Speaker. 



THE Speakership of Seymour is conspicuous in the 
annals of the Chair. He belonged to an old and 
powerful family, of which Jane Seymour, wife of 
Henry VIII. and mother of Edward VI., and her brother, the 
Duke of Somerset, were members, and he was perhaps the 
haughtiest and most arrogant man that has ever presided 
over the House of Commons. He was Treasurer of the 
Navy, with a salary of ^3000 a year, and this office he 
retained during his tenure of the Speakership. But he was 
not bred to the law, and therefore his appointment broke 
the rule which had lasted for one hundred and fifty years, 
that none but lawyers should be called to the Chair. 

In 1673 the King made him a Privy Councillor. The 
independent Members of the House and the Country Party 
looked on the appointment with disfavour. The holding 
of such an office was, in their view, incompatible with the 
independence of the Speaker in his communications with 
the Crown as the mouth of the House. An interesting and 
instructive debate on the question took place on October 
27, 1673. That distinguished parliamentarian. Sir Thomas 
^ ComtnoHS Journals, vol. 9, p. 253. 


Littleton, pointed out that as Privy Councillor the Speaker 
would be admitted to the most secret conclaves of the King. 
"And how improper is that," he exclaimed, "we having 
no man to present our grievances but you." He added, 
addressing the proud and hot-tempered Speaker, "You 
are too big for that Chair and for us, and you that are 
one of the governors of the world to be our servant is 
incongruous." Sir Thomas Clarges enlarged on the point 
that the Speaker was entrusted with all their secrets. "In 
your predecessors' times," said he, " no Speaker had liberty 
to go to Court without leave." 

On the other hand, it was insisted by the courtiers that 
several Speakers had been of the Privy Council, and that it 
was of advantage to the Commons to have their mouth so 
close to the ear of the King. But the contrary view found 
most expression in the debate. " With you a Privy Councillor 
and so near the King," said Powle, " your frowns may be a 
terror to any man that shall speak how the Council have 
misled the King and given him advice to overtop us." A 
new charge was brought against Seymour by Mr. William 
Harbord, a severely virtuous Puritan. It was that " in resort- 
ing to gaming-houses and other evil places" the Speaker 
exposed the House to dishonour. But Colonel Strangeways 
thought nothing the worse of the Speaker for being a 
gamester. " I wish men were guilty of no greater crime," 
said he. " The Judges may as well be accepted against." 
Finally, Seymour assured the House that " he held no 
employment a greater honour to him than that which he had 
in their service," and the motion of censure was negatived.^ 

Seymour was a strong Speaker, but he was feared rather 
than loved, and respected more than esteemed. At this time 
it was the duty of the Speaker to frame the motion or question 
out of a debate or discussion which was to be put from the 
Chair for the decision of the House; and Bishop Burnet 
gives a curious in.stance of Seymour's skill and subserviency 
in turning this duty to the interest of the Court party. 
" He knew the House and every man in it so well," says the 
' Grey's Debates, vol. 2, pp. 186-S. 


historian, " that by looking about him he could tell the fate 
of any question." If necessary he would wilfully mistake 
the question in order to cause delay, and thus give time 
to the Court party to gather their supporters, and only when 
he saw there was a sufficient number present to carry or 
defeat the motion — as the case might be — would he put it 
correctly from the Chair.^ 

As was to be expected in so proud a man, he went to the 
extreme in upholding the high dignity and importance of 
his position. One day as he was driving to the House of 
Commons, attended by his retinue of servants, his carriage 
broke down at Charing Cross, and at once he ordered his 
beadles to stop the first gentleman's coach they met and 
bring it to him so that he might continue his journey. The 
owner of the coach not unreasonably protested against being 
ejected by force. " Sir," was Seymour's impudent retort, " it 
is more proper for you to walk in the streets than the Speaker 
of the House of Commons." 



THE disputed question whether the King had power to 
adjourn the House of Commons without the consent 
of its Members, which had placed Sir John Finch in 
a position of extreme embarrassment in 1629, arose again in 
1677. But however Seymour may have felt its unpleasant- 
ness as Speaker on account of the temper it aroused in the 
House, he had no misgivings as to the way he should cope 
with it. He was without sympathy with the Party who, with 
no less wisdom than courage, was endeavouring to free the 
House of its bondage to the Crown, and accordingly in the 
struggle he, like Finch, was wholly on the side of the King. 
The Commons were opposed to the alliance with France, 
^ Burnet, History of His Own Time, vol. 2, pp. 70-1 (1S13 edition). 


on which Charles II. had set his heart, and urged instead a 
league offensive and defensive with Holland. On May 28, 
1677, they received a message from the King summoning 
them to his presence. A few Members hurriedly quitted 
their seats and rushed for the door, with the very human 
desire to secure good positions at the Palace of Whitehall, 
but greatly to the scandal of the courtly Speaker. " The 
burgesses of Newcastle and Leicester," said he, in a stern 
reprimand, "are in great haste to be gone before the King's 
message is reported, as if they want to get places at a 
show or a play."^ At Whitehall the Commons were told 
by the King that their action was an intolerable entrench- 
ment upon his prerogative, and to give them time for cool 
reflection he directed that Parliament should be adjourned 
until July 16. 

On the return of the Commons to St. Stephens the 
Speaker made the customary report of the King's command. 
Henry Powle at once stood up, but Seymour interposed 
before he could say anything. " I must hear no man speak 
now that the King's pleasure of adjourning the House is 
signified," said the Speaker peremptorily. Nevertheless a 
discussion took place. The speeches and proceedings which 
followed show the maturing and strengthening of the feeling 
of antagonism to the subservience of the Chair to the Crown, 
and to the Speaker's domination in the interest not of the 
privileges of the Members, but of the King's prerogative, and 
with it the determination to teach the Speaker that he was, 
above and beyond everything else, the servant of the House. 
" The act of adjourning the House cannot be yours, Mr, 
Speaker, but the act of the House," said Sir Thomas Lee, "and 
no question can be put when a gentleman stands up to speak." 
He added severely : " Pray let us keep methods, however." 
But the Speaker was unshaken and decisive. " When there 
is a command from the King to adjourn, we are not to 
dispute about it, but to obey and adjourn," said he. " After 
a command of this kind there remains nothing for you to do 
but to execute it." Realizing the strength and determination 
' Grey's Debates, vol. 4, p. 389. 


of the Independent Members to resist, Seymour quickly 
declared the House to be adjourned until July 16, without 
putting the question ; and hurriedly left the Chair.^ 

Sir John Reresby, who was a Member at the time, says in 
his Memoirs, that Seymour's action was without precedent, 
and greatly discomposed the House. " Some," he writes, 
" were offering to hold the Speaker in the Chair, but he leapt 
from it very nimbly " ; and he adds that Seymour was in fear 
that " mutinous speeches " would be delivered had he put the 
question for adjournment.^ As the Independent Members 
were too late to detain Seymour by force, they attempted 
to secure the Mace,'with a view to putting some one else 
in the Chair. But the retainers of the Court formed a guard 
round the Serjeant-at-Arms, and the Speaker went away 
amid shouts of reproaches and threats that, like Finch, he 
would be called to account. 

The Independents, however, were quite powerless. On 
July 16, when the House again met, it was known that the 
King had commanded a further adjournment until December 3. 
Before the announcement was officially made, Lord Cavendish 
moved that the House might see from the Journals by what 
order and in what method they were adjourned last, and the 
motion was seconded by William Williams. " But," says 
Anchitell Grey, " some cried out Adjourn, Adjourn ; others 
called Question ! But the Speaker told them ' that he had 
received orders from the King, by Mr. Secretary Coventry, 
to adjourn the House till December 3, and pronounced the 
House adjourned accordingly.'"^ 

On December 3 the King commanded an adjournment 
to January 15, 1678, and again the Speaker at once 
adjourned the House without question put. On January 
15 there was a command from the King to adjourn to 
January 28. Several Members rose to speak, but the Speaker 
refused to hear them, and left the Chair. 

In truth, usage, custom, authority were ranged against 

' Greys Debates, vol. 4, p. 390. 

^ The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby (edited by J. J. Cartwiight, 1S75), 118. 

' Grey^s Debates, vol. 4, pp. 390-1, 


the Independents. Seymour's action was by no means what 
they represented it to be — a gross instance of the presumption 
of a domineering Speaker. Seymour was undoubtedly a 
stout adherent of the King, and His Majesty's most obedient 
servant ; but his conduct had behind it the rules of the House, 
or rather tlie constitutional practice of generations. More- 
over, the Commons would have acted without authority had 
they put another in the Chair on the occasion when Seymour 
so nimbly sprang out of it. As Hatsell, writing in the middle 
of the eighteenth century, points out, a direction from the 
Sovereign was then regarded as " essentially necessary " to 
enable the Commons to proceed to elect a Speaker, — the 
precedents of the Civil War notwithstanding, — and therefore, 
a motion to appoint another in Seymour's place, even pro 
tempore, would have been " highly irregular." ^ 

The subject was renewed when the Parliament met 
again on January 28, 1678. The Commons postponed 
even the consideration of the Speech delivered by the King 
at the opening of the Parliament, until they discussed what 
appeared to them to be the more urgent and important 
question of the irregular adjournments of the House by the 

William Sacheverell, the renowned Parliamentary orator, 
opened the debate. He said it seemed as if the Speaker 
undertook to be bigger than the House, for he dared to 
violate its rights solely on his own authority. These rights, 
he contended, were secured by two rules of the House. 
" That it is the Standing Order and undoubted right of the 
House," said one, " that the House be not adjourned by the 
Speaker, but by the Consent of the House, and not by the 
Speaker only." " That when a gentleman stands up to 
speak," said the other, " the person is not to be silenced 
unless the House overrule him." What seems in the 
circumstances to be a complete answer to this argument, 
was supplied by Sir Charles Wheeler. " When the King 
sends to adjourn," said he, "the question is between the 
King and us, and not between the Speaker and us." 
' Ilalsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 219 (1818 edition.) 


Sir William Coventry, Secretary for State, interposed to 
deplore the extreme danger to the country of delaying 
public business when a war with France was imminent. 
" I vow to God," he cried, in an odd expression, " though I 
hate murder, yet I had rather be guilty of twenty murders 
than hinder our proceedings now." He therefore humbly 
moved that the debate be laid aside. But the talk went on. 
" It is in vain to think of conquests abroad, when we lose 
our liberty at home," said Powle. " By the same reason 
that you adjourn the House, Mr. Speaker, you may put any 
question." Seymour had his reply ready. He had but 
acted strictly according to the orders. " In all the Journals" 
said he, " I cannot find that when the King commanded an 
immediate adjournment, the House proceeded in one tittle of 

The debate was adjourned until February 9, when it 
ended with curious inconclusiveness. The House was then 
adjourned on a division by 131 to 121, but not the debate, 
and no question was passed upon the matter of the debate.^ 

On the reassembling of the Commons, on April 11, 
1678, after a short Easter recess, it was announced that 
Seymour was ill at his house in the country. Being unable 
to write, he sent a message. It does not appear that he 
actually tendered his resignation. " So soon as it should 
please God to restore him," said his uncle, Henry Seymour, 
" he would return to their service." 

The King, however, directed that a new Speaker should be 
appointed. " His Majesty had received advertisement," said 
Mr. Secretary Coventry, "that Mr. Speaker does labour 
under so great an indisposition of health that he cannot 
possibly for a long time attend the service of the House, and 
to the end that public affairs may receive no delay His Majesty 
did give leave to the House to choose a new Speaker." ^ 

Accordingly, Coventry named Sir Robert Sawyer, 
Member for Chipping Wycombe, as Seymour's successor. 

' Grey's Debates, vol. 4, pp. 1-17. 

* Commons Journals, vol. 9, p. 436 ; Grey's Debates, vol. 5, pp. 122-44. 
' Commons Journals, vol. 9, p. 463. 


There was a contest, the first for the Chair on record. Who 
was proposed in opposition to Sawyer, and why, are questions 
which are left unanswered. But it is evident from the 
Journals that a second Member was nominated, though his 
name is not given. Then a difficulty arose. Who should 
put the question in these novel circumstances? It is stated 
that a precedent was produced out of the Jourjial of the 
Parliament of James I., showing that in a like case the 
question was put by the Clerk.^ 

Goldesbrough, the Clerk, however, seemed fearful of 
acting unconstitutionally. He pointed out that the Mace 
was not in the House, and " he did humbly leave it to their 
consideration " whether the business could regularly be done 
without the Mace. After some debate the Serjeant-at-Arms 
was directed to bring in the Mace and place it under the 
Table. Then the Clerk put the question : " All that will 
have Sir Robert Sawyer say yea." " Which," say the 
Journals, " being carried in the affirmative by much the 
greater number of voices, without any division of the House, 
Sir Robert Sawyer was thereupon conducted to the Chair by 
Mr. Secretary Coventry and Mr. Secretary Williamson." - 

The line of lawyers as Speakers was restored by the 
election of Sawyer. His appearance in the Chair was but 
ephemeral. On May 6, writing from Lincoln's Inn Fields 
to the Commons, he said he was reduced to such weakness of 
body by pain that he could no longer attend the service of the 
House without hazard to his life, and asked to be discharged 
from the duty. The King's leave for the choice of another 
Speaker was then declared ; and as Seymour, now restored 
to health, was present, he was recalled to the Chair on the 
motion of Mr. Secretary Williamson.^ 

' There is no motion of ihis earlier contest for the Chair in the printed 
Journals of the House of Commons. 

* Commons Jourua/s, vol. 9, p. 463. 
' Ibid., vol. 9, p. 476. 



IN the next Parliament of Charles IL, which met on 
March 6, 1679, an extraordinary position in regard to the 
Speakership was unexpectedly developed. The relations 
of Seymour with the King and the Commons were entirely 
reversed. In the last Parliament the King, through the 
willing instrumentality of Seymour, was able to stifle dis- 
cussion by commanding the adjournment of the Commons. 
Seymour in the new Parliament, more by accident than 
by design, perhaps, stood for the Commons against the 
King's control of the choice of Speaker, 

The Member invited to the Chair by the Commons had 
still to make his calling and election sure by the seal of 
the Sovereign's approval. Inasmuch as he was always 
really the nominee of the Crown, — indeed it is not too 
much to say the mere puppet of the King, — he had the 
perfect assurance of his appointment being thus royally 
confirmed. But a sensational departure from this ancient 
usage has now to be recorded. For the first time in the 
history of the Speakership — and the last — the selection of 
the Commons for the Chair, in the person of Seymour, was 
denied the Sovereign's approbation. Not the slightest 
reference to this strange episode is to be found in the 
Journals of the House of Commons. There are several 
significant rows of asterisks, * * * * *^ indicating blanks, 
but that is all. The record of the doings of the House 
is resumed again only on March 18, when the contest 
between the Commons and King over the nomination to the 
Chair was at an end. 

On the motion of Colonel Birch, — not a courtier or 
Minister, but a private Member, be it noted, — " The Right 
Honourable Edward Seymour, knight of the shire for 
the county of Devon, Treasurer of the Navy, one of His 
Majesty's most honourable Privy Council, and Speaker of 


the last Parliament," was unanimously called to the Chair, 
and was conducted thereto by two private Members, Sir 
Thomas Lee and Mr. Hampden. " He hung back and acted 
his unwillingness very well," says Anchitell Grey, in the 
same contemporary'' account of the election. Seymour, at 
this time, was in disfavour at the Court. What he had done 
to cause the King's displeasure is not clear. That it was 
something unconnected with his conduct in the Chair is 
certain, for to him as Speaker the King's will was of higher 
import than the wish of the Commons. Some of the gossips 
of the period say there was a lady in the case, no less a 
personage, indeed, than the wife of the powerful Danby, the 
Lord Treasurer. Thus he fell — the proud and haughty 
Speaker — in the favour of the King, not because of his zeal 
for the privileges of the Commons, but because of some 
sordid Court intrigue. 

But Seymour was still as proud and arrogant as ever. 
Learning that the King had decided not to confirm his 
re-election to the Chair, he determined to try to circumvent 
His Majesty. At least he would purposely avoid making 
the traditional excuses of his unfitness for the post, so as 
not to give the King the opportunity of taking advantage 
of them. His speech on being presented to the King at 
the Bar of the House of Lords on March 7, 1679, — the 
day after his nomination by the Commons, — is the shortest 
and most audacious that ever was made by a Speaker on 
the like occasion. 

" May it please Your Majesty," said he, " the knights, 
citizens, and burgesses in Parliament assembled, in obedience 
to Your Majesty's command, have made choice of a 
Speaker, and have unanimously chosen me; and now I 
come hither for Your Majesty's approbation which, if Your 
Majesty please to grant, I shall do them and you the best 
service I can." 

Charles, however, was not to be outwitted. He had 
been cheated out of the joke, so characteristic of his vein 
of humour and whimsicality, which he had arranged. If 
Seymour had said, in the traditional way, " I am weak. Your 


Majesty ; relieve me of this burden and responsibility," he 
would have replied, " With pleasure." But his resources were 
not exhausted. He would effect his purpose sternly, if not 
in a humorous way. A few whispered words passed between 
him and the Lord Chancellor Heneage Finch, and then the 
latter spoke out. " It is an essential prerogative of the 
King," said he, " to refuse as well as approve of a Speaker." 
His Majesty had no reason to dislike Mr. Seymour, having 
had long experience of his ability and service. " But," he 
went on, "the King is the best judge of men and things. 
He knows when and where to employ. He thinks fit to 
reserve you for other service, and to ease you of this. It 
is His Majesty's pleasure to discharge this choice; and, 
accordingly, by His Majesty's command, I do discharge you 
of this place you are chosen for ; and in His Majesty's name 
command the House of Commons to make another choice, 
and command them to attend here to-morrow at eleven 
o'clock." 1 

The Commons went back to their Chamber in a mood 
of bitter resentment against this further attack by the King 
on the independence of the Speaker. The Chair was 
vacant. It would seem, indeed, as if Seymour did not 
return to the House at all. He was probably in doubt as 
to his proper place, whether it was in the Chair as Speaker 
or on the benches as a private Member, and he elected to 
stay away." But though the Chair was unoccupied an 
angry debate took place, and the questions which were 
moved were put by the Clerk.^ 

In a contemporary account of the scene it is stated that 
on the return of the Commons to their place. Sir John 
Ernly (or Ernley) rose and said "he had orders from His 
Majesty to recommend Sir Thomas Meres to be their 
Speaker," as being well adept in the practice of the House, 
and therefore acceptable and serviceable to them. " But the 
House in a great heat cried, ' No, no, no ! ' and fell into a 

^ Pa?liametttary History, vol. 4, pp. 1 092-3. 
^ Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, pp. 222-3 (1818). 
^ Greys Debates, vol. 6, p. 404. 


warm debate."^ The ri<;ht of the King to exercise a veto 
on the election of the Speaker was hotly contested by the 
Country Party; and it was argued by the Law Officers of 
the Crown that if the consent of the Sovereign were 
necessary to confirm the choice of the Commons his refusal 
must necessarily render it inoperative. Ultimately the 
discussion was adjourned until the following day, when it 
was decided to send a deputation to the King, and at their 
request His Majesty was graciously pleased to allow further 
time for the consideration of the matter. 

The Commons met again on March il. A representa- 
tion to the King was then agreed to. It stated that " it is 
the undoubted right of the Commons to have the free 
election of one of their Members to be their Speaker to 
perform the service of the House," and that "the Speaker 
so elected, and presented according to custom, hath by 
the constant practice of all former ages been continued 
Speaker, and executed that employment." But the King 
was unyielding. His answer was that the Commons must 
choose another Speaker. The next day the Commons drew 
up another address to the King, beseeching him for a 
gracious answer to their prayer. " Gentlemen," said Charles 
to the deputation, " I will give you my "answer to-morrow." 
He went to the House of Lords on the morrow, March 13, 
and sending for the Commons prorogued Parliament for 
two days.- 

The King opened Parliament in person on March 15. 
What happened in the interval is not clear. But an 
accommodation was arrived at between the King and 
Commons. The Lord Chancellor on behalf of the King 
directed the Commons to return to their House and choose 
a Speaker and submit him for His Majesty's approval. The 
Commons did as they were commanded. On the motion 
of Lord William Russell, William Gregory, serjeant-at-law, 
and Member for Weoblcy, Herefordshire, was appointed 

' Chandler, History of the Home of Commom (horn the Restoration to 1742), 
vol. I, p. 330. 

" /did., vol, I, p. 334 ; Grey's Debates, vol. 6, pp. 403-39. 


Speaker. "Then Lord Russel and Lord Cavendish took 
him by the arms and led him to the Chair, which he did 
not in the least resist." It is also briefly recorded that " on 
the 17th he was presented to the King, who without 
hesitation approved of the choice."^ 



TO whom was the victory ? The compromise arranged 
was that in the new situation created by the proroga- 
tion a Member who was not the original nominee 
of the Commons, nor yet the nominee of the King, should 
be selected. Bishop Burnet in his History says the point 
was settled " that the right of electing was in the House, and 
that confirmation was a thing of course." That, surely, is a 
strange and unwarranted reading of the episode. Harley, 
who was Speaker in the reign of Queen Anne, and afterwards 
Earl of Oxford, used to say that all the Commons gained was 
" that the Speaker might be moved for by one who was not 
a Privy Councillor." ^ 

Lord William Russell and Lord Cavendish, who proposed 
and seconded Gregory, were private Members as well as lead- 
ing Independents or Whigs. The only echo of the former 
heat and tumult of the controversy heard at the election 
of Gregory was the voice of Sacheverell, protesting that in 
honour the Commons could not desert Seymour, and that 
this might be the setting of a bad precedent to their future 
undoing. Lord Cavendish — Gregory's second sponsor — then 
made a remark which explains the silence of the Journals. 
It had been agreed that the King's denial of the former 
Speaker they had chosen was not to be entered in the 

^Parliamentary History, vol. 4, pp. 11 12-3; Crefs Debates, vol. 6, 
pp. 1-4. 

"^ Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 222 (1S18). 


books. Therefore, no precedent was created. But, on the 
whole, it must be said that the victory was to the King. 
He had asserted the right of the Crown to a"; veto on 
the choice of a Speaker. All that was conceded to the 
Commons was that the Speaker might be proposed by 
one who was, as we should now say, a private or unofficial 

Did this concession establish the principle that the Crown 
should not dictate to the Commons whom they were to 
choose as Speaker? There is no means of knowing whether 
the Speaker in the next Parliament — the last but one of 
Charles II. — was nominated, as hitherto, by a Secretary of 
State or an official of the Royal Household. He prob- 
ably was not, as he was a Member of the Country Party and 
had been prominent in the struggle against extension of the 
royal prerogative, but there is evidence to show that if the 
custom was suspended at this stage it was revived in sub- 
sequent reigns. 

The new Parliament assembled on October 21, 1680. 
William Williams (son of the rector of Llantrisant who 
subsequently became canon of Bangor and prebendary of 
St. Asaph), the Recorder of Chester, which city he repre- 
sented in the House of Commons, was chosen Speaker, the 
first Welshman to occupy the Chair. The /ou7-Hals simply 
record that he was unanimously chosen and conducted to 
the Chair "by two Members of the House." ^ They were 
probably Members who were not of the Privy Council. 
Williams was too independent and fearless to have been 
a Court nominee. He told Seymour that by adjourning the 
House against its wishes he had gagged Parliament. In 
the debate on the King's refusal to confirm the reappoint- 
ment of Seymour to the Chair he boldly advised the House 
not to nominate another Speaker. In his speeches to the 
Commons and the King on his election as Speaker there 
rings a new note of manliness and sincerity. They do not 
appear in the Parliamentary History, but an authorized version 
of them was published by Williams in self-defence., "Being 

' Commons Journals, vol. 9, p. 636. 


ill-used," he says in a prefatory note, "by false and mistaken 
representations in writing, published in coffee-houses and 
other places, of what I said in my place in the time of my 
Speakership in the last Parliament." 

" Gentlemen," said he to the Commons, " it were vanity in 
me by arguments from weakness and unfitness to disable 
myself for your service in this Chair at this time. The 
unanimous voice of the House calling me to this place 
precludes me, and leaves me without excuse. Whom the 
Commons have elected for this trust is to be supposed 
worthy and fit for it; wherefore I must acquiesce in your 
commands." To the King he said : " I am set in the first 
station of your Commons, for trust and quality, an high and 
slippery place ! It requires a steady head and a well-poised 
body in him that will stand firm there. Uprightness is the 
safe posture and best policy, and shall be mine in this place, 
guarded with this opinion — that Your Majesty's service in this 
trust is one and the same with the service of the Commons, 
and that they are no more to be divided than your crown 
and sceptre." ^ 

It fell to Williams as Speaker to pronounce sentence of 
expulsion on two Members adjudged guilty by the House 
of Commons of breaches of its privileges, or of offending 
against the rights and liberties of the people. Francis 
Wythens, a lawyer who sat for Westminster, presented an 
address " from the grand inquest of the city of Westminster " 
to the King, expressing abhorrence of the petitions promoted 
by the Whigs for the calling of the Parliament. For this 
Wythens was knighted by the King. For this the Commons 
declared him unworthy to sit among them. He had to kneel 
at the Bar while the Speaker, with Celtic fervour and extreme 
Party spirit, railed at him for his offence. " You being a 
lawyer have offended against your own profession," exclaimed 
Williams. " You have offended against yourself, your own 
right, your own liberty as an Englishman. This is not only 
a crime against the living, but a crime against the unborn 

' The Speech of the Honourable William Williams, Esq., Speaker of House of 
Commons (London, i68o). 


You are dismembered from this body."^ Sir Robert Peyton 
was also expelled. He had deserted from the Country Party, 
or Whigs, and opposed their Exclusion Bill for setting aside 
the hereditary rii^ht of the Duke of York to succeed to 
the Throne, on the ground that he was a Papist. " This 
Parliament," said the Speaker, addressing Peyton, as he 
knelt before him, "nauseates such Members as you are; you 
are no longer a part of this noble body." ^ After the Dissolu- 
tion, Peyton sent Williams a challenge to a duel. Williams 
reported the affair to the Privy Council, and Peyton was 
committed to the Tower. 

The Parliament was suddenly dissolved in January 1681. 
On the following March 21, the new Parliament — the last of 
Charles II. — assembled at Oxford, as the King was appre- 
hensive of violence from the citizens of London. Williams 
was re-elected to the Chair. In a week the Parliament came 
to an end. No other Parliament was summoned during the 
remaining years of Charles II. He died on February 6, 1685. 



THE only Parliament of James II. met at Westminster on 
May 19, 1685. It was opened in person by the 
King. An important constitutional departure took 
place in the election of the Speaker. Hitherto the Speaker 
was not chosen until the causes for the summoning of 
Parliament had been stated by the Sovereign, or by the 
Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper on his behalf, to both 
Houses assembled in the Chamber of the Lords. Hence- 
forward the election of Speaker was to precede the King's 
Speech. Whether the change was made independently by 
the King, or at the suggestion of his advisers, it is im- 
possible to say, and as to the reasons for it the annals of 

' Grey's Debates, vol. 7, p. 391. ' Ibid., vol. 8, p. 149. 


Parliament are equally silent. When the Commons went 
up to the House of Lords in answer to the summons of 
Black Rod, the Lord Keeper, Baron Guildford, announced 
that the King would reserve his speech from the Throne 
until the Commons had chosen a Speaker and presented 
him for the royal approbation. 

The man selected by the Commons is, perhaps, the most 
notorious occupant of the Chair in the long line of Speakers : 
Sir John Trevor, who, as Speaker in the first Parliament of 
William III., was expelled the House for bribery in 1695. 
On this occasion the choice of him was made on the re- 
commendation of the Earl of Midleton, in the peerage 
of Scotland, " one of His Majesty's principle Secretaries of 
State," say the Journals, so that under James II., as under 
his predecessors, the Speaker continued to be practically the 
nominee of the Crown. " The House," according to the 
Joiimals, " unanimously chose the said Sir John Trevor for 
their Speaker. And he being not permitted to excuse him- 
self, and being conducted to the Chair by the said Earl of 
Midleton, and the Honourable Henry Sevill, Esquire, Vice- 
Chamberlain to His Majesty, two of the Members of the 
House, he humbly desired leave to disable himself at the 
Royal Throne." ^ The manner in which he disabled him- 
self is also numbered among unrecorded things. 

Trevor was a W^elshman. He was born in 1637, the 
second son of John Trevor of Brynkmalt, Denbighshire, a 
judge on the North Wales Circuit, and was a cousin of the 
notorious Judge Jeffreys. He read law in the chambers of 
another cousin, Arthur Trevor, of the Inner Temple. "A 
gentleman that visited Mr. Arthur Trevor," says Roger North 
in his Li/c of Judge Jeffreys, "at his going out observed a 
strange-looking boy in his clerk's seat (for no person ever 
had a worse squint than he had), and asked who that youth 
was. * A kinsman of mine,' said Arthur Trevor, ' that I have 
allowed to sit here to learn the knavish part of the law.' " 
Owing to this squint it was difficult for Members to catch 
the Speaker's eye. Occasionally two Members in different 

' Commons Journals, vol. 9, p. 713. 


parts of the Chamber were each equally confident that the 
wandering glance of the Speaker had alighted upon him, 
and the confusion that ensued was most embarrassing to 
all concerned. Trevor sat for the borough of Denbigh. 
While still Speaker he was appointed Master of the Rolls 
in October 1685. 

The Parliament was overwhelmingly Tory ; and, animated 
as it was by the violent Party spirit of the times, it did not 
feel called upon to protest against a prosecution which had 
been instituted against William Williams for an act done in 
the discharge of his duty as Speaker in 1680. During the 
agitation caused by the Exclusion Bill, Dangerfield — the 
rival of Titus Oates as a discoverer of bogus Popish plots — 
wrote the story known as The Meal-Tub Plot, containing 
false and odious imputations on the Duke of York ; and 
Williams, as Speaker, by direction of the House, issued the 
necessary licence for its publication. In 1685 the story was 
declared by the Privy Council to be a seditious libel, for 
which Dangerfield was publicly whipped. Sir Robert 
Sawyer, — Speaker for a few weeks in 1678, — who was now 
Attorney-General, filed an information against Williams in 
the Court of King's Bench for having sanctioned the publi- 
cation of the narrative. In vain Williams pleaded the 
privilege of Parliament. The House of Commons took no 
steps to protect the ex-Speaker. He was convicted and 
sentenced to a fine of ;^io,ooo, of which he paid ;^8ooo, 
the balance having been remitted by the King. 

Three years pass, and William Williams, who, as Speaker 
in 1680, led the movement in the House of Commons for 
the exclusion of the Duke of York, is discovered as one of 
the most zealous supporters of James II. " He was converted 
by interest," says Macaulay in his History, " from a dema- 
gogue into a champion of prerogative." Sawyer was dis- 
missed from the office of Attorney-General because of his 
scruples in supporting the royal prerogative claimed and 
exercised by the King, dispensing with the laws of the 
land. Williams was made Solicitor-General and knighted. 
In the State Trials of 1683, when Lord William Russell — 


whom we have seen active on the side of the Commons in 
their struggle against Charles II. for the unrestricted right 
to nominate their Speaker — and Algernon Sidney were 
condemned to death for their alleged association with the 
Rye House Plot for the overthrow of the Government, the 
prosecution was led by Sawyer, and Williams was the fearless 
counsel for the defence. And when the Seven Bishops were 
prosecuted in 1688 for questioning the dispensing power, 
ex-Speaker Williams stood for the royal prerogative, and 
ex-Speaker Sawyer led the defence and obtained an 

Great historic events were thus happening. The only 
Parliament of James II, was dissolved on November 22, 
1685. Within three years the Revolution was effected. 
James II. was deposed, and to the place of the last of the 
Stuart kings Parliament called William and Mary. In 
November 1688, James fled the kingdom. There was, in 
the circumstances, no constitutional authority to issue writs 
for the election of a new Parliament. But the Commons 
who had sat in the last Parliament of Charles il. were called 
together by the Prince of Orange, and they met on 
December 23, 1688, in St. Stephen's Chapel, and having 
elected Henry Powle to the Chair, presented, jointly with 
the Lords, an address to the Prince praying that he would 
take upon himself provisionally the administration of affairs. 
The Prince accordingly summoned a Convention of the 
Estates of the Realm, which assembled at Westminster on 
January 22, 1689. It was at first intended to elect Sir 
Edward Seymour to the Chair, but at the last moment he 
was set aside, it being rumoured that he was against the 
intention to declare the Throne vacant, and Henry Powle, 
who was returned with Sir Christopher Wren for the 
borough of New Windsor, was the choice of the knights 
and burgesses. As King James had fled the country, and 
William of Orange had not yet been declared King, the 
Commons proceeded with the election of Speaker without 
the licence of the Crown and solely on their own authority. 

Powle was proposed by the Earl of Wiltshire, Member 


for Hampshire, and seconded by Sir Vere Fane, Member 
for Kent, and was by them conducted to the Chair, He 
made a brief disabling speech which is given in the Journals. 
" I know very well," said he, " that excuses from this place 
are looked upon only as formalities. But I am so sensible 
of my own defects, and so desirous that this House may 
not receive any prejudice by them, that I most earnestly 
entreat you that, amongst so many worthy and experienced 
Members as are met here to-day, you would make choice of 
one that is better able to perform the duty of this place." 
" But his excuse not being allowed," the Journals record, 
" the Mace was called for, and placed upon the Table," ^ 
The ceremony of presenting Powle for the royal approval 
was perforce also omitted, as in the case of Sir Harbottle 
Grimston, Speaker of the Convention Parliament of 1660, 
which brought back Charles II. from exile. 

The first act of the Convention was to declare that James 
by his flight had abdicated the government, and that con- 
sequently the Throne was vacant. William and Mary 
were proclaimed King and Queen. The Convention was 
turned into a Parliament, and the King made a speech to 
both Houses with all the old ceremonial. The House of 
Commons declared that the judgment against ex-Speaker 
Williams in 1685, for licensing the publication of Danger- 
field's narrative, was illegal and subversive of the freedom 
of Parliament.^ Powle, as Speaker, presented to William 
and Mary for the Royal Assent, on December 16, 16S9, the 
Bill of Rights. Sir William Williams assisted in drawing 
up that famous declaration curtailing the prerogative of the 
Crown and expanding the privileges of Parliament. Once 
more he was on the side of the Whigs, 

The Convention Parliament having been dissolved in 
February 1690, a new Parliament was summoned to meet 
on the following March 20, The precedent set by James II. 
of postponing the Speech from the Throne until the 
election of the Speaker of the House of Commons was 
followed by William and Mary, On the opening day of 

' Commons Jouniali, %ol. lO, p. 9. - /bid., vol. 10, p. 215. 


the Parliament the Commons were summoned to the House 
of Lords, when Sir Robert Atkins, Chief Baron of the 
Exchequer Court and Speaker of the House of Lords, 
speaking for the King, " commanded the Commons to return 
to their House and choose their Speaker," and present him 
the next day to their Majesties. The practice of a Minister 
or Court official nominating the Speaker was continued after 
the Revolution. On the motion of Sir John Lowther, Vice- 
Chamberlain to the King, Sir John Trevor was again called 
to the Chair.^ In this Parliament, Trevor sat for the borough 
of Beeralston, in Devonshire. 

The House of Commons expelled ex-Speaker Sawyer 
for his conduct as Attorney-General in the prosecution of 
Sir Thomas Armstrong for complicity in the Rye House 
Plot. The decisive speech against him, in which he was 
charged with " wilful murder," was made by his great rival, 
ex-Speaker Williams. 



THIS Parliament lasted for more than eight years. 
For five of those years, Trevor presided over the 
deliberations of the Commons. Then he was dis- 
covered in an act of corruption. It was an age noted for 
laxity of principle in pecuniary transactions. There was 
no direct embezzlement of public funds. But there was a 
great deal of jobbery, and jobbery, too, of a rather mean 
character. No one, apparently, was too high in office, or too 
proud personally, to be unwilling to pocket illicit gain for 
low services rendered by reason of his position. 

The Bill which Trevor was bribed to pass had no venal 
purpose in view. On the contrary, it redressed a flagrant 
injustice. For years the Corporation of the City of London 

^ Commons Journals, vol. lO, p. 347. 


had been vainly promoting a Bill for sanctioning the 
payment to certain orphans of their portions which they had 
been deprived of in the confusion of the Revolution, and, 
hopeless of getting it passed in the ordinary way, they 
enlisted the Speaker's interest in it by giving him a sub- 
stantial gratuity. Whispers of the transaction got abroad. 
In order to ascertain the truth, and vindicate its honour, the 
House of Commons appointed a Committee to hold a 
searching inquiry. The books of the City Chamberlain 
were examined, and in them an official record of Trevor's 
shame was discovered. First there was the following 
resolution passed by the Committee of the City Corporation 
which had the matter in hand : " That Mr. Chamberlain do 
pay to the Hon. Sir John Trevor, Knight, Speaker of the 
House of Commons, the sum of looo guineas, as soon as a 
Bill be passed into an Act of Parliament for satisfying the 
debts of the orphans and other creditors of the said City" ; 
and, secondly, upon the back of this order was the endorse- 
ment that "the within lOOO guineas were delivered and paid 
unto the Hon. Sir John Trevor, this 22nd June 1694, in the 
presence of Sir Robert Clayton and Sir James Houblon, 
which at 22s. exchange comes to £1 100." 

The Committee of the House of Commons reported the 
circumstance to the House, and recommended the adoption 
of the following resolution : " That Sir John Trevor, Speaker 
of the House, receiving a gratuity of 1000 guineas from the 
City of London, after passing of the Orphans' Bill, was guilty 
of a high crime and misdemeanour." The report was 
brought before the House on March 12, 1695. ^^ is set 
out at length in the Journals under that date. Trevor was 
in the Chair. For six hours his action was debated by the 
House. Of what he said in his own defence, or what his 
friends may have pleaded in mitigation, there is no record in 
the Journals. Only the discussion was prolonged into the 
dusk of the evening, as the following entry shows : " Ordered, 
that candles be brought in. And they were so." ^ The 
shadow of the ill-lit Chamber must have been welcome to 

' Commons Journals, vol. ii, p. 271. 






Trevor in his pitiable position, especially when he rose from 
his high place in the Speaker's Chair to put to the House 
the pronouncement of his personal ignominy. " As many 
as are of that opinion say ' Aye.'" There followed a loud 
shout affirmative of his shame. " The contrary, ' No.' " Only 
a few voices were raised on his behalf. Then Trevor was 
forced to declare, "The 'Ayes' have it." Did he feel the 
ground crumbling under his feet, and see the opening of a 
chasm which was to engulf him in ruin and disgrace? 

On the following day the House assembled again. But 
Trevor did not appear. The Clerk read the following letter 
from him : — 

" Gentlemen, — I did intend to have waited on you this 
morning ; but, after I was up, I was taken suddenly ill with 
a violent cholic. I hope to be in a condition of attending 
you to-morrow morning. In the meantime, 1 desire you will 
be pleased to excuse my attendance. 

" I am with all duty, gentlemen, your most obedient 
humble servant, J. TREVOR, Speaker" 

The House accordingly adjourned until ten o'clock the 
next morning. Then another letter was received from 
Trevor reiterating his plea of illness, and once more humbly 
praying to be excused from attendance. 

Immediately after Trevor's letter had been read by the 
Clerk, Mr. Wharton, Comptroller of the Household, rose and 
said he was commanded by the King to inform the House 
that Trevor had written to His Majesty saying that as his 
indisposition continued he could not further attend the service 
of the House, and accordingly His Majesty gave leave to the 
House to proceed to the election of a new Speaker. The 
Minister then proceeded to say : " I shall, without fear of 
displeasing any person out of so many who are qualified to 
serve you, nominate " 

" Upon this," it is written in the Journals, with an un- 
wonted descriptive touch, " he was interrupted by a great 
noise in the House crying, ' No, no, no ! ' Exceptions were 
taken by several Members that it was contrary to the 


undoubted right of the House of choosing their own Speaker, 
to have any person who brought a message from the King 
to nominate one of them." 

Thus arose a novel and important stage in the movement 
for placing the Chair on a basis of complete independence 
of the Crown. As we have seen, the Speaker had, as a rule, 
been nominated by a Court official or Minister, and there 
can be little doubt that in almost every case the choice was 
previously approved of, if not actually inspired by, the 
Sovereign. But though the Commons were yet unable to 
prevent these private arrangements at Court between the 
Crown and the Ministers, they were determined not to 
tolerate any proceeding in the House which was inconsistent ] 
with the theory, at least, that the Speaker was their own free 
and independent selection. 

Despite those protests, however, Wharton proposed Sir 
Thomas Littleton, and he was seconded by Sir Henry 
Goodrick. A second candidate was then nominated by the 
independent Members. This was Paul Foley, the repre- 
sentative of the city of Hereford, who, though a Tory, had 
been a supporter of the Revolution. He was proposed by 
Sir Christopher Musgrave and seconded by Lord Digby. 

For the first time there is now obtainable from the 
Journals a clear and detailed account of the mode of election 
to the Chair, which is the more interesting and valuable as 
there were two candidates before the House. The questions 
were put by the Clerk. The first was, " That Sir Thomas 
Littleton take the Chair of this House as Speaker," which 
was challenged to a division and rejected by 179 votes to 
146. " Then the second question being about to be put," 
the Journals say, " Mr. Foley stood up to speak, but the 
House would not hear him, but ordered the Clerk to put 
the question, ' That Paul Foley, Esquire, take the Chair of 
this House as Speaker.' It was resolved, nomine con- |n 
tradicente." Foley was then conducted to the Chair by 
Colonel Granvill and Henry Boyle, protesting, all the 1 
way, that he was unsuited for the post. " And upon the 
first step of the Chair," the quaint official record goes on, 


" after some pause he made a speech to the House again to 
excuse himself. Which not being allowed, he sat down. 
And the Mace was laid upon the Table." ^ 

Foley was presented to the King at the Bar of the 
House of Lords on the following day, when his election 
received the royal approbation. As he was appointed to 
fill a vacancy in the Chair occurring during the progress of 
a Parliament, the precedent set by Richard Onslow in 1 566 
of not renewing, in like circumstances, the petitions on 
behalf of the Commons for liberty of speech and freedom 
from arrest was followed. Foley himself seems to have been 
doubtful at first as to the course he should pursue. On 
taking the Chair after his election he desired the advice of 
the House as to whether he should make these petitions to 
the King. The House cried " No, No ! " Some Members 
said that these petitions were demands of right which ought 
to be made but once at the beginning of a Parliament, and 
cited precedents in support of their views. Accordingly 
Foley only asked the King to pardon any faults or mistakes 
into which he might ignorantly fall.^ 

Foley was the second son of Thomas Foley of Whitby 
Court, Worcestershire, who amassed a large fortune in the 
iron industry at Stourbridge, which was founded by his 
father. This is the nearest connection of trade with the 
Speakership which so far has occurred. Foley himself was 
a country gentleman living on a large estate at Stoke Edith, 
Herefordshire. He was bred to the law, but did not 

As for Trevor, he was expelled the House on March 16 
the day after the confirmation of Foley's appointment to the 
Chair. The resolution runs : — 

" Resolved — That Sir John Trevor, late Speaker of this 
House, being guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour by 
receiving a gratuity of a thousand guineas from the City of 
London, after passing the Orphans' Bill, be expelled this 
House." ^ 

* Commons Jaurnah, vol. II, pp. 271-2. ^ Ibid., vol. 11, p. 272. 
' Ibid., vol. II, p. 274. 


But if Trevor was disgraced he was by no means ruined. 
He was not even deprived of the Mastership of the Rolls, 
which he had held in conjunction with the Speakership. 
Indeed, he continued to sit on the Bench for twenty years 
afterwards, in fact till his death in 17 17, and he established 
a high reputation for ability and uprightness as a judge. 
He was only venal as Speaker of the House of Commons. 
Perhaps it would be more correct to say that in disposition 
he was covetous and mean, and in his day, apparently, these 
qualities were not regarded as disreputable. 



ANEW Parliament assembled on November 22, 1695. 
Queen Mary having died in December 1694, this was 
the first Parliament of William III. Paul Foley's 
re-election to the Chair was proposed by a Minister, 
Mr. Secretary Trumball, seconded by the Earl of Ranelagh, 
and agreed to unanimously. This time he made the usual 
petitions to the King on behalf of the Commons. " His 
Majesty," said Lord Keeper Somers, " did most willingly 
grant to them all their privileges in as full a manner as they 
were ever granted by any of his Royal predecessors."^ 
These are the words by which the privileges of the Commons 
have since been confirmed by the Sovereign at the opening 
of ever)^ Parliament. If they were not used for the first 
time by the Lord Keeper of William in. in 1695, they were 
certainly recorded then for the first time in XhQ Journals, 

Sir Thomas Littleton, who was defeated by Foley in 
1695, had his ambition satisfied by his appointment to the 
Chair in the second Parliament of William III. The younger 
son of Sir Thomas Littleton, Baronet, of Stoke St. Mil- 
borough, Shropshire, he was designed for trade and ap- 

' Commons fournah, vol. ii, p. 335. 


prenticed to a London merchant, but by the death of his 
elder brother he became heir to the title and estates, and 
quitting his stool in the City office went to Oxford 
University. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1681. 
Bishop Burnet, who knew him personally, says he was the 
first Speaker that had not been brought up to the legal pro- 
fession. This, of course, is a mistake. There were already 
several Speakers who were not lawyers. And, indeed, 
Littleton himself entered the Middle Temple in 167 1, 
though it is probable he was never called to the Bar. He 
sat in the House of Commons for the borough of Wood- 
stock, Oxford, and was a Whig and a favourite of the King. 

The new Parliament met on December 6, 1698. Little- 
ton was proposed by the Marquis of Hartington. No other 
candidate was nominated, but there was a long debate, and 
when the question was put by the Clerk a division was 
challenged. Littleton, however, was elected by a majority 
of 107, or by 242 votes to 135. A pamphlet entitled Con- 
siderations upon the Choice of a Speaker, which was circulated 
before the meeting of the Parliament, throws some light on 
the opposition to Littleton. It indicates that Sir Edward 
Seymour was again ambitious of presiding over the House 
of Commons. To both candidates the pamphlet was very 
disrespectful. Littleton was described as " a known pro- 
fligate in the service of the Court"; and Seymour as "a 
known profligate in the service of the people." ^ 

Robert Harley, the distinguished Tory statesman, who 
subsequently became the first Earl of Oxford, was recom- 
mended by the pamphleteer for the Chair. He succeeded 
Littleton in the next Parliament. The eldest son of Colonel 
Sir Edward Harley, he was born in Bow Street, Covent 
Garden, in 1661, and studied for the Bar, but was never 
called. He sat in the House of Commons for the borough 
of New Radnor. 

In his candidature for the Chair in the fifth Parliament 
of William III., on February 10, 1701, Harley's proposer 
was Sir Edward Seymour, and his seconder was Sir John 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. S, p. 1190. 


Leveson Gower. Littleton desired re-election, but with- 
drew at the request of the King, who wanted Harley to 
be Speaker. Ilarley, nevertheless, was not appointed 
unanimously. Sir Richard Onslow, a Whig, was also in 
the running, although according to the Journals he was not 
actually proposed. At any rate, there was a division on the 
question that Harley do take the Chair as Speaker, and it 
was carried by 249 votes to 129, or the substantial majority 
of 120. Even that able and eminent statesman and great 
orator went through the form of disabling himself, and 
appealed to the country squires and the city traders to 
select from among themselves one more fit to preside at 
their deliberations. " Which the voice of the House being 
against, he sat down in the Chair," — so it is written in the 
Journals^ — '' and the Mace which before had lain under the 
Table was laid upon the Table." ^ 

Another new Parliament assembled on December 30 of 
the same year, 1701. It was the last of William III. The 
King now desired that Sir Thomas Littleton should again 
be Speaker. He was proposed by Lord Spencer and 
seconded by John Smith. The re-election of Harley was 
moved by the Earl of Disert, and seconded by Henry St. 
John. " After some debate upon both the persons proposed, 
the Members who spoke therein addressing themselves to 
the Clerk at the Table, the Clerk proposed the question 
that Sir Thomas Littleton, Baronet, do take the Chair," for 
which there voted 212 for and 216 against, — a very close 
issue, — and "so it passed in the negative," the Journals go 
on to say.- Harley was then unanimously accepted. Next 
day the Commons were summoned by Black Rod to bring 
their choice to the Bar of the House of Lords for the royal 
approbation. " And accordingly," as the Journals relate, 
" Mr. Speaker-elect, with the House, went up to attend His 
Majesty, and to present their Speaker. Who spoke thus, 

namely — ." There follows just four asterisks — 

« * * « 

A tantalizing omission, truly. For it would be interesting 

* Comnioui Journals, vol. 13, p. 325. -' /bid,, vol. 13, p. 645. 


to read what so famous a Tory and High Churchman said 
in laudation of William III, and to his own disparagement. 

The adulation of the Sovereign by the Speaker at the 
Bar of the House of Lords did not quite go out of fashion 
with the Stuarts. Littleton, when William III, refused to 
set him aside, said he should endeavour to discharge his 
duty in the Chair in the best manner of which he was 
capable, and added, with something of the old courtly 
pursuit of novel compliments : " As Your Majesty has, to 
the wonder of mankind, acted impossibilities, you may 
command others to do the like." But absurd rhapsodies 
and figures of speech were done with. No more did the 
Speaker, thrilling with ecstatic loyalty, lyrically endow the 
Sovereign with unparalleled and impossible mental and 
physical qualities. The struggle between the Crown and 
the Parliament was over, and with the defeat of the Crown 
the Speakers seem to have dropped the awesomeness and 
abject reverence of their predecessors in the presence of the 
Sovereign, or else^'their marvellous skill in the spinning of 
phrases of loyalty, exaggerated and unreal, become a 
lost art. 



''T^HE Speakership now entered upon a new phase. With 
X the rise of the Party system at the Revolution it 
became a partisan office. Throughout the eighteenth 
century and half-way through the nineteenth it was part of 
the spoils of office which Whigs and Tories alike legitimately 
took possession of on succeeding each other in power. No 
more had the Speaker, as the King's agent, to keep a careful 
watch over the proceedings of the Commons, and, if possible, 
influence their decisions in the royal interest. But he 
ceased to be the nominee of the King only to become the 
nominee of Party, He was expected, as he sat in the Chair, 


to see to the welfare of the Party to whom he owed his 

In the first Parliament of Queen Anne which met on 
October 20, 1702, Robert Harley was for the third time 
elected to the Speakership. Not only was he sworn a 
Member of the Privy Council in April 1704, but in the 
following Ma)^ he was appointed a Secretary of State. The 
Act under which seats of Members accepting offices of profit 
under the Crown are vacated had not yet been passed.^ 
Still the curious circumstance that the Speaker could also 
be a Minister shows how little, after all, the idea of placing 
the Chair in a position of independence both of the Govern- 
ment and the Crown had found acceptance as late as the 
beginning of the eighteenth century. Until the Dissolution 
of the Parliament in April 1705, or for eleven months, 
Harley continued to act as Secretary of State and Speaker. 

Evelyn notes in his Diary, referring to the second 
Parliament of Queen Anne, that " one Mr. Smith " was 
chosen Speaker. The "one Mr. Smith" was the Right 
Hon. John Smith, who had held the offices of Commissioner 
of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 
reign of William III. He sat for the borough of Andover, 
in Hampshire, a county in which he possessed an estate. 
Though he had been a student at the Middle Temple he 
was not called to the Bar. 

When the Parliament met on October 25, 1705, there 
was an exciting contest between Whigs and Tories for the 
possession of the Chair. John Smith was the candidate of 
the Whigs, and the Tory nominee was William Bromley, 
Member for Oxford University. After an angry debate 
which lasted an hour and a half, the House divided, and 
the Whig was elected by a majority of 43, the numbers 
being 248 for Smith, and 205 for Bromley. Smith was one of 

' This is the Act for the Security of the Crown and Succession (6 Anne, c. 41), 
which contains clauses incapacitating from silling in the House tlie holders of 
any new office created after October 25, 1705, and obliging Members to vacate 
their scats on accepting any of the existing offices, though they are eligible for 


the Commissioners for arranging the Union between England 
and Scotland, and when a new Parliament assembled, with 
the addition of the Scottish representatives, on October 23, 
1707, he had the distinction of being appointed the first 
Speaker of the Commons of Great Britain. 

On this occasion a curious question arose as to the 
particular moment in the election of Speaker at which the 
Mace should be produced. It lay, as usual, out of sight 
under the Table while Smith was being nominated, and 
when he took the Chair it was placed upon the Table by 
the Serjeant-at-Arms, which was also in accordance with 
custom. Some Members, however, took exception to its 
appearance at that stage. They contended that the Mace 
ought not to be placed upon the Table until the selection 
of the Speaker had been approved by the Sovereign. Several 
precedents to the contrary were quoted from the Journals. 
" Whereupon," it is recorded, " the Mace remained upon the 

The Speaker in the next Parliament, which met on 
November 16, 1708, was a member of a family noted for 
its associations with the Chair. This was Sir Richard 
Onslow, a direct descendant of Richard Onslow who was 
Speaker in the eighth Parliament of Queen Elizabeth. He 
sat for Surrey, and was a Whig. He was proposed by Lord 
William Powlett, seconded by Sir William Strickland, and 
Colonel Harry Mordant is described in the Journals as 
" thirding the motion." But in the Parliamentary History it 
is stated that Mordant "by way of irony" proposed Mr. 
Joddrel, the Clerk, who, he said, " having been assistant to 
good Speakers, to indifferent ones, and to the worst," was 
as well qualified for the post as anybody, though he con- 
cluded by supporting Onslow, and Onslow was unanimously 

The Journals are careful to mention that after Onslow 
had been conducted to the Chair, "the Serjeant-at-Arms 
came up and laid the Mace upon the Table." Onslow had 
an extraordinary encounter with Black Rod — the messenger 

^ Commons Journals, vol. 15, p. 393. 


of the Lords — in which he vindicated the respect due to the 
Mace as the symbol of the Speaker's authority and power. 
Dr. Henry Sachcvercll, the political preacher, was impeached 
by the Whig House of Commons for reflections upon *' the 
late happy Revolution and the Protestant succession," and 
a majority of the Lords having found him guilty, the Speaker 
and the Commons proceeded to the Upper House to demand 
judgment against the prisoner. It has already been ex- 
plained that the Commons are not permitted to affright the 
Lords with the sight of the Mace when they appear in the 
Upper House in answer to a summons. The only time the 
Speaker can enter the House of Lords with the Mace is on 
the extremely rare occurrence of an impeachment, when he 
goes to demand the arraignment of the person charged, and 
again, in the event of conviction, to ask for judgment against 
the prisoner. 

It may have been that the Deputy Gentleman Usher 
of the Black Rod was ignorant of this usage when, on 
March 23, 1709, the Commons, eager for the punishment of 
Sacheverell, appeared at the door of the House of Lords. 
At any rate, he stopped the Serjeant-at-Arms — as that 
functionary was bringing the Mace into the Chamber — by 
placing his wand of office across the door. " If you do not 
take away the black rod," said the Speaker sternly, " I will 
return to the House of Commons." Black Rod apparently was 
frightened by the threat, for he desired the Speaker to stay 
a while and he would acquaint the Lords of his presence. 
He took the precaution, however, of locking the door against 
the Speaker, the Commons, and the Mace. 

After a little time the door was opened, and the Serjeant- 
at-Arms was permitted to enter with the Mace. But Black 
Rod was still unaccountably obstreperous. At the Bar he 
attempted to put himself between the Speaker and the Mace. 
" My Lords," cried Onslow, " if you do not immediately 
order your Black Rod to go away, I will immediately return 
to the House of Commons." Again the threat was effective. 
Black Rod was directed to " go from thence " by the Lord 
Chancellor. Sacheverell was then brought in, and Black 


Rod placed him to the right hand of the Speaker and the 
Mace. " My Lords," said Onslow, " the Black Rod ought to 
be with the prisoner on the left hand of me." The Lord 
Chancellor thereupon not only directed Black Rod to go 
with the prisoner on the left hand of the Speaker, but to stand 
some distance away. Sacheverell then went humbly down 
on his knees for sentence. He was suspended from preach- 
ing for three years, and the obnoxious sermons were ordered 
to be publicly burned by the common hangman. 

On the return of the Commons to their Chamber the 
Speaker told the whole story, and as a precedent for all time 
it was entered upon the Journals?- Sir Richard Onslow was 
appropriately known as " Stiff Dick." 

The next Speaker was the Right Hon. William Bromley, 
a country gentleman, descended from an old Staffordshire 
family, who represented the University of Oxford, and was 
proposed in opposition to John Smith in 1705. In the 
General Election of 17 10, the Whigs, utterly discredited by 
the prosecution of Sacheverell, were overwhelmed at the 
polls, — even Sir Richard Onslow lost his seat for Surrey, — 
and at the meeting of the new Parliament, on November 25, 
1710, Bromley, a Tory and High Churchman, was elected 
to the Chair without opposition. Upon the death of his son, 
March 20, 171 1, the House showed its esteem for him and 
its sympathy by adjourning for six days " to give him time 
both to perform the funeral rites and indulge his just 
affliction." 2 Bromley subsequently became a Secretary of 

^ Commons Journals, vol. i6, p. 382. 

- Parliamentary History, vol. 6, p. I0I2. The Journals show that the 
House adjourned from March 20th to the 26th, but there is no entry as to the 





THE last Parliament of Queen Anne met on Feb- 
ruary 14, 1714. The Speaker chosen was Sir Thomas 
Hanmer, a baronet of Welsh descent, who represented 
Suffolk as a Tory. From his place on the benches Hanmer 
made the required mock-modesty plea of his unfitness for 
the office. " No, No ! " shouted the Members. Then he was 
conducted to the Chair, and standing on the steps made the 
expected second appeal to the House in its own interest to 
reconsider their decision. "It was not too late for gentlemen 
to alter their resolution," said he, " and he begged leave to 
repeat his first excuses, and to assure them that no one ever 
came as near the Chair who was so little qualified to do the 
duty of it, and therefore he hoped they would consult their 
honour by turning their thoughts to a better choice." " But," 
continues the contemporary report, " the House cried ' No, 
No ! ' whereupon he took the Chair, and said that though the 
House would not allow of his excuse, he hoped they would 
be pleased to permit him to intercede with Her Majesty to 
command them to proceed to another election. The members 
cried * No, No ! ' and then the Mace was laid on the table." ^ 

Some fresh information with respect to the election of a 
Speaker is supplied by Richard Steele, the essayist, dramatist, 
and politician, who was returned to this Parliament. He 
spoke in support of Hanmer's qualifications for the Chair. 
" I rise," said Steele, " to do him honour and distinguish 
myself by giving him my vote." Mocking exclamations of 
" Do him honour ! " interrupted Steele. The House was Tory, 
and Steele, a mere Whig scribbler, was looked upon as an 
adventurer and interloper by the country squires. A few 
weeks later he was expelled the House for having pub- 
lished a false and malicious libel abusing the Ministry in 
The Crisis. Steele brought out a little pamphlet in his own 

' rarliatuciitary History , vol. 6, p. 1254. 


defence. He explains that the phrase did not at all imply 
" that 'tis an honour to him that 'tis I who do him that 
respect," and insists there is nothing absurd in it. Then he 
goes on to give a curious and unexpected explanation of the 
interruptions. He attributes them to " a parcel of rustics 
who crowded in with the Members before the election of the 
Speaker, from a received error that there is no authority in 
the House till he is chosen," — the first reference to the 
presence of " strangers " in St. Stephens, — and adds that as 
he came out of the Chamber he could hear them saying to 
one another, " Oh, it is not so easy a thing to speak in the 
House "; " He fancies because he can scribble."^ 

Hanmer was not two months in the Chair when he reported 
to the House an attempt to bribe him. On March 12, 17 14, he 
stated that on the day before he received a letter containing " a 
scandalous offer of a sum of money " if he would get passed 
an Act of Parliament, carrying out the prayer of a petition 
which was enclosed. The amount tendered and the object 
in view were not stated. But it is improbable that either 
the bribe was tempting or the intention nefarious, for the 
culprit turned out to be a poor Irishman named John Quin, 
who fancied himself to be labouring under some grievance 
or another. On being brought to the Bar he pleaded that 
he had offended inadvertently and through ignorance, being 
a stranger unacquainted with the methods of properly ap- 
proaching Parliament. He was ordered to go on his knees 
while the Speaker — again donning his garb of righteousness 
— severely censured him, after which he was discharged on 
paying the fees due to the Serjeant-at-Arms for arresting 

Hanmer's tenure of office was less than twelve months. 
The Parliament was dissolved shortly after the death of 
Queen Anne on August i, 1714, when the ex-Speaker 
retired into private life to occupy himself with the editing 
of a famous edition of Shakespeare, known as the " Oxford." 

The Elector of Hanover was proclaimed King as 

^ Mr. Steele's Apology, 25-6 (1714). 

* Parliavientary History^ vol. 6, pp. 1328, X329. 


George I. He opened his first Parliament in person, and 
on March i8, 171 5, the Speaker selected by the Commons, 
the Hon. Spencer Compton (third son of the third Earl of 
Northampton), a Whig who sat for Sussex, was presented 
to him for approval. His Majesty knew no English, and 
had been but a few weeks in England. Yet Compton 
addressed him with something of the ancient outward 
show of ceremonious subserviency, and appealed to his 
personal knowledge of " the faithful Commons " for proof 
of the un worthiness of the selection they had so unaccount- 
ably and so rashly made for the Chair. *' It must be very 
surprising to Your Majesty," said Compton in English to the 
uncomprehending German on the Throne, "that from amongst 
so many honourable, learned, and worthy persons who are 
every way qualified to discharge this great trust, anything 
could induce your Commons to present me for Your 
Majesty's approbation, who have none of those endowments 
for the execution of this important charge. I have neither 
memory to retain, judgment to collect, nor skill to guide 
their debates, nor can I boast of anything that could 
entitle me to the favour of the Chair, but an unshaken 
fidelity to the Protestant succession." ^ 

The King, of course, confirmed the appointment by the 
mouth of the Lord Chancellor. Compton, on returning to 
St. Stephens, told the Commons that the King had thus 
given proof " that he would never deny anything that can 
be asked of him by his faithful Commons, because it would 
be impossible for them ever to make a request that could be 
more reasonably refused," and the conceit was solemnly 
inscribed in the Journals? 

Compton filled the Chair for over twelve years, in two 
Parliaments and throughout the entire reign of George I. 
In 1722, or five years before he ceased to be Speaker, he 
was appointed to the lucrative oflfice of Paymaster of the 
Navy, which for a long period was regarded as a perquisite 
of the Chair. 

■ Parliamentary History, vol. 7, pp. 38-42. 
' CoMtmom Journals, vol. iS, p. 17. 




COMPTON'S successor, Arthur Onslow, was, so far, the 
greatest of the long line of Speakers. Men of 
brighter eminence had presided over the House of 
Commons, such as More, Coke, and Harley, but to them 
the Chair had been but the stepping-stone to higher spheres 
of political action in which they won their enduring renown, 
while the fame of Arthur Onslow rests entirely upon the 
greatness he achieved as Speaker. Born in October 1691, 
he was the nephew of the Speaker of Anne's third Parlia- 
ment, and the great-great-great-grandson of the Speaker 
of the second Parliament of Elizabeth, thus being the third 
member of his family who had sat in the Chair, He was 
educated at Winchester and Wadham College, Oxford, and 
was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 17 13. Seven 
years later he entered the House of Commons as the Whig 
representative of the borough of Guildford, Surrey, — a 
county in which his family exercised considerable political 
influence, — and represented it for seven years. He took 
little part in debate. But he had always the ambition of 
being Speaker, and he states in an autobiographical memoir, 
which he wrote late in life, that accordingly from the first 
day he set his foot in the House of Commons he "was an 
early and most constant attendant to, and a most studious 
observer of, everything that passed there." ^ 

At the General Election of 1727, for the first Parliament 
of George II., he was returned both for Guildford and Surrey, 
and elected to sit for the county. When the new Parliament 
met on January 23, 1728, he had his ambition realized by 
being unanimously appointed to the Chair, in his thirty- 
fourth year. 

In his autobiographical memoir he states that he seldom 
took part in the discussions, being always diffident of his 

* Onslow MSS., Hist. MSS. Commission, 14th Report, App. IX. 504. 


qualities as a debater. He endeavoured to found his 
character upon the rectitude of his actions in the House, 
and therefore often voted with either Party as he thought 
it in the right. " I loved independency, and pursued it," 
he adds. " I kept firm to my original Whig principles, upon 
conscience, and never deviated from them to serve any Party 
cause whatsoever. And all this, I hope and am persuaded, 
was what chiefly laid the foundations of my rise to the 
Chair of the House of Commons without any the least 
opposition, although Sir Robert Walpole sometimes said 
to me that the road to that station lay through the gates of 
St. James's."! 

In truth, the King's influence in the choice of Speaker 
had ceased with the Stuarts to be all-powerful. Certainly 
there is no evidence to show that George I. or George ii. 
cared to exercise any control over appointments to the 
Speakership. A new force had come into operation, and the 
passport to the Chair was rather the Party favour of the 
First Minister than the good graces of the King. Onslow 
had made known his desire to Sir Robert Walpole, whose 
notice he took care to cultivate, and had, in fact, been 
promised the Speakership by the First Minister.- 

Nevertheless, the old but ever-amusing farce of the 
Speaker, overwhelmed with the sense of his utter unworthi- 
ness, being led unwillingly to the Chair, continued to be 
played. Onslow was proposed by the Marquis of Hartington 
and seconded by Sir William Strickland. He then stood up 
in his place and proclaimed his incapacity. It was a great 
honour that he should be thought by his proposer and 
seconder to be in any degree qualified for so high a station. 
" Their motion to the House, Sir, will be the glory of my 
life," said he, addressing the Clerk, " but to make it so it 
must stop here, lest my having the execution of this ofiice 
should lose me the credit which their recommendation will 
otherwise give me." He was well content with the distinction 
of having been proposed for the Chair. Therefore, let 

' Onflow MSS., Hist. MSS. Commission, 14th Report, App. ix. 516. 
" Ibid., App. IX. 517, 518. 


another be chosen who would be more to the credit and 
benefit of the House. But the House would not accept his 
excuses, so he was taken out of his place by his proposer 
and seconder, and brought to the Bar, whence he was led 
up to the Chair. Standing upon the first step he said : 
" I hope, before I go any farther, gentlemen will reconsider 
what they have done, and suffer me to return to my place, 
in order to the making choice of another person more fit 
for this." The Members with one voice cried, " No, no ! " 
Then ascending to the upper step of the Chair, Onslow once 
more turned to the House, and asked that he might at least 
be given leave to submit his shortcomings to the King. 
But the House again cried " No, no ! " and Onslow sat down 
in the Chair. 

Still, when he was presented to the King at the Bar 
of the House of Lords, Onslow appealed to His Majesty to 
declare him unfit to be Speaker. "What, Sir," said he, 
after a recital of his inabilities, " above all renders me most 
improper for this high station, and creates the greatest dread 
on my mind, is my unfitness to approach your sacred person, 
and to represent your Commons as they ought ever to 
appear before the Majesty of their Sovereign." The Lord 
Chancellor, on behalf of George 11., said that while the King 
approved of " the decent and modest manner " in which 
Onslow had excused himself, he was perfectly satisfied with 
the choice of the Commons.^ 

Thus Onslow began the longest tenure of the Chair in 
the history of the House of Commons. He was Speaker for 
more than thirty-three years, in the five Parliaments of the 
reign of George li., and on each of the subsequent occasions 
— January 14, 1735; December i, 1741 ; November 10, 
1747; and November 14, 1754 — he had the unexampled 
distinction of being re-elected unopposed. By his conduct 
in the Chair he greatly enhanced the independence and 
dignity of the Speakership. John Hatsell, who sat at the 
Table as Clerk Assistant for some years under Onslow, says 

* Commons Journals, vol. 21, pp. 19, 20; Parliamentary History, \o\. 8, 
PP- 632-3- 


he held " that the forms of proceedings, as instituted by our 
ancestors, operated as a check and a control on the action 
of Ministers, and that they were, in many instances, a 
shelter and a protection to the minority against the attempts 
of power." ^ This was the spirit by which Onslow's conduct 
in the Chair was always animated throughout his long 
career. He also insisted on proper deference being paid 
to him as Speaker. " Mr. Onslow," says Hatscll, " never 
permitted a Member to come in or go out of the House, 
whilst he was in the Chair, without calling to him if he 
observed that the Member did not make his obeisance to 
the Chair." 2 


speaker's office of profit under the crown 

IT was Onslow who severed what was perhaps the last 
remaining link which bound the Chair to the Throne in 
the subserviency of personal obligation. He resigned 
the Treasurership of the Navy in circumstances which made 
it impossible for this post of profit under the Crown ever 
again to be associated with the Chair. It would seem, how- 
ever, that he was driven to take this step, not so much 
because he himself came to the conclusion that the holding 
of the office was incompatible with his independence as 
Speaker, as because he was taunted in the House with 
having been biased in a decision he gave by the sense of] 
his indebtedness to the Crown for a handsome addition to 
his emoluments. He was appointed to the post in 1734. In 
1742 he resigned it. The circumstances under which he did 
so are only disclosed by records of close on fifty years later.' 
In moving that the Speaker's allowance be fixed at the clear 
yearly sum of £6000, in 1790, Mr. F. Montague stated that] 
Onslow had to give his casting vote on a political question,] 

' ilatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, p. 237 (1818). ' Ibid., vol. 2, p. 232. 




when " the place he held was thrown in his teeth " by those 
against whom his decision went, and, " being a high-spirited 
man," he resigned the post the very next day.^ 

Early in 1754, as the end of his fourth term of office as 
Speaker was approaching, Onslow thought it was time for 
him to retire. Henry Pelham, then First Minister, hearing of 
his intention, pressed him to serve as Speaker also in the 
forthcoming new Parliament. He agreed to reconsider his 
decision, and states he said to Pelham that if he were to 
be Speaker again he must not be expected to act otherwise 
than he had always done, which at times was not pleasing 
to Ministers. " Sir," said Pelham, " I shall as little like, as 
any one else in my station, to have a Speaker in a set 
opposition to me and the measures I carry on ; but I shall 
as little like to have a Speaker over complaisant to me or 
to them." 

" 1 thought it nobly said," Onslow adds, " and mention it 
to his honour, and that rather as he and I had often differed." ^ 
Onslow was so great a stickler for forms and rules that 
Horace Walpole says " it often made him troublesome in 
matters of higher moment," which means, no doubt, the 
convenience of Ministers and their measures. Walpole 
further states that Onslow, in his proneness to court popular 
favour, "affected an impartiality that by turns led him to 
the borders of insincerity and contradiction " ; but he admits 
that his fidelity to his trust was unshakable.^ 

The new Parliament — the last of George II. — met on 
November 14, 1754. The re-election of Onslow was pro- 
posed by the Marquis of Granby and seconded by Thomas 
Pelham. At the three previous re-elections he followed the 
old custom of first entreating the Commons to select a 
worthier and more capable man, and then appealing to the 
King to refuse him the royal approbation. But on his 
fifth appointment he refrained from disabling himself. To 
the Commons he said that perhaps the length of time he 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 28, p. 515. 

^ Onslow MSS., Hist. MSS. Commission, 14th Report, App. ix. 517. 

' Horace Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George iii., vol. i, pp. 51-2. 


had served in the Chair was a reason against his under- 
taking another term of office. " But, however, I will not 
dispute with the House in their commands," he added. " I 
am theirs to be disposed of as they think proper, and shall 
always deem it a duty to submit in everything my will to 
their direction." The next day he was presented to the 
Lord Commissioners in the absence of the King. " From 
what has passed in several former Parliaments with regard 
to myself," said he, " I did not presume to dispute the 
commands of the Commons upon this occasion. It is for 
the same reasons, and from the like principles of duty, I 
forbear to urge anything here against their present resolu- 
tion, but resign myself entirely to His Majesty's pleasure, well 
knowing his own royal wisdom can best determine his own 
choice either to approve or disapprove what his Commons 
have now done." ^ 

In 1 761, Onslow resolved to retire from public life. On 
March 18, two days before the close of the last session of 
the Parliament, he announced his intention to the House. 
The thanks of the House was unanimously voted to him in 
the following terms : — 

" That the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Speaker 
for his constant and unwearied attendance in the Chair 
during the course of above thirty-three years in five 
successive Parliaments ; for his unshaken integrity and 
steady impartiality there ; and for the indefatigable pains 
he has, with uncommon abilities, constantly taken to promote 
the real interest of his King and country, to maintain the 
honour and dignity of Parliament, and to preserve inviolable 
the rights and privileges of the Commons of Great Britain." 

He delivered a farewell speech to the House which 
contained the following passages : — 

" When I begun my duty here I set out with a resolution 
and promise to the House to be impartial in everything, and 
to show respect to everybody. The first I know I have 
done. It is the only merit I can assume. If I have failed 
in the other it was unwittingly, it was inadvertently, and I 

• Farliamenlary History ^ vol. 15, p. 322. 


ask their pardon, most sincerely, to whomsoever it may 
have happened. I can truly say the giving satisfaction to 
all has been my constant aim, my study and my pride. 
And now, Sirs, I am to take my last leave of you. It is, I 
confess, with regret, because the being within those walls 
has ever been the chief pleasure of my life ; but my advanced 
age and infirmities, and some other reasons, call for retirement 
and obscurity. There I shall spend the remainder of my 
days, and shall only have power to hope and to pray, and 
my hopes and prayers — my daily prayers — will be for the 
continuance of the Constitution in general, and that the 
freedom, the dignity, and authority of this House may be 

The Commons, to mark their sense of the Speaker's 
farewell address, resolved unanimously to have it printed in 
the proceedings of the day. Another resolution was also 
unanimously agreed to beseeching the King that he would 
" graciously be pleased to confer some signal mark of his 
royal favour" upon Onslow.^ Accordingly, by Letters 
Patent dated April 20, 1761, the King granted Onslow an 
annuity of ;^3C)00 for the lives of himself and his son, 
George Onslow ; and His Majesty recommended that, as he 
had no power to continue the pension beyond the term of 
his own life, it should be effectually secured by Act of 
Parliament. The necessary statute was passed in the 
following year.2 

This was the first pension that had been bestowed on 
a retiring Speaker. Another unusual distinction which fell 
to Onslow was that he was the first ex-Speaker to receive 
the freedom of the City of London in appreciation of 
his impartiality and judicious conduct in the Chair.^ The 
ceremony took place on June 11, 1761, but Onslow declined, 
"on account of his official position," to accept the gold box 
of the value of one hundred guineas in which the Common 
Council desired to present the certificate of his admission 
as a freeman.* Onslow died in 1768, aged ^6. 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 15, pp. 1013-15. - 2 Geo. Ul. c. 33. 

^ Annual Register {ox 1761, p. 106. 
■* London'' s Roll of Fame (1884), p. 42. 




IN the first Parliament of George III., which met on 
November 3, 1761, Sir John Cust, a lawyer who sat for 
the borough of Grantham in Lincolnshire, was appointed 
Speaker. " Bating his nose, the Chair seems well filled," 
says Horace Walpole in a letter dated November 7 of the 
same year. Cust was re-elected on May 10, 1768, when the 
second Parliament of George III. assembled. 

The angry discussions and protracted sittings of the 
House arising out of the turbulent political career of John 
Wilkes were too much for him physically. On January 17, 
1770, he did not appear at St. Stephens. The Clerk re- 
ported to the House that the Speaker had sent for him to 
his bed-chamber about an hour before, and desired him to 
express to the Members his extreme sorrow that on account 
of his weak state of health he was unable to take the Chair. 
After an adjournment of five days the House met again, and 
was informed by Lord Barrington that, as Cust had sent 
word to the King that he was too ill to attend the service 
of the House, His Majesty gave leave to the Commons to 
proceed to the choice of another Speaker.^ Two days later 
Cust died, in his fifty-second year. 

The House immediately proceeded to elect a successor 
to Cust on January 22, 1770, the day his resignation was 
announced. There were two candidates for the Chair. Sir 
P'lctcher Norton, a Tory, was proposed by Lord North and 
seconded by Richard Rigby. Lord John Cavendish proposed 
and Lord George Sackville .seconded the Right Hon. Thomas 
Townshend, the younger, who was a Whig. Norton was 
elected by 237 votes to 121.^ He represented Guildford in 
Surrey, and was an eminent lawyer, having been Attorney- 
General before his-Hpf)ointment as Speaker. During Norton's 
tenure of the Chair many momentous questions agitated the 

' Coininons Journals, vol. 32, p. 613. ^ Ibid., vol. 32, p. 613. 


House of •Commons, such as its powers to expel Wilkes for a 
political libel, to curtail the freedom of the Press, and to tax 
the American Colonies. His duties were therefore arduous 
and responsible, and to add to the difficulties of his position 
he had an ungovernable temper, which made him perhaps, 
the most choleric Speaker that had ever presided over the 
House of Commons. On February 16, 1770, his want of 
tact and discretion not only plunged the House into a 
violent wrangle, which lasted six hours, but led to the unique 
incident of a Speaker's words being taken down as disorderly. 
He was asked by Sir William Meredith to rule that a 
resolution in reference to John Wilkes should be submitted 
to the House in two parts, as it contained propositions so 
distinct that it was difficult for Members to assent to or 
dissent from the whole. Norton testily replied, that as 
" he was scarce warm in the Chair " he thought Meredith 
should have told him beforehand of his intention to ask 
for his ruling, so that he might,\come prepared. Meredith 
said the Speaker " had used him very ill " in thus censuring 
him, and held it was not necessary for a Member to give the 
Speaker notice of his motions. " In candour, I did expect 
he would have communicated his motion to me," said the 
Speaker hotly ; " but I find I am not to expect candid 
treatment from that gentleman." This retort was received 
with cries of " Take down his words " from the supporters of 

John Hatsell was Clerk of the House. He states in his 
work on Precedents that he was " put under very extraordinary 
difficulties " on this occasion. Holding that the Clerk is not 
justified in obeying any orders or directions but such as are 
signified to him by the Chair, he declined to take down the 
words, though several Members called upon him " to do his 
duty," until the Speaker gave his consent and directions.^ 
The words complained of were, according to the report in 
the Journals, written by a Member and handed to the Clerk, 
and were as follows : " When I expected candid treatment 

* Parliamentary JJistojy, vol. i6, pp. 808-9. 

- Ilatsell, Precedents of the House of Commons, vol. 2, p. 272. 


from that Member 1 was mistaken, for I find I am not to 
expect candour from that gentleman in any motions he has 
to make to the Chair." The Speaker protested that these 
were not his exact words. " In candour I hoped he would 
have informed me of the motion he intended to make," said 
he, giving his version of his remark; "but now I find, from 
what the hon. Member has said, that I am not to expect 
that candid treatment from him, for he said in his speech — 
that from this time forward he will have no communication 
with the Chair." ^ 

The House was " in an uproar," says the account in the 
Parliamentary History. Obviously the Speaker was in an 
irascible mood. If his words were to be taken down he was 
determined they should present Meredith in an unflattering 
light. However, he was induced by the angry discussion 
which followed to say that " he did not mean any general 
reflection on the character of the Member." Then Grenville 
was proceeding to express the hope that Meredith would 
accept this " apology " when the Speaker hotly interposed to 
repudiate the notion that he had any intention of apologizing. 
" What I said," he declared, " arose out of what I understood 
the Member to have said. If he disclaimed candour with the 
Chair, I had the right to say I was not to expect candour on 
that subject. I did not, in justice I ought not to have made 
a general reflection upon his character, but if the Member 
said what I understood he said I had a right to say what I 
did. I can make no apology for what I said, but will abide 
by the sense of the House." - This made matters worse 
than ever. Dowdeswell moved : " That the words of Mr. 
Speaker, from the Chair, are disorderly, importing an im- 
proper reflection on a Member of this House, and dangerous 
to the freedom of debate in this House," and the motion was 
seconded by Colonel Barrd The discussion lasted till ten 
o'clock. As it progressed there was shown a disposition 
to arrive at an amicable conclusion, and Meredith did not 
oppose it. Finally, the motion was put from the Chair, and 
as thQ Journals say, " It passed in the negative." 

' Corn mons Journals, vol. 32, p. 708. - Jbid., vol. 32, p. 70S. 


In the next Parliament, which met on November 29, 
1774, Norton was re-elected unanimously. An interesting 
point then arose in relation to the claim for the privileges of 
the Commons which is made by the Speaker at the Bar of 
the House of Lords. By an Act passed in the preceding 
Parliament ^ the servants of Members were deprived of the 
privilege of freedom from arrest which they had enjoyed as 
well as their masters, and it was the opinion of Norton 
that in the circumstances an alteration ought to be made 
in the terms of the Speaker's address to the Sovereign. He 
informed the House that he proposed to claim all the 
usual privileges, " except where the same had been altered 
or taken away by any Act of Parliament." But on con- 
sulting Lord Chancellor Apsley he was led to change his 
mind. In the view of the Lord Chancellor " it would be the 
safer way, in order to prevent any difficulties which might 
arise on any alteration, to adhere to the usual form," especially 
as neither the claim itself nor its allowance by the King could 
be supposed to include privileges not warranted by law.- 
Since then the Speaker has claimed privileges for men who 
by law are not entitled to them, and the claim has been 
allowed by the Lord Chancellor in the name of the King. 

Before the Parliament came to an end the conduct of 
Norton as Speaker was again the subject of a violent dis- 
cussion in the House. This time it was not a Member he 
flouted, but the King. On May 7, 1777, he went with the 
Commons to the House of Lords to present, according to 
ancient custom, a Money Bill for the Royal Assent. " The 
King," says the Lords Journals,^'' being seated on the Throne, 
adorned with his Crown and royal ornaments, and attended 
by his officers of State." The Bill was one " for the better 
support of His Majesty's household, and of the honour and 
dignity of the Crown of Great Britain," and in presenting it 
Norton said it afforded the fullest and clearest proof of the 
zeal and affection of the Commons. " For," he added, " they 
have not only granted to Your Majesty a large present 
supply, but also a very great additional revenue — great 

^ 10 Geo. ni. c. 50. ^ Hatsell, Precedents, vol. 2, pp. 227-8. 



beyond example, great beyond Your Majesty's highest 

Thus is the passage rendered in the report of the speech 
supplied by Norton, and inscribed by order of the House, 
with an expression of its thanks on ihe. Journals. But several 
Members who were with the Speaker at the Bar of the House 
of Lords, and took notes of his remarks, declared that the 
word "wants" and not "expense" was used, which made 
the speech still more insulting to the King. On May 9, 
Rigby brought the matter before the House, and made 
a violent attack on the Speaker. Norton did not explicitly 
deny that the word he used was " wants." He said he 
thought he had said "expense." Thurlow, the Attorney- 
General, who expressed the views of the Government, declared 
the speech conveyed the sentiments of the Speaker and not 
those of the House. The Opposition were on the side of 
Norton, and Charles James Fox, voicing their sentiments, 
moved that the Speaker had " expressed with just and 
proper energy the zeal of the House for the support of the 
honour and dignity of the Crown in circumstances of 
great public charge," which ultimately was agreed to, 
with a second expression of thanks to Norton for his 

The speech excited as much commotion outside as inside 
the House. The Common Council of the Corporation of 
London, on May 14, passed a resolution directing that the 
speech be entered on the Journals of the Court, and deciding 
to present Norton with the certificate of freedom of the City 
in a gold box, of the value of fifty guineas, " for having 
declared in manly terms the real state of the Nation to His 
Majesty on the Throne." Like Arthur Onslow in 1761, 
Norton declined to accept the gold box.^ 

Norton availed himself of the right of the Speaker to take 
part in discussions in Committee for the purpose of support- 
ing the Opposition. He was with them in their desire for 
conciliatory treatment of the American colonists. When the 

' Parliamentary Hiitory, vol. 19, p. 227 ; Coinmons Jounials, vol. 32, p. 4S5. 
^ London's Roll of Fame, p. 60 (1SS4). 


House discussed in Committee Joseph Dunning's famous 
motion " that the influence of the Crown has increased, is 
increasing, and ought to be diminished," on April 6, 1780, he 
spoke in its support. He was, however, apologetic for his 
intervention. " His situation in the House," he remarked, " ren- 
dered it extremely irksome to him to rise upon the present 
occasion, as it might be thought that his situation carried with 
it some degree of influence, and that it was his duty to keep 
the scale even, and not to take any decided part respecting 
the contrariety of opinions which prevailed in the House." ^ 

George III. determined that there should be a different 
Speaker in his fourth Parliament. Six days before it met 
he wrote to Lord North, the First Minister : " Mr. Cornwall 
is a very respectable person for the ofiice of Speaker, and 
ought to be assured of the support of the Government on 
this occasion, and called on to attend the first meeting, and 
to take all the pains he can to show his willingness to accept 
that honourable office." ^ Accordingly, at the meeting of 
the new Parliament, October 31, 1780, Charles Wolfran 
Cornwall was proposed as the Ministerial nominee, by Lord 
George Germain, and seconded by Welbore Ellis. The 
excuse that was made for setting aside Norton was the 
indifferent state of his health. It was true that on two 
occasions during the previous session the progress of public 
business had been interrupted by his enforced absence from 
the House by illness. But his friends, at least, were of 
opinion that the fatigue of the Speakership was not too heavy 
a burden to be imposed upon him ; and he was nominated 
by Joseph Dunning and seconded by Thomas Townshend. 

Norton himself declared he would not take the Chair 
again on any consideration. He admitted that his constitu- 
tion had been somewhat impaired by his prolonged sittings 
in the Chair ; but he complained bitterly that he had not been 
asked by Ministers whether his health would enable him to 
continue to act as Speaker should he be chosen again by 
the House. " His appearance," says Sir Nathaniel Wraxall 

^ Parliainentary History, vol. 21, pp. 355-9. 

^ Donne, Letters of George in. to Lord North, vol. 2, p. 337. 



in Historical and Posthumous Memoirs, " seemed, indeed, to 
present the aspect of a man who, though somewhat declined 
in years, did not manifest any tokens of decay." Cornwall 
was elected by a majority of 169, — 203 votes to 134.^ 

On November 20, 1780, there was a motion to thank 
Norton for his services. Thomas Townshend, who moved 
in the matter, stated that he had drawn up a resolution 
expressing the gratitude of the House to Norton " for the 
great dignity, ability, and impartiality" he had displayed 
in the Chair, but its terms were objected to as being too 
warm, and in order to obtain unanimity for the vote he 
asked the House simply to record its thanks to Norton 
" for his conduct during the time he filled the Chair." But 
even this modified motion was opposed. One Member dis- 
closed the cause of the animosity with which Norton was 
being pursued by declaring that " he had insulted his 
Sovereign." The Speaker, Cornwall, called him to order, 
pointing out " that it was the first, most important, and 
most sacred of all the orders of the House " never to make 
use of the name of the Sovereign with a view to influencing 
the freedom of debate. The resolution was carried by 136 
votes to 96.2 On February i, 1781, Norton being in his 
place, the thanks of the House were coldly conveyed to 
him by Speaker Cornwall, and he made his acknowledgment 
in a few formal words.^ In 1782, Norton was created Baron 
Grantley of Markenfield, Yorkshire. 



CORNWALL was born at Barrington, Herefordshire, in 
1735. Though called to the Bar, he did not practise. 
He had filled several Government offices, and had 
a pension of ;£^I500 a year from one of them on his election 

' Parliamentary Ilistoiy, vol. 21, p. 793. - Ibid., vol. 21, pp. 873-85. 
* Ibid,, vol. 21, p. 1 106. 


to the Chair. He represented Winchelsea in the Parliament 
of 1780, and Rye, another of the Cinque Ports, in the sub- 
sequent ParHament of 1784, when he was again appointed 
Speaker. One of the objections urged by the Opposition 
to his first nomination was that he represented not a real 
constituency but a Cinque port. 

During the sittings of the House he indulged in frequent 
drafts of porter. Foaming tankards of the liquor were 
brought to him in the course of the evening from Bellamy's, 
a refreshment house in Old Palace Yard where Lords and 
Commons got what they needed in the way of eating and 
drinking. Wraxall says the porter sometimes proved too 
powerful for the Speaker and " produced inconveniences," 
as he nicely puts it.^ This amiable weakness in which 
Cornwall indulged to relieve the weariness of long sittings 
is also commemorated in one of the political satires of The 
Rolliad : — 

" Like sad Prometheus fastened to the rock, 
In vain he looks for pity to the clock ; 
In vain the power of strengthening porter tries, 
And nods to Bellamy for fresh supplies." 

To Cornwall belongs the melancholy distinction of being 
the one Speaker who died in harness. His end was short 
and rather sudden. On December 29, 1788, he was in the 
Chair, but evidently he was then ill, for the Journals state 
that the House was counted out, as the required quorum 
of forty was not present, an expedient which was frequently 
resorted to in the eighteenth century when the Speaker felt 
unwell. The next day he did not appear. The Clerk re- 
ported that he was laid up with a feverish cold, but hoped 
to be well enough to return in a day or two. On January i, 
1789, he was still indisposed. No business was transacted 
on either of these days. The entry in the Journals for 
January 2 runs : " The House being met, the Clerk at 
the Table acquainted the House that he was extremely 
sorry to inform them that Mr. Speaker died this morning ; 

^ Wraxall, Historical and Posthumous Memoirs^ vol. i, pp. 259-61 (1884 


after which, and before any Member spoke, the Mace was 
brought into the House by the Serjeant and laid under 
the Table." It was then agreed to adjourn for three days.^ 

The House met on January 5, under very peculiar 
circumstances. George III. was mentally afflicted, and there- 
fore the customary intimation of the King's leave to the 
Commons to chose a new Speaker was not forthcoming. 
The I louse, nevertheless, proceeded to elect a Speaker, solely 
on its own authority, as it had done before when there was 
no King in the troublous times of the Civil War and the 
Revolution. There were two candidates. The nominee of 
the Government, William Wyndham Grenville, was opposed 
by Sir Gilbert Eliot. A new feature was introduced in the 
disablement to which both candidates subjected themselves. 
Each declared the other was the better man. Grenville 
" trembled for his shortcomings and inability to discharge 
the duties of the office," and asked the Members " to turn 
their eyes to the honourable baronet over the way." Eliot 
thought that Grenville's knowledge and experience exactly 
fitted him for the post. As for himself, " he could not think 
of taking that Chair, to which he so well knew his own 
inadequacy to do justice "^ The voting was 215 for 
Grenville and 144 for Eliot. 

Owing to the King's illness the formality of submitting 
the Speaker-elect for the royal approbation had also to be 
dispensed with, and Grenville took his seat in the Chair 
and the House proceeded at once to business. Curiously 
enough, nothing is said by the Journals in explanation of 
the unusual, though not unprecedent, features of Grenville's 

Grenville, a member of a family distinguished in public 
life, was in his thirtieth year when he thus succeeded to the 
Chair, He was one of the representatives of Buckingham- 
shire. For five months only was he Speaker. On June 5, 

* Commons Journals, vol. 44, p. 445. 

' Parliamentary Htsto7y, vol. 27, pp. 906-7. 

* Commons Journals, vol. 44, p. 45. Parliamentary History, vol. 27, 
pp. 904-7. 



1789, the Clerk read a letter from him intimating that the 
King had appointed him a Secretary of State, which 
rendered his seat in Parliament vacant.^ 

The House met again three days later. As the King 
was now mentally capable of attending to public business, 
the Commons were informed that His Majesty was graciously 
pleased to give them leave to proceed to the choice of a 
new Speaker, For the second time Sir Gilbert Eliot was 
proposed in opposition to the Ministerial nominee, Henry 
Addington, the son of a physician, and Tory Member for 
the borough of Devizes in Wiltshire. 

This time the candidates not only spoke for each other, 
but backed their opinions with their votes. Addington said 
the Speakership would be " a burthen which his abilities 
were by no means able to sustain," and, looking round the 
House for some one thoroughly qualified for the post, he 
found the object of his quest in Eliot. " After the liberal 
manner in which the hon. gentlemen on the other side 
of the House had been pleased to speak of him," said 
Eliot in return, " it was incumbent on him to assure the 
hon. gentleman that he entertained the highest respect for 
his character and the best opinion of his abilities, and he 
should therefore give his hearty and decided vote in his 
favour." - 

Eliot got 142 votes, or two less than in January, while 
Addington was elected by 215 votes, exactly the number 
obtained by his predecessor. The King was so delighted 
with the election of Addington that, though still weak from 
his illness, he went down to Westminster, on June 9, to 
give it his approbation, as a mark of his personal regard 
for the new Speaker. 

Addington had little ability, but he had luck. He had 
just completed his thirty-second year. The salary of the 
Speakership, which till his election was derived from 
fluctuating sources and never exceeded ;^3000, was fixed 
at double that sum. At least he made an imposing Speaker. 

' Coinmotis Journals, vol. 44, p. 434. 

^ Parliamentary History , vol. 28, pp. 1 5 1-2. 

288 thp: speaker of the house 

" I have only to regret, as a picturesque man," said one 
of the letters of congratulation, " that such an enlightened 
countenance as God Almighty has given you should be 
shrouded in a bush of horse-hair." ^ 



ADDINGTON presided over the House of Commons 
for twelve years, and in a time of partisan Speakers 
had the confidence of the Whigs as well as of the 
Tories. When his father died, in March 1790, the House 
adjourned for two days. Only once was his impartiality 
questioned. The occasion was a dispute between the First 
Minister, Pitt, and Tierney, the leader of the Opposition. 
On May 25, 1798, Pitt brought in a Bill for increasing the 
Navy by 10,000 men, and as the nation was at war with 
France he asked the House to pass it through all its 
stages that evening. Tierney said he knew of no sudden 
emergency which made the Bill necessary ; and in any case 
time ought to be allowed for examining into the claim of 
urgency. " No man," said Pitt, " could oppose the Bill in 
the manner Mr. Tierney had done, unless it were from a 
wish to impede the defence of the country." Tierney, thus 
almost stigmatized as a traitor, appealed to the Speaker for 
protection. Addington said that any words which tended 
to cast a personal imputation upon a Member were un- 
parliamentary, and added that the House would wait to 
hear the explanation of the Minister. Pitt replied that the 
House must wait a long time before it heard any such 
explanation from him. Later on in the discussion he was 
more definite. "I gave no explanation," said he, "because 
I wished to abide by the words I had used." ^ Thus he set 

' Pcllew, Life of Lord Sidtnouth, vol. i, p. 66. 
* rarlianuniary IJistory, vol. 33, pp. 1460-2. 


at naught the authority of the Chair. But the Speaker did 
not move. Tierney, to emphasize his resentment of the 
words of Pitt and the inaction of Addington, rose and left 
the Chamber. In the fashion of the time the matter could 
only be settled by pistols. 

The quarrel arose on a Friday. The next day Pitt sent 
for the Speaker, and apprised him that arrangements had 
been made for the duel to take place on Putney Heath at 
three o'clock on Sunday afternoon. Addington not only did 
nothing to stop the meeting, but mounting his horse after 
luncheon on Sunday rode out to Putney to see the un- 
common spectacle of the Leader of the House and the 
Leader of the Opposition shooting at each other with some- 
thing more serious than partisan arguments. " When I 
arrived on the hill," said Addington, in an account he gave 
of the occurrence, late in life, " I knew from seeing a crowd 
looking down into the valley that the duel was then pro- 
ceeding. After a time I saw the same chaise which had 
conveyed Pitt to the spot mounting the ascent, and riding 
up to it I found him safe, when he said, ' You must dine 
with me to-day.' " ^ Two shots were fired by the combatants 
without effect, after which the seconds decided that enough 
had been done for honour. 

On February 12, 1799, Addington spoke in Committee 
in support of the resolutions moved by Pitt for a Union of 
Ireland with Great Britain. He said the occasions were 
few on which he was disposed to take any other part in 
the debates and proceedings of the House than that which 
was called for by his official duties as Speaker. On this 
subject of the Union, however, he made a long speech, the 
report of which fills twenty columns, or ten pages of the 
Parliamentary History. The Union was effected, and the 
Irish Lords and Commons appeared in the first Imperial 
Parliament which met at Westminster on January 22, 1801. 
Addington, therefore, was the first Speaker of the Commons 
of the United Kingdom. Within a few weeks he was Prime 
Minister. In his speech on the Union he declared that he 

^ Pellew, Life of Lord Sidmotith, vol. i, p. 205. 


was utterly opposed to Catholic Emancipation, by the 
granting of which Pitt had hoped to make the Union a 
healing measure, and it was to him that George III. turned 
to form an anti-Catholic Administration when, in February 
l8oi, Pitt resigned in consequence of the refusal of the 
King to sanction his proposals for the completion of his 
Irish policy. 

On February lo, the Clerk read to the House a letter 
from the Speaker in which he said that " His Majesty having 
been pleased to express his intention of appointing me, at 
this conjuncture, to a situation which would be incompat- 
ible with the continuance of my service to the House of 
Commons," he begged to tender his resignation.^ Addison 
took his seat on the Treasury Bench, as Chancellor of the 
Exchequer and Prime Minister, on March 23. 

Sir John Mitford, a lawyer, who represented the county 
of Northumberland, was elected to succeed Addington in the 
Chair. He had been appointed Solicitor-General in 1793, 
and Attorney-General in 1799, and resigned the latter office 
when selected by the new Government as their nominee for the 
Speakership. The election took place on February 11, 1801. 
Richard Brinsley Sheridan proposed Charles Dundas,on behalf 
of the Whig Opposition, but as Dundas had taken neither the 
oaths nor hisseat he was not eligible; and there was no division. 
Mitford declined to follow the ancient custom of declaring 
himself unfit for the Chair. He said that in view of the 
high legal offices which he had filled, and the length of time 
he had attended to his duty as a Member of the House, 
he would not for a moment suppose that any gentleman 
should think him unqualified for the situation. Indeed, he 
very candidly avowed that it was his ambition to preside 
over the deliberations of the Commons.- 

" There could not be a stronger presage of our joint 
endeavours to save this dear country than the choice of Sir 
John Mitford as Speaker of the House of Commons," said 
the King in a letter to Addington. His tenure of office, 

' Commons Journals, vol. 56, p. 33. 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 35, pp. 94S-55. 


however, lasted only a year. He was appointed Lord 
Chancellor of Ireland on February 9, 1802, and created a 
peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Redesdale. 



ON February 10, 1802, the vacant Chair was filled by 
the election of Charles Abbot, another lawyer, who 
had been appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland when 
Addington became Prime Minister. Sheridan again pro- 
posed Charles Dundas for three reasons. In the first place, 
he desired to establish the principle that gentlemen who 
had not held office, and were therefore independent of the 
Ministers, should be appointed to the Chair. He also 
condemned the practice of looking only to the profession 
of the law for Speakers, and advocated a return to the 
custom of selecting them from the landed gentry. But 
when the question was put, " That the Right Hon. Charles 
Abbot do take the Chair of this House as Speaker?" it 
was agreed to without a division. 

At his election to the Chair, Abbot represented the 
borough of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, In 1806 he was 
returned for Oxford University. Born in 1757, the son 
of the Rev. John Abbot, rector of All Saints, Colchester, 
and educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, 
he was one of the ablest and most distinguished men that 
have filled the Chair. He was Speaker for fifteen years, 
and his tenure of office is perhaps most notable for a 
remarkable demonstration in support of the absolute 
impartiality of the Chair, called forth by an act of partisan- 
ship into which he was led by his hostility to Catholic 
Emancipation. In 1813 a Bill was introduced by Henry 
Grattan, the Irish patriot, to open the doors of Parliament 
to Roman Catholics. In Committee on the Bill, Abbot 


moved an amendment in the first clause striking out the 
words which enacted that Roman Catholics should be free 
to sit and vote in either House of Parliament, and it was 
carried by 251 votes against 247. The Bill was therefore 
withdrawn by its promoters. 

No objection was raised to Abbot's action by the sup- 
porters of Catholic emancipation. It was still recognized 
that the Speaker was entitled to exercise all the functions of 
a Member when the House was in Committee, and he, of 
course, was not in the Chair. But at the end of the session, 
on July 22, 1 81 3, when Parliament was prorogued by the 
Prince Regent, Abbot availed himself of the opportunity 
afforded by the presentation of Money Bills for the Royal 
Assent at the Bar of the House of Lords, to make a violent 
speech in opposition to the Catholic claims, which aroused the 
indignation of the friends of the cause in the House. " But, 
Sir," said he, after recapitulating all the measures of the 
session, as was customary on such occasions, " these are not 
the only subjects to which our attention has been called. 
Other momentous changes have been proposed for our con- 
sideration. Adhering, however, to those laws by which the 
Throne, Parliament, and the Government of this country are 
made fundamentally Protestant, we have not consented to 
allow that those who acknowledge a foreign jurisdiction 
should be authorized to administer the powers of the Realm, 
willing as we are, nevertheless, and willing as I trust we ever 
shall be, to allow the largest scope to religious toleration." 

" I observed," says Abbot in his Diary^ " the Regent 
repeatedly nod assent to parts of my speech, and especially to 
the passage about the Roman Catholics." He also records 
that on his return to the House of Commons, Lord Morpeth 
came up to him, as he sat in the Chair, whilst Lord 
Castlereagh, Bathurst, and Vansittart were standing by, and 
asked whether his speech would be entered on \\\e Journals. 
" To which," says Abbot, " I answered, ' Certainly not ' ; and 
he then replied, * he should have objected to part of it if 
there had been any such proceeding,' and so departed." 
Abbot then goes on to foreshadow his defence should he be 


called to account for the speech. " I remarked to Lord 
Castlereagh, Vansittart, and Bathurst," he says, "that the 
House had repeatedly refused to instruct the Speaker what 
he should say, that they left it to him to collect the sense of 
the House from its proceedings, and that, as to pleasing 
everybody, I had long ago given up the attempt." ^ 

The speech aroused considerable political excitement out- 
side the House of Commons also. It was furiously denounced 
by the supporters of Catholic emancipation. Fervent 
endorsements of its sentiments, passed by anti-Catholic 
meetings and engrossed on vellum, were presented to 
Abbot. At the opening of the new session of Parliament in 
November 181 3, Lord Morpeth gave notice of his intention 
to bring the speech under the consideration of the House 
of Commons after the Christmas recess. As a preparation 
for the debate, the House on November 8 passed a 
resolution that Mr. Speaker should be desired to print his 
speech. "It was settled by me with the Clerk of the 
Journals," Abbot records, "to print my speech, like Sir 
Fletcher Norton's on May 7, 1777, as a separate sheet of 
the Votes." Under date November 17 he writes: "Met 
Whitbread riding, who congratulated me upon the light 
labours of the House of Commons, and the re-establishment 
of my health, hoping that I might stay with them for twenty 
years to come." Whitbread was a prominent Whig, who 
had already in the House denounced Abbot " as an un- 
authorized and unauthenticated expositor of the opinions of 
the House of Commons." " I said," Abbot continues in his 
Diary, " ' Yes, if you do not dethrone me.' He replied 
laughing, ' Oh no ; only checks and guards, and I assure you 
there is no one who would be more sorry than I should be to 
see you out of the seat.' " ^ 

The opportunity for discussing the speech did not arise 
until April 22, 18 14. Morpeth then moved a resolution 
which was veiy adroitly worded, if somewhat far-fetched. 
Ignoring the publication of Parliamentary proceedings in the 

^ D-iary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, vol. 2, p. 453- 
^ Ibid. , vol. 2, pp. 45S-9. 


Press, it charged the Speaker with having violated the 
privileges of the House by disclosing its secrets to the Crown. 
" That it is contrary to parliamentary usage and to the spirit 
of parliamentary proceedings," it ran, " for the Speaker, 
unless by specific instruction of this House, to inform His 
Majesty at the Bar of the Lords, or elsewhere, of any 
proposals made to the House by any of its Members, either 
in the way of Bill or motion, or to acquaint the Throne 
with any proceeding relative to such proposals until they 
shall be consented to by this House." Abbot made a long 
and able speech in defence of his action. He relied upon 
precedents from the Journals showing that Speakers, when 
reviewing the work of the session at the Bar of the Lords, 
did not confine themselves to the Bills that had been passed, 
but often entered at large upon matters, foreign and domestic, 
which had occupied the attention of the House. Where he 
failed, however, was in the production of a single instance of 
a partisan speech by a Speaker in relation to the most 
controversial question of the hour. 

His conduct was unreservedly condemned, by the Whigs 
at least. Strong as was the language of Morpeth's motion, it 
was not denunciatory enough for Whitbread. He moved an 
amendment declaring the Speaker had been " guilty of a vio- 
lation of the trust imposed in him, of a breach of the privileges 
of the House, of which he is the chosen guardian and 
champion," and Creevey seconded it. Whitbread recalled the 
historic saying of Speaker Lenthall, when Charles I. asked him 
were the five Members in the House. " I have neither eyes to 
see, ears to hear, nor tongue to speak, but as the House 
directs." " You, sir," said Whitbread to Abbot, " used your 
ears to hear and your eyes to see, as a private Member ; and 
used your tongue as Speaker to give utterance to that which 
you had no right to state." Plunket, in an eloquent speech, 
described the action of the Speaker as the most formidable 
attack on the constitution of Parliament that had occurred 
since the Revolution. Tierney, the Whig Leader, came to 
closer quarters with the principle that was really at stake. 
" When a Bill was passed, it spoke for itself," said he. " But if 


this discretion was to be considered as vested in the Speaker 
of adverting to the proceedings of the House, the Speaker of 
the House of Commons must be a Party man. There would 
be an end to everything like a Speaker for a length of years by 
whose experience in the manner of conducting the business 
of the House they could derive advice and instruction." 
Canning, who had voted against Abbot's destructive amend- 
ment in the Bill for removing the disabilities of Roman 
Catholics, was the most influential man who spoke up for 
Abbot. While it might be contended that the Speaker had 
fallen into an error of judgment, he thought it could not be 
said that he had abused his authority. " What it is not 
lawful for the King to notice," said Grant, on the other side, 
" it is not lawful for the Speaker to express." 

In the end Whitbread withdrew his amendment, his object 
in moving it being to have it recorded in the Jour Jials. The 
House rejected Morpeth's motion by 274 votes against 106, 
and passed a resolution declaring that the Speaker had 
done nothing which called for its interference. The debate 
helped immensely in establishing the Chair's independence 
of all political parties.^ These addresses by the Speaker at 
the end of the session, when Parliament was prorogued by 
the Sovereign in person, were discontinued not long after- 
wards ; but never again, while the custom survived, was a 
controversial speech delivered, and reference was confined 
to the most important measures that had actually become 

In 1 817, Abbot's health broke down, and he decided to 
retire. The manner of his resignation and the consequent 
proceedings are interesting from a constitutional point of 
view, because they led to a curious clash between the pre- 
rogatives of the Crown and the privileges of the Commons. 
He relates in his Diary that he informed the Prime Minister, 
Lord Liverpool, on May 27, 1 817, of his desire to resign the 
Chair. Liverpool, acknowledging the communication next 
day, says he laid it before the Prince Regent, who expressed 
his gracious intention to make Abbot a peer, and to send a 

^ Parliamentary History, vol. 27, pp. 465-522. 


message to Parliament recommending a proper provision for 
the maintenance of that dignity. " He came to me from 
the Levee," Abbot writes, "and mentioned the provision 
intended to be ;6^4000 a year for me and ;^3000 for next 
heir of the peerage." Abbot adds that he decided to take 
the title of "Colchester." Everything having thus been 
satisfactorily settled, the Clerk of the House of Commons, 
on May 30, read a letter of resignation from Abbot.^ 

The next development was on June 3, in the House of 
Commons. When the new Speaker, Manners-Sutton, had 
been confirmed. Lord Castlereagh, as Leader of the House, 
delivered a message from the Prince Regent that, " acting in 
the name and on behalf of His Majesty," His Royal Highness 
had conferred the dignity of the peerage on Abbot for his 
services in the Chair, and recommended that a proper pro- 
vision should be made for him and his next heir male. 
This undoubtedly was quite an innovation. Hitherto the 
procedure had been for the House, in the first instance, to 
present an address to the Sovereign praying for " a signal 
mark of favour" to be conferred on the retiring Speaker; 
and the new departure in the case of Abbot was resented by 
the Opposition as an unconstitutional interference by the 
Crown with the privileges of the House. It was contended 
that as the Crown was not entitled to know what passed 
in the House, it was consequently unable to appreciate the 
merits of the Speaker in the discharge of the duties of the 
Chair — an argument never wanting in conflicts between the 
Commons and the Sovereign, but becoming more and more 
threadbare and absurd in the ever-growing light cast upon 
the House and its proceedings by the Press. The Govern- 
ment, however, could not but see they had made a mistake. 
Castlereagh tried to retrieve it in a blundering way. He 
gave the extraordinary explanation that the provision whicl 
the House was asked to make was not in consideration 
Abbot's services as a Speaker, but was in respect of hiij 
I)eerage, which was solely the gift of the Sovereign. " N< 
no!" cried the House. Then the Government tacitl] 

' Lord Colchester, Diary and Correspondence, vol. 2, pp. 617-19. 



admitted their error by withdrawing their motion that the 
message of the Prince Regent be considered.^ 

On June 5 the customary votes of thanks was passed to 
Abbot, after which Castlereagh moved an address to the 
Prince Regent asking for the usual signal mark of favour 
for the retiring Speaker. The next day the reply was 
received. It was the recommendation of a proper pro- 
vision, to be settled as the House thought fit. The House 
went into Committee, and after some discussion agreed to 
the provision which had already been privately arranged by 
the Government — a pension of ;^4000 a year for Abbot, with 
a reversion of ^^3000 a year to the next heir male to the 
title. It was mentioned in the course of the discussion that 
Abbot had also a pension of ^^1500 in respect of his resigna- 
tion of the office of Keeper of the Privy Seal of Ireland, a 
sinecure office of ;6^3C)00 a year which was given to him on 
his appointment as Chief Secretary, and which, it was said, 
he migrht have held for life.^ 



was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Born 
in 1780, he was educated at Eton and Trinity 
College, Cambridge, was called to the Bar in 1806, and in 
the same year was returned to Parliament as Member for 
Scarborough. In 1809 he was made Judge Advocate- 
General, a post which he resigned on his appointment as 

Once only has a Speaker been dismissed on the 
assembling of a new Parliament because he was known 
not to hold the views of the Party which came back from 

^ Parliamentary Debates, vol. 36, pp. 884-8. 
"^ Ibid., vol. 36, pp. 889-97. 


the country in a majority. This was Charles Manners- 
Sutton. A Tory himself, he was the nominee of the Tory 
Administration in office at the resignation of Charles Abbot 
in 1817. The moderate Conservatives and Whigs put 
forward Charles Watkin Williams Wynn. His brother, Sir 
Watkin Wynn, who was also in the House, and he were 
known as " Bubble and Squeak," on account of the 
peculiarity of their voices. Indeed, Canning thought the 
only objection to Wynn as a candidate for the Chair was 
that members might be tempted to address him as " Mr. 
Squeaker." However, Manners-Sutton was elected by the 
large majority of 262, or 312 votes against 150, and in 
accordance with precedent he was reappointed to the position 
after General Elections in 18 19, 1820, 1826, 1830, and 1831. 

In 1832, during the final struggle over the great Reform 
Bill, he declared his intention to retire at the close of the 
session, which was to be followed by the Dissolution of 
Parliament and a General Election on the new and greatly 
enlarged franchise. The announcement was not made by 
letter addressed to the Clerk, as had been the practice 
hitherto, but by himself personally in a speech to the House. 
" The right honourable gentleman, who spoke throughout 
with very observable emotion," — it is recorded in the Parlia- 
vtetitary Debates, — " sat down amid the loud and continued 
cheers of the House." A vote of thanks for his services in 
the Chair was unanimously passed, on the motion of Lord 
Althorp, the Whig Leader of the House, and an address to 
the Crown was agreed to, praying His Majesty to confer on 
him a signal mark of royal favour.^ The reply of William IV. 
was received the next day. His Majesty expressed his 
desire to comply with the wishes of the House, and recom- 
mended the adoption of such measures as would accomplish 
that object.- On August i the House went into Committee 
on the subject. That rigid economist, Joseph Hume, 
declared that all retiring Speakers should proudly decline 
a pension as a thing mean and unworthy, and as that 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 14, pp. 931-40. 
' Ibid. (3rd series), vol. 14, pp. 964-5. 


appeared to be a state of perfection to which retiring 
Speakers were never likely to attain, he would move the 
abolition of the pension at the next vacancy of the Chair. It 
was agreed, however, that Manners-Sutton should have the 
usual annuity of ;!^4000, and, after his death, his heir male 
one of i^3000.^ 

But the Whig Ministers, returned again to power at the 
General Election which followed the passing of the Reform 
Act, were apprehensive that a new and inexperienced 
Speaker would be unable to control the first reformed 
Parliament, which, it was feared, might consist of dis- 
cordant elements, and they induced Manners-Sutton to 
consent to occupy the Chair for some time longer, so that 
he might properly curb any rude spirits — disrespectful of 
the traditions of Parliament and defiant of its rules — which 
might find their way into the House. The Radicals, however, 
decided to oppose his re-election. The new Parliament, to 
which Manners-Sutton had been returned as one of the 
Members for Oxford University, assembled on Januaiy 29, 
1833. Edward John Littleton (afterwards Lord Hatherton) 
was first proposed by Joseph Hume and seconded by Daniel 
O'Connell. Manners-Sutton, although he was a Tory, was 
nominated by two distinguished Whigs, Lord Morpeth and 
Sir Francis Burdett. The long debate which followed turned 
not so much upon the respective merits and capabilities of 
the rival candidates, as upon the curious position that 
Manners-Sutton had been granted by Act of Parliament 
a pension of £^4000 a year upon the supposition that he had 
retired from the office of Speaker. It was held by Hume, 
O'Connell, and William Cobbett that Manners-Sutton if again 
elected to the Chair would be entitled to draw his pension as 
well as his salary. Lord Althorp, speaking for the Govern- 
ment, said the pension was not to commence until Manners- 
Sutton had ceased to be Speaker, and Manners-Sutton him- 
self declared that whatever the law might be he was deter- 
mined, if again elected Speaker, not to receive a shilling of 
the pension so long as he had the honour to fill the Chair. 

^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 14, pp. 991-6. 


Littleton did not desire to have his name submitted to the 
House, but, nevertheless, a division was taken, and he was 
rejected by 241 votes to 31, or the substantial majority of 
210. Thereupon Charles Manners-Sutton was declared elected 
Speaker unanimously.^ On September 4, 1833, Manners- 
Sutton was knighted " as a reward," says Greville, " for his 
conduct during the session, in which he has done the Govern- 
ment good and handsome service." 

When a new Parliament next assembled, on February 19, 
1835, the Tories were in office, the Whigs having been 
summarily dismissed by William IV. in the preceding 
November ; but, as the result of the General Election which 
followed, a majority of Whigs confronted Sir Robert Peel, 
Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, determined to 
fight him on every issue. Charles Manners-Sutton was again 
nominated for the Chair, this time his proposer and seconder 
being Tories. That he was a staunch Tory everybody was 
well aware. In 1821 and in 1825, like his Tory predecessor, 
Charles Abbot, he opposed in Committee Bills for the 
removal of Roman Catholic disabilities — a question which, 
though it cut across the lines of Party, was more favoured by 
the Whigs than the Tories. He again spoke in Committee 
in 1834, this time against a Bill for the abolition of the 
religious tests which excluded Nonconformists from the 
Universities.^ On Canning's accession to power in 1827, 
Manners-Sutton was offered the post of Home Secretary, 
but he declined it on account of his disagreement with the 
Prime Minister on the question of Catholic emancipation, of 
which Canning was one of the most consistent and influential 

In all these transactions he had not gone beyond that 
free expression of political opinion which the Speaker then 
enjoyed. But the Speaker was expected to refrain more or 
less from rendering active assistance to the political Party 
with which he was in sympathy, and Manners-Sutton was 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd scries), vol. 4, pp. 35-83. 

^ Jbid. (and series), vol. 4, pp. 1451-4; (2nd series), vol. 13, p. 434; 
(3rd series), vol. 14, pp. 1092-3. 




known to have committed overt acts of partisanship. During 
the Grey Administration in 183 1, the opponents of Reform 
met at the Speaker's House to arrange the campaign of 
attack on the Government in Parliament.^ So high was he 
in the confidence of the Tories that when there was a prospect 
of the Grey Administration resigning in May 1832, in the 
conflict with the Lords over the Reform Bill, he was invited 
to form a Tory Government, but declined the task. These 
sins, however, were forgiven or forgotten by the Whigs when 
they appealed to him to preside over the first reformed House 
of Commons. Now he was charged with deeds of partisan- 
ship overtly and covertly which the Whigs, exasperated as 
well as triumphant, protested it was impossible to overlook. 
It was said he had conspired against the Melbourne Ad- 
ministration to the extent of having influenced the King to 
dismiss them from office and dissolve Parliament, and that 
had the Tories been successful at the polls he would have 
received as his reward a high appointment in Peel's Cabinet. 
The Whigs were therefore against his re-election to the 
Chair. That at least was the feeling among the rank and 
file of the Party. The leaders were reluctant to embark upon 
the enterprise of opposing Manners-Sutton. The success of 
it was doubtful, owing to the great reputation and influence 
of Manners-Sutton, whose conduct in the Chair met with 
general approbation, and, if it were triumphant, it might have 
unpleasant consequences, for the feeling still lingered that a 
new Speaker would find it difficult to curb the intractable 
personal elements to which Reform was supposed to have 
opened the doors of the House of Commons. Earl Grey 
advised Melbourne that it would be well to re-elect Manners- 
Sutton. Melbourne at first agreed with his predecessor in the 
leadership of the Whig Party. But it was made clear to him 
that such a course would strain the allegiance of his followers. 
He then decided that " upon principle " it was right to oppose 
Manners-Sutton. " I think," he wrote to Grey, " the Speaker 
of the House of Commons should not take a part in political 
changes, and particularly not in a change which there was 

* Correspondence of Earl Grey, vol. i, pp. 73~4- 



every reason to believe was disagreeable to the majority of 
the Mouse, of which he is the servant, and which involved its 



THEN arose the question — Who should be the nominee of 
the Party ? The leaders were committed to support 
Spring-Rice, Secretary of State for War and the 
Colonies — two Departments which then had but one head — 
in the late Whig Administration, and a Member of the 
Cabinet, who had longed for years to be Speaker ; and was 
now busy in urging his claim upon his colleagues. Among 
others to whom he wrote was Earl Spencer, who as Lord 
Althorp had been Leader of the House of Commons in the 
Whig Governments since the Reform Act, The Earl fully 
recognized Spring-Rice's title to look to the Party for the 
realization of his ambition, and then went on to make some 
curious and unexpected comments on the office of Speaker. 
" I am surprised, I own," he wrote, " that you should choose 
to lower yourself to so fameless an office as that of Speaker, 
standing as high as you do at the present time. But if that 
is your choice, no one else can have anything to say against 
it. The only objection that any man could make to you is 
that you have too much sense to carry on the humbug of the 
Chair without occasionally laughing ; for though a necessary 
humbug, still it is a humbug. Addington and Abbot made 
better Speakers than Sutton, because they had less sense, and 
Lord Grenville made a much worse one, I believe, because he 
had more." 2 

But Spring-Rice was unpopular with the Radicals, and 
he was set aside for James Abercromby, to whose support 
it was found all sections of the Party were willing to rally. 

' Lord Melbourne' s Papers, 245 (1890). 

' Torrcns, Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne, 334 (1890). 


Like Spring-Rice, Abercromby had also been a Cabinet 
Minister. He was the third son of the famous Scottish 
soldier, Sir Ralph Abercromby, was called to the English 
Bar, and in 1830, having then been twenty-three years in 
Parliament as a Whig, was appointed Chief Baron of the 
Exchequer of Scotland. Two years later this office was 
abolished, and, with a pension of iJ"2000 a year, Abercromby 
returned to the House of Commons again as Member for 
Edinburgh in the first Reform Parliament. He wanted to 
be Speaker, but, as already stated, the Government preferred 
to entrust the guidance of the new House to the experience 
of Manners-Sutton, and he got instead a place in the 
Cabinet as Master of the Mint. 

In 1835, however, he was unwilling to stand for the 
Chair. It was only after an urgent appeal had been 
made to him by Melbourne, in the interest of the unity of 
the Party, that he consented to be the Whig nominee. 
" I have been forced into a position which is, in many 
respects, distressing to me." Thus he began a letter to 
Spring-Rice, condoling with him on his frustrated desire and 
explaining his own position. It was true he had wished 
for the Chair at the last election, but as the reason which 
had then influenced him no longer existed, he did not 
desire to be removed from an active share in politics. 
" I sincerely regret having been forced forward," he went on, 
" and I should feel it more deeply if I did not secretly 
believe that all opposition to Sutton is vain, after his being 
in possession of the office, with his experience and with the 
opportunities he has had of cultivating the opinion of the 
House." ^ 

On February 19, 1835, the new House of Commons 
met for the most exciting election of Speaker which had yet 
taken place. The destruction of the old Palace of West- 
minster by fire had occurred during the recess of 1834, and 
the Commons assembled in the temporary structure which 
had been hastily raised for their accommodation. There 
was an enormous throng of Members. Every available man 

^ Torrens, Memoirs of Viscouni Melbourne, 341 (1890). 


had been whipped up by both sides. In the course of a 
frank and dignified speech, Manners-Sutton pledged his 
honour that the more direct and serious charges that he had 
intrigued against the Whig Cabinet, and had counselled and 
advised the King to dissolve Parliament, were false from 
beginning to end. The communications which passed 
between him and His Majesty were entirely on one subject 
— the destruction of the Speaker's House by the recent 
fire. But he admitted having been in consultation with 
Wellington and Peel in regard to the formation of the Tory 
Government. Lord John Russell commenced his long 
career as Whig Leader in the House of Commons by 
conducting the attack on Manners-Sutton. The political 
bias of the right hon. gentleman had, he said, led him into 
acts which in a Speaker could not be excused or defended. 
What did the House expect of its Speaker? Such was the 
question which the noble lord asked ; and to it he gave the 
answer — " A man who was zealous in behalf of the liberties 
of the people, zealous in behalf of the popular prerogatives ; 
to be the organ of the House in its communication with 
the Crown, to represent their feelings firmly, zealously, and 
openly, without fear of offending, or a wish to conciliate 
those who might have the dispensing of favours." ^ 

Uncertainty as to the result prevailed until the numbers 
of the division were actually announced. At that time 
the system of division lobbies had not been established. 
Members remained in the Chamber, separating to the right 
and left, and were counted by the tellers, who were stationed 
on the floor with their wands of office. The Tory supporters 
of Manners-Sutton were first reckoned. They numbered 
306. It was thought unlikely that the Liberals would make 
so big a muster, and those who sat by Manners-Sutton on 
the Ministerial side of the House ventured to whisper 
congratulations to him on his victory. Meanwhile the 
Liberals were being counted in dramatically intense silence. 
" 1 hree hundred and five," said the tellers. Then, says a 
contemporary account of the scene, there was a slight pause. 

' f'arliavuttlary Debates (3rd scries), vol. 26, pp. 3-61. 



" Three hundred and six." The antagonists were now even ! 
" Three hundred and seven." Cheers burst forth from the 
Liberals, and were prolonged during the rest of the counting, 
which ended in the election of Abercromby by the narrow 
majority of ten.^ Each candidate gave his vote in favour of 
the other. " Such a division was never known before in the 
House of Commons," writes Charles Greville. " Much 
money was won and lost. Every one betted. I won j^55." 
He adds : " All the Irish members voted but four ; all the 
Scotch but three, all the English but twenty-five. The 
Irish and Scotch, in fact, made the majority."^ 

Gladstone, who was a Member of the House at the time, 
wrote to his father of the election : " Our Party mustered 
splendidly. Some few, but very few, of the others appear 
to have kept away through a sense of decency. They had 
not virtue enough to vote for the man whom they knew to 
be incomparably the best, and against whom they had no 
charge to bring. No more shameful act, I think, has ever 
been done by a British House of Commons."^ In this letter 
the indignation of the Tory Party finds expression. The 
King was downright furious. Greville, writing in July 1835, 
thus describes how William IV. flouted Abercromby at Court • 
" The other day the Speaker was treated by him with 
shocking rudeness at the Drawing-Room. He not only took 
no notice of him, but studiously overlooked him while he 
was standing opposite, and called up Manners-Sutton and 
somebody else to mark the difference by extreme gracious- 
ness to the latter. Seymour, who was with him as Serjeant- 
at-Arms, said he had never seen a Speaker so used in the 
five-and-twenty years he had been there, and that it was 
most painful. The Speaker asked him if he had ever seen 
a man in his situation so received at Court. Since he has 
been Speaker the King has never taken the slightest notice 
of him. It is monstrous, equally undignified and foolish."* 

' Torrens, Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne, 347. 
- The Greville Memoirs, vol. 3, p. 219 (1888). 
^ Morley, Life of Gladstone, vol. I, p. 125. 
* The Greville Memoirs, vol. 3, pp. 285-6. 




ABERCROMBY was the first man who had sat in the 
Cabinet to be elected to the Chair. That, perhaps, 
was all that was novel or remarkable in his Speaker- 
ship. He committed openly no acts of partisanship, but he 
maintained a close connection politically with the Whigs 
during his tenure of the Chair. In the Melbourne Papers 
there is a letter from him to the Prime Minister, marked 
"Confidential," which, written at Berwick, October 9, 1835, 
gives an account of public feeling in the country regarding 
the Government, and shows that Melbourne had consulted 
him with respect to their policy.^ As a Speaker one gets 
conflicting impressions of him from contemporary authorities. 
Disraeli in a letter to his sister, dated November 15, 1837, — 
the day he first took his seat in the House of Commons as 
Tory Member for Maidstone on the assembling of the first 
Parliament of Queen Victoria, — gives a pungent, if brief, 
description of Abercromby's re-election. He says : " Shaw- 
Lefevre proposed, and Struth of Derby seconded Abercromby. 
Both were brief, the first commonplace and coarse ; all tame. 
. . . Peel said a very little and very well. Then Abercromby, 
who looked like an old laundress, mumbled and moaned 
some dulness, and was then carried to the Chair, and said 
a little more amid a faint cheer. To me, of course, the 
scene was exciting enough ; but none could share my 
feelings except new Members." ^ 

Evidently Abercromby lacked impressiveness, a quality 
of the first importance to the Speaker. He seems to have 
been doubly unfortunate, for he was also wanting in the 
capacity to control the House, according to Walpole's Life 
of Lord John Russell. The direction of debate occasionally 
slipped from his grasp during the angry conflicts between 

' Ij>rd Melbourne' s Papers, 291-2. 

^ Lord Beacons^e/d's Letters {popular cd'niov), 18S7), 116-7. 



Government and Opposition in the closing years of the last 
Melbourne Administration. On December 7, 1837, — within 
a few weeks of his re-election to the Chair over which 
Disraeli makes merry, — he wrote indignantly to the Prime 
Minister that he must resign, as he did not receive the 
support he was entitled to expect from the Leader of the 
House. Melbourne sent a mollifying reply. " I have, of 
course, shown it," he says, referring to Abercromby's com- 
plaint, " to Lord John Russell, who takes such a very 
different view of the facts stated in it, that I conceive that 
there must be a good deal of misconception on both sides, 
which would probably be removed by explanation." ^ 

Abercromby was induced by the Prime Minister to pro- 
long his occupation of the Chair. But the good under- 
standing restored between him and the Leader of the House 
did not long continue. Indeed, so exasperated was he by 
the discontent with his conduct in the Chair, which Lord 
John Russell took no pains to conceal, that on May 6, 1839, 
he startled the House generally with the unexpected 
announcement of his early retirement. He had, however, 
previously told Lord John Russell of his intention, and 
with Russell's permission had communicated it also to Sir 
Robert Peel.^ In his address to the House he said that, as 
his strength no longer enabled him to meet the labour and 
fatigue of his office, he had come to the determination not 
to resume the Chair after the Whitsuntide recess. Lord 
John Russell said a few official words of regret, as perfunctory 
and cold as they were brief, and Sir Robert Peel, the Leader 
of the Opposition, was equally short but less uncordial. 

On May 16, when the motion of adjournment for the 
holidays had been agreed to, Abercromby bade farewell to 
the House. His speech was entered, according to custom, 
in the Journals? But neither in the Joiiriials nor in the 
Parliamentary Debates is there any record of the usual vote 
of thanks having been passed to him for his services in the 

^ Lord Melbourne^ s Papers, 370. 

' Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, vol. i, p. 322. 

^ ^Commons Journals, vol. 94, p. 271. 


Chair, or of the customary address to the Crown asking for 
him a signal mark of royal favour, or of the conferring on 
him by the House of the pension of ;^4000 a year to which 
he was entitled with a reversion of ^3000 to his heir, 
which had hitherto also been voted. On the following day. 
May 17, he was created a peer with the title of Lord 
Dunfermline. His pension of i^2000 a year, as late Chief 
Baron of the Exchequer in Scotland, of course continued in 
operation. As to his conduct in the Chair, testimony of its 
excellence is afforded by a high authority, the Clerk of the 
House of Commons, Sir Denis Le Marchant, who writes : 
" In ability, constitutional knowledge, and even the practice 
of Parliament he was, undoubtedly, very superior to Mr. 
Manners-Sutton." ^ 



WHEN the Commons reassembled on May 27, 1839^ 
they proceeded forthwith to the election of a new 
Speaker. The Ministerial nominee was Charles 
Shaw-Lefevre. In opposition to him the Tories ran Henry 
Goulburn, who was Peel's Home Secretary in the brief 
Administration of December 1834. Shaw-Lefevre was 
elected by a majority of 18, or by 317 votes against 299. 
The publication of division-lists, giving the names of 
Members and how they vote, had come into operation a 
few years before.^ The division-list of May 27, 1839 (No. 
75), is an interesting document. It contains the first official 
record of the amiable custom whereby each of the candidates 
for the Chair used to express by his vote the conviction that 
his rival was the better man. Goulburn voted for Shaw- 
Lefevre, and Shaw-Lefevre voted for Goulburn. 

' Le Marchant, Memoir of Earl Spencer, 450. 

' The issue of the printed clivisioii-hsls began on February 22, 1836. May, 
Law attd Usage of Parliament (1906), 369. 


Shaw-Lefevre was born on February 22, 1794. His 
father, a barrister, had been Member for Reading from 1802 
to 1820. Educated at St. Mary's, Winchester, and Trinity 
College, Cambridge, he was called to the Bar in 18 19, but 
had little practice. He entered the House of Commons in 
1830 as a Whig. Politics did not seem particularly to 
appeal to him, nor had he any desire to shine in debate. 
He rarely spoke, whether on subjects general or political. 
But from the first the procedure of the House — its rules 
and orders, its customs and ways — greatly interested him ; 
and he liked to busy himself with the practical work of the 
Committee-rooms, where Bills affecting the social interests of 
the community are considered. He was, in fact, the first 
of the modern Speakers — non-partisan in mind, dignified 
in manner, and convinced that to preside over the House of 
Commons was the highest honour that could fall to any man. 
He represented North Hampshire during his tenure of the 

The General Election of 1841 brought about a change of 
Government. The Melbourne Administration, which elected 
Shaw-Lefevre to the Chair, was overthrown at the polls, and 
the Tories came back with a majority of 91. Many of the 
victors in the electoral contest were disposed to follow the 
example set by their opponents in 1835, and make a Party 
question of the Speakership at the meeting of the new 
Parliament on August 19, 1841. But their leader, Sir 
Robert Peel, refused to countenance this line of action. " I 
do not think it necessary," said he, in a speech supporting 
the re-election of Shaw-Lefevre, " that the person elected to 
the Chair who had conscientiously and ably performed his 
duties should be displaced because his political opinions are 
not consonant to those of the majority of the House." He 
had argued for that principle, he said, in the memorable 
contest between Manners-Sutton and Abercromby. He 
now proposed to act upon it. Moreover, he thought that 
Shaw-Lefevre, " by his ability, impartiality, and integrity," 
had secured the confidence of the House. Lord John 
Russell, who also took part in the debate, protested that 


"a difference of political feeling" was not the ground of 
opposition to Manners-Sutton, but "circumstances connected 
with his conduct " as Speaker. The re-election of Shaw- 
Lefevre was, accordingly, unanimous. Peel's wise view of 
the Speakership has since prevailed. The continuity of the 
office has not been broken since the dismissal of Manners- 
Sutton in 1835.^ 

Having served for close on eighteen years, — the longest 
term of any Speaker except Arthur Onslow, — Shaw-Lefevre 
retired on March 2, 1857. He got the usual allowance of 
;^4000 a year, and was raised to the peerage as Viscount 
Eversley ; ^ but there was no pension for his heir male, as 
he was a widower without children. When he died in 
December 1885 he was within a few weeks of completing 
his ninety-fifth year. 

John Evelyn Denison, who was unanimously elected to 
the Chair in succession to Shaw-Lefevre, on April 30, 1857, 
was born at Ossington, Nottinghamshire, and educated at 
Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He was a country 
gentleman. Entering the House of Commons in 1823, he 
sat continuously until 1837, after which he was out of the 
House for four years, returning at the General Election of 
1 84 1. On his appointment as Speaker he represented North 
Northamptonshire. Thirty years before he had held office, 
for a brief term, as one of the Junior Lords of the Admiralty 
under Canning. A well-known edition of the Bible, The 
Speaker s Commentary^ originated with Mr. Speaker Denison. 

" At a quarter before one o'clock, while I was undressing 
to go to bed, a knock at the door came, and Baillie told 
me Lord Palmerston wanted to see me. I put on my 
dressing-gown and went down to my library. Lord 
Palmerston and Mr. Brand were there." So Denison 
writes in his Journal under date Friday, February 21, 1862. 
The reason of this untimely visit of the Prime Minister was 
that one of his colleagues in the Administration had received 
that night a hostile message from another Member of Parlia- 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 59, pp. 5-10. 
' Iliid. (3rd series), vol. 144, p. 2300. 


ment, and he desired to confer with the Speaker as to the 
course to be taken for putting a stop to the proceedings. 
The story of the episode and how it ended affords a curious 
contrast with the action of Mr. Speaker Addington in the 
duel between Pitt and Tierney in 1798. 

In the House of Commons that day there had been an 
Irish debate in the course of which the Chief Secretary, 
Sir Robert Peel (son of the Prime Minister), contemptuouslj^ 
referred to a Nationalist meeting in Dublin, at which, he 
said, " a few manikin traitors " and not " a person of respect- 
ability" were present. The O'Donoghue, then Member 
for Tipperary, had presided at the meeting. Though he was 
present at the debate, he took no exception to the words in 
the House, but sent Major Gavin, another Irish Member, 
to the Chief Secretary in the course of the evening with 
a demand for an apology. Peel answered that he could 
make no apology for words spoken in the House, nor could 
he give any explanation but to the House. As this was not 
considered satisfactory by Major Gavin, he asked Peel to 
name a friend, and further intimated that when Peel had 
settled with The O'Donoghue he would have to give him 
satisfaction also, for he, too, had been present at the 
Rotunda meeting. Peel then said he would refer the matter 
to Lord Palmerston. What the Prime Minister did was to 
go in hot haste and inform the Speaker. 

" I told him," says Denison, " to send such a challenge for 
words uttered in debate was a distinct breach of privilege. 
To accept the challenge would be a breach of privilege. 
Palmerston wrote a letter at once to Peel to this effect, and 
warning him against accepting any such challenge if it 
should be sent." 

The questions which Denison says he had to consider 
were : " What power did I possess as Speaker during the 
adjournment of the House? In what way could I interfere 
if this matter was brought to my notice?" Sir Charles 
Wood, a Member of the Cabinet, advised him to write to the 
parties reminding them that if they fought they would be 
guilty of a breach of privilege. But he decided against this 


course. It would not suffice merely to warn the parties. 
He felt bound to act with more vif^our. will be remembered, rode out to Putney on 
the Sunday of the duel between Pitt and Tierney, to get 
early news of the result, if not to witness the encounter. 
Denison devoted the intervening Sunday, in this emergency, 
in talking over the matter with Erskine May, the Clerk of 
the House. What he decided to do was that, in the event 
of Palmerston letting him know there was a danger of a 
hostile meeting before the assembling of the House on 
Monday, he would send the Serjeant-at-Arms to a police 
magistrate with directions to have the parties bound over to 
keep the peace. In doing so he says he felt he should be 
acting in the spirit of the directions he would receive from 
the House, if the House were sitting.^ 

However, nothing happened, and when the House met 
on Monday, February 24, Palmerston brought the affair 
under its notice as a breach of one of its greatest privileges 
— perfect freedom of speech within its walls. The Speaker 
thereupon called on the O'Donoghuc to express his regret 
for having taken a course inconsistent with the privileges of 
the House, and to assure the House that the matter should 
not proceed further. The O'Donoghue made the apology, 
and gave the assurance required of him. In doing so he 
attacked Peel, and concluded by thanking the right hon. 
gentlemen for the opportunity he had afforded him of "ex- 
hibiting him in his real character." There were cries of 
" Oh, oh ! " but the Speaker thought it well to drop the 
curtain on the scene.^ 

' Denison, Notes from My Journal, 108-10. 
^Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 165, pp. 617-26. 




SHAW-LEFEVRE looked and acted the part of Speaker 
to perfection. He was of commanding stature, standing 
over six feet high, was dignified in bearing, and had 
the important endowment also of a sonorous voice. He is 
said to have boasted — or is reputed to have believed — that 
he could daunt any obstreperous Member by the mere 
severity and indignation of the glance that shot from his 
expressive eyes. Denison used to tell the story, with the 
modest commentary that this was an occult power which he 
could not claim to possess. He was grave and diffident in 
demeanour, sensitive and nervous, and like most men of this 
temperament, was unready and wanting in firmness in 

But neither Shaw-Lefevre nor Denison were often called 
upon to speak and act with promptitude and vigour in the 
maintenance of the order and the rules of the House. It 
might be said, indeed, that Shaw-Lefevre, particularly, had 
a somewhat dull and monotonous tenure of office, if dignified 
and exalted. In his time it was the custom of young 
Members to collect late of an evening at the Bar, and, in 
the manner of their sort, punctuate the debate with shouts 
and laughter that were not always relevant. Shaw-Lefevre 
looked upon these gatherings with displeasure. He would 
call out, " Members at the Bar must take their places," and 
the young Members — amenable to order with all their high 
spirits — would immediately disperse.^ He had quite an 
original but effective way of dealing with a difficult point 
of order when it arose. " His special excellence as a Speaker," 
says Mr. George Russell, in one of his gossipy papers, " was 
held to be that, when there was no precedent for a particular 
course, he always said that it was the well-known practice of 
the House, and that, if any one ever attempted to question 

^ White, The Intter Life of the House of Commons, vol. I, p. 130. 


these improvised authorities, he said : ' Order, order ! The 
point is already disposed of,' with a voice and nnanner which 
silenced all remonstrance." ^ 

Denison had not altogether so simple and easy a time. 
Obstruction, which was so highly developed bj' Charles Stewart 
Parnell in the late seventies and early eighties, really arose 
during the Speakership of Denison, though, as I have re- 
corded, it was practised so long ago as the seventeenth century. 
In June 1 870 there was a debate on the Clergy Disabilities 
(Removal) Bill which was prolonged by obstructive tactics 
till four o'clock in the morning. The minority, though small 
in numbers, kept the proceedings going by moving alter- 
nately the motions, " That the debate now be adjourned " and 
" That the House do now adjourn," and discussing them at 
length. These motions having been repeated eight or nine 
times, the Speaker ruled that any Member who had moved 
or seconded a motion for adjournment either of the debate 
or the House could not do so a second time. The minority, 
accordingly, were forced to give way, complaining that their 
rights had been unduly curtailed by the Chair. 

It was pointed out to the Speaker that his predecessor, 
Shaw-Lefevre, admitted in the course of his evidence to a 
Select Committee on Public Business in 1854, that there was 
nothing in the rules to prevent two Members from stopping 
the progress of business by alternating motions for the ad- 
journment of the debate with motions for the adjournment 
of the House, without end ; and that in i860 this very 
procedure had been tolerated by Shaw-Lefevre in the case 
of a single Member, John Francis Maguire, an Irish repre- 
sentative, who, in opposition to the Peace Preservation 
(Ireland) Bill, moved several motions for adjournment, 
speaking at considerable length on each. 

" I talked to Lord Eversley on the point, and showed 
him his evidence," Denison writes. " He said great abuses 
prevailed in practice when he began his career. He does 
not doubt that two men were allowed at that time to make 
motions alternately. But he thinks the rule was made more 

' G. W. E. Russell, Sketches and Snapshots, 380. 


stringent before the end of his time. Old Mr. Ley ^ used to 
say, ' What does it signify about precedents ? The House 
can do what it likes. Who can stop it ? ' In Sir E. May's 
book : ' I have held more than once that a man who rises 
in a debate, and moves the adjournment of the House or of 
the debate, speaks on the main question, and, having spoken, 
he cannot speak again.' Lord Eversley entirely concurred 
in this view ; he thought it quite right, and he strongly urged 
me to take that ground and to stand upon it."^ 

In the course of the next Speakership, obstruction was 
carried to lengths undreamed of by Shaw-Lefevre or Denison. 
It was also scotched during the same tenure of the office. 
At least it was made impossible to prolong it to the same 
extent ever again ; and this was achieved only at the cost of 
the loss of unfettered liberty of debate, which of all the many 
glories of the House of Commons was its chief and crown. 
The Speaker was Henry Bouverie Brand, who was elected 
to the Chair by the Liberals on February 9, 1872, when 
Denison retired after fifteen years' service. He was born in 
1 8 14, the second son of the 21st Baron Dacre, and was 
educated at Eton but did not go to a University. In 1852 
he entered the House of Commons. He was appointed 
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury in 1859, and held 
that office in the Whig Administrations of Lord Palmerston 
and Earl Russell until 1866, when the Conservatives came 
into power. He was then made Chief Liberal Whip, and 
continued to act in that capacity during Gladstone's first 
Government, from 1868 until his selection for the Chair in 

Doubts were expressed at the time whether one who had 
been for many years closely identified with Party in so 
pre-eminently a partisan office as that of Chief Whip 
would preside over the House with absolute impartiality. 
But Brand was ultimately accounted a success. He was 
unanimously re-elected by the Conservatives on the return 
of Disraeli to office in March 1874, and was chosen for a 

^ Ley had been Chief Clerk of the House of Commons. 
^ Denison, Notes from My Journal, 259-60. 


third turn on the assembling of the Gladstone Parliament 
in 1880. On the latter occasion— April 29, 1880 — Mr. 
Frank Hugh O'Donncll, a distinguished Nationalist with 
a fine talent for obstruction, got up and expressed on behalf 
of the Irish Party approval of the choice that had been made 
for the Chair, Sir Stafford Northcote, then the Leader of 
the Opposition, notes in his Diary : " This was meant simply 
to announce that the Irish Party intended to make them- 
selves heard and attended to." ^ 

The Parnellites had already made things heavy with 
care and responsibility for Brand, though they numbered 
only seven during the concluding years of the Conservative 
Parliament. They returned from the General Election of 
1880 a force of sixty, "strong in numbers, discipline, and 
organization, and with great gifts of speech," as Brand 
himself said. His troubles as Speaker were now to begin 
in real earnest. Practically from the Revolution until the 
time of Brand, the days, or rather the nights, of the Speaker 
had been, on the whole, tranquil and serene, with no great 
care beyond that of seeing that things were done according 
to rule and precedent. The rise of the Nationalist Party 
had changed all that. There was seen displayed, for the 
first time in the House of Commons, a fervid white heat of 
passionate conviction on the part of a thoroughly disciplined 
and determined body of men, most of them little, if at all, 
susceptible to the great traditions and history of Parliament, 
which made them a foreign element at St. Stephens, in 
hopeless conflict with their environment, and a puzzle, as 
well as a scandal, to the unemotional and highly respectable 
British representatives, who were thoroughly embued with 
that mysterious essence which is called the genius of the 

Brand himself had defined obstruction — with much 
pithiness and discernment — as the abuse of the privilege 
of freedom of debate for the purpose of thwarting the will 
of Parliament. That was avowedly the intention of the 
Nationalists. The will of Parliament was that the grievances 

' Lang, Life of Sir Slafford Northcote, vol. 2, pp. 150-51- 


of Ireland — imaginary or real — exposed by the Parnellites 
should not be redressed. To defeat that will and compel 
Parliament, by brute force, without ruth or scruple, if 
necessary, to consider the claims of Ireland was the aim 
and object of the Parnellites. All of them were eager to 
indulge in the fierce and reckless delight of flouting the 
Chair as part of their boasted policy of bringing the House 
of Commons to impotency and contempt. 

At first Brand encountered the obstructionists solely with 
a mild and conciliatory expression, save that there would 
creep into his eyes, when any of his rulings was disputed, 
a look of pained surprise. Then he decided to administer to 
them a rebuke, which, though gentle and compromising in 
its terms, was solemnly inscribed in the Journals. On 
July 25, 1877, he declared "that any Member wilfully and 
persistently obstructing public business, without just and 
reasonable cause, is guilty of a contempt of the House, and 
would be liable to such punishment, whether by censure, 
by suspension from the service of the House, or by commit- 
ment, as the House may adjudge."^ It was clear, even 
then, that a revision of the Standing Orders must be made 
if the due transaction of public business was to be secured 
and the dignity of the House maintained. Yet so reluctant 
was the House to step aside from ancient ways, that it was 
not until February 28, 1880, that the first measure for the 
punishment of deliberate obstruction was adopted. A 
Standing Order was passed for the suspension of a member 
from the service of the House who should be " named " by 
the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees for persistently 
and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, for 
abusing the rules of the House, or for disregarding the 
authority of the Chair.^ 

* Commons Journals, vol. 132, p. 375. 

* May, Law and Usage of Parliament (nth edition), 340. 





THE most historic protracted sitting of the House of 
Commons took place in the session of 1881. When 
Parliament met early in that year, Ireland was in the 
agony of the Land League agitation, a universal and fierce 
uprising of the people against the unrestricted powers of the 
landlords to charge any rents they pleased, and to impose on 
those unable to meet their exactions the awful fate of eviction. 
Gladstone, as Prime Minister, at once announced in the 
House of Commons that a Bill would be immediately 
introduced by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr. W. E. 
Forster, for the vindication of law and order. It was the 
Protection of Person and Property Bill, which suspended the 
Habeas Corpus Act. Under its operation subsequently 
hundreds of Irishmen were cast into prison without trial 
as " suspects," on the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant. The 
Nationalist Members vowed to resist the passing of the 
measure with all the obstructive resources at their command ; 
and, as the Closure had not yet been invented, their power in 
that direction was limited, practically, only by the extent of 
their combined inventiveness and physical endurance. 

The debate on the motion for leave to bring in the Bill 
had been spread over three nights. When it was resumed 
on Monday, January 31, 1881, Mr. Gladstone declared it 
was the intention of the Government to obtain the first 
reading of the Bill before the House adjourned. The 
mingling cheers of the Opposition and Ministerialists showed 
that the Government had the support of both sides of the 
House. In the defiant shouts of the Nationalists from 
below the Gangway, on the Opposition side, there was an 
avowed declaration to defeat the purpose of the Government. 

The temper of the House was also manifested in a long 
speech delivered early in the sitting by Parnell, and the 
impatience with which it was listened to by Liberals and 


Conservatives alike. The Irish leader read many extracts 
from an article in the Edinburgh Review to show that the 
agitation conducted by Daniel O'Connell in the forties, 
which the Prime Minister had favourably contrasted with 
the Land League, received, in its time, the same meed of 
British reprobation. Again and again the Speaker was 
appealed to from both sides to declare that the honourable 
Member was wasting the time of the House. " I am bound 
to say," the Speaker declared at last, "that the honourable 
Member is really trying very severely the patience of the 
House." " I would not for the world transgress the rule 
of the Chair," replied Mr. Parnell in his icily ironical tones, 
"but I am bound to say that I shall have to try very 
severely the patience of the House in the course of this 

The discussion proceeded till one o'clock, the hour at 
which the House usually rose. A motion for the adjourn- 
ment of the debate was moved by the Nationalists. There 
was an unmistakable note of mingled indignation and 
resentment in the tone of the Prime Minister's brief reply. 
" I beg to say on behalf of the Government," he answered, 
" that we propose to resist that motion." Both sides prepared 
for a stubborn and protracted contest of sheer brute force. 
It was now solely a matter of each holding out to tire the 
other down. Both sides adopted a system of relays. The 
Speaker and Deputy Speaker took turns in occupying the 
Chair. The Government Whips divided their followers 
into batches, which alternately remained on call at St. 
Stephens and went home for a few hours' sleep. The 
Nationalists off guard rested in various rooms of the 
building. The spectacle of Joseph Gillies Biggar asleep 
in a corner of the Library aroused in some supporters of the 
Government a desire to consult the heaviest books in bulk 
and weight they could find, and by a strange mischance 
these mighty tomes always slipped from their hands and fell 
with a crash close to the slumbering arch-obstructionist. 

The Chamber itself was almost deserted. Members were 
continually coming and going, but few remained to listen to 


the voice of some Irish Member speaking at amazingly 
inordinate length to empty benches. There were many 
divisions, of course. All through that Monday night, and all 
through the morning, noon, and evening of Tuesday, a motion 
for the adjournment of the debate followed a motion for 
the adjournment of the House in regular succession, and the 
empty state of the Chamber enabled the Nationalists to 
introduce some variety into the proceedings by frequently 
calling attention to the fact that the required quorum of forty 
members was not present. These motions and counts were 
followed by the ringing of the division bells summoning 
Members to the Chamber, but when the question was 
decided, Members again gradually melted away. 

So the contest proceeded. At eight o'clock on Tuesday 
morning Mr. T, M. Healy moved the adjournment of the 
House in a speech of mordant humour edged with contempt, 
which lasted two hours and a half. 

" The Irish Members," he said, " had been referred to as 
a minority endeavouring to put down the majority. But 
the majority were at home in bed ; and the supporters of the 
Government who were in the House only made known the 
fact that they were awake by their interruptions." Lord 
Edmund Fitzmaurice rose to order, and asked whether 
observations upon Members being awake were relevant to 
the motion before the House. " Such an expression, I do 
not think was out of order," said the Deputy Speaker, Dr. 
Lyon Playfair, " but the hon. gentleman must not be surprised 
at the impatience of the House when some of his remarks 
seem to be made simply for the purpose of speaking against 

On Tuesday evening the House was crowded. The 
tactics of the Nationalists had aroused intense interest, not 
unmixed with the profoundest indignation, as against some- 
thing pernicious and abominable, and the public galleries 
were packed with eager and angry spectators. " Is this " — 
they probably asked themselves — " the price we are paying 
for the ancient treasured freedom of debate in the House of 
Commons for which our forefathers fought and died ? " The 


Lords' Gallery was crowded with peers, consumed with 
curiosity, like lesser mortals, as to the ultimate conclusion of 
this extraordinary scene. Among them was Lord Beacons- 
field, looking sardonically through his eye-glass on what he 
might well have thought was the ruin of the House of 
Commons. But the end was still a long way off. 

Mr. Parnell was interrupted at midnight by Mr. Milbank, 
a Ministerialist, who asked the Deputy Speaker whether, as 
the hon. Member had been called to order four times for 
irrelevance, he should not be " named " and suspended for 
obstruction. No notice of the question was taken by the 
Chair, and Mr. Parnell was about to resume his speech when 
Mr. Milbank, again interposing, called attention to the fact 
that Mr. Biggar had referred to him as "a bloody fool." 
The Deputy Speaker said such an expression would be 
entirely out of order, but it had not reached his ears. Soon 
after a division was taken, and when the numbers were 
announced Mr. Biggar complained that as he was going into 
the lobby Mr. Milbank approached him and said, " Biggar, 
you're a mean, impudent scoundrel." Mr. Milbank, when 
called upon by the Deputy Speaker for an explanation, said 
it was true he had used the words. He said that he distinctly 
saw the lips of the Member for Cavan moving, and heard the 
expression " bloody fool " ; and as soon as opportunity offered 
he crossed the floor and called the hon. Member "an 
impudent scoundrel." " The hon. Member having admitted 
that he used that expression with reference to another hon. 
Member," said the Deputy Speaker, "it is his duty to 
apologize, not to the hon. Member but to the House." Mr. 
Milbank did apologize to the House, and hoped the hon. 
Member for Cavan would also be asked to make his excuses, 
but the Deputy Speaker declared the incident to be closed. 

The eloquence of Mr. A. M. Sullivan, aflame with passion 
for the righting of wrongs, gave vitality and glow to the long 
dreary wastes of the night. Mr. Frank Hugh O'Donnell 
made a speech on each and every one of the many motions 
for adjournment, whether of the debate or of the House. 
Mr. Thomas Sexton spoke from five o'clock until twenty 


minutes to eight. Neither the grey depression of the early 
morning nor the deserted benches had any effect on the 
amazing fluency and feh"city of his oratory. 



AT a quarter to nine on Wednesday morning the Prime 
Minister and the Leader of the Opposition entered 
the Chamber together from behind the Speaker's 
Chair, and took their places on the opposing front benches 
to the right and left of the Table. They seemed bewildered 
and, indeed, somewhat terrified by this daring and excep- 
tional display of obstruction by the Irish Members. Then 
a vague feeling spread around that something was about to 
happen, something of a startling nature, but unknown and 
unsurmisable ; and the Chamber became rapidly filled with 
expectant and anxious Members. 

Exactly at nine o'clock Mr. Speaker Brand appeared 
and relieved Dr. Lyon Playfair in the Chair. Mr. Biggar 
was speaking at the time. With a gesture of his hand the 
Speaker warned the Member of Cavan to his seat. At that 
great moment in the history of the House of Commons the 
Speaker seemed anything but an ominous or minatory 
personality. On the contrary, he wore a pained expression, 
and shook as if with apprehension. His hands trembled as 
he opened the roll of manuscript from which he was about 
to read the historic declaration that on his own responsi- 
bility he proposed to close the debate. P^or this action he 
had no authority under the Standing Orders, but it subse- 
quently transpired that he had consulted not only the Prime 
Minister but the Leader of the Opposition, and was promised 
the support of both in taking upon himself the responsibility of 
stopping the discussion. " The dignity, credit, and authority 
of the House are seriously threatened," said he, reading his 



manuscript in slow and solemn tones, " and it is necessary 
that they should be vindicated." He declared himself satis- 
fied that he would best carry out the will of the House by 
declining to call upon any more Members to speak, and at 
once putting the question. Thereupon he put the amend- 
ment which the Irish Members had moved to the motion for 
leave to bring in the Coercion Bill. The numbers in the 
division were for the amendment, 19 ; against, 164 ; — majority 
for the Government, 145. 

The Nationalists were taken aback by this sudden and 
unexpected turn of events. They had determined to keep 
the House sitting for the entire week rather than yield. It 
was obstruction unashamed. Yet so anxious were they to 
husband their resources that not a single man of their small 
band was lost by suspension. Parnell had just left the House 
for a few hours' sleep at the neighbouring Westminster 
Palace Hotel. Justin M'Carthy tried to speak when the 
original motion was put, but he was shouted down. Then 
the Nationalists filed out upon the floor shouting " Privilege ! 
Privilege ! " and, with a bow to the Speaker from each of 
them, quitted the Chamber. Leave to bring in the Bill was 
granted, and the Chief Secretary presented it, in the usual 
way, to the Clerk at the Table, amid tumultuous cheers from 
both sides of the House. At half-past nine o'clock the House 
adjourned, after a continuous sitting of 41I hours, a record 
which stills remains unbroken.^ 

The Speaker's coup-d'etat had been arranged with the 
approval of the two Front Benches twenty-one hours before 
it came off. Brand in his Diary says he came to the con- 
clusion that it was his duty to extricate the House from its 
difficulty by closing the debate on his own authority. " I 
sent for Gladstone on Tuesday (ist February) about noon," 
he says, "and told him I should be prepared to put the 
question in spite of obstruction on the following conditions : 
— (i) That the debate should be carried on until the follow- 
ing morning, my object in this delay being to mark distinctly 
to the outside world the extraordinary gravity of the situa- 

"^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 257, pp. 174S-2038. 


tion, and the necessity of the step which I was about to take. 
(2) That he should reconsider the regulations of business, 
either by giving more authority to the Mouse or by confer- 
ring authority on the Speaker." The Prime Minister agreed 
to these conditions, and to confirm them summoned a meet- 
ing of the Cabinet, which was held in the Speaker's Library at 
four o'clock that afternoon, while the House was sitting and 
Brand was in the Chair. " I had communicated, with Glad- 
stone's approval, my intention to close the debate to North- 
cote, but to no one else except May, from whom I received 
much assistance," Brand continues. " Northcote was startled, 
but expressed no disapproval of the course proposed." ^ 

In that fateful hour the whole spirit and character of the 
House of Commons underwent a complete change. The 
Parliament of old — quaint, archaic, conservative, taking no 
account of the vagaries of humanity — passed entirely away. 
Hitherto the primary and fundamental conditions of the 
working of Parliament were, in the first place, absolute 
respect for the Chair, and acceptance without question of its 
dignified admonitions and reproofs ; and secondly, the general 
observance by Members of this great unwritten rule of 
parliamentary conduct — that public business must be 
accelerated, not only for the good of the Nation, but in the 
mutual interest of the two political Parties as they succeeded 
each other in office. But that halcyon situation came to an 
end when there appeared in the House of Commons an 
organized body of Members who recognized no loyalty to 
the spirit of the institution, but deliberately bent the ancient 
forms of procedure to a purpose for which they were never 
intended, — to impede, if not to defeat, public business with a 
view to the redress of grievances. 

New rules and regulations were therefore necessary. 
They were introduced with all speed. The very next day 
Gladstone moved a resolution, which was carried, that if the 
House voted by a majority of three to one that the state of 
public business was urgent the Speaker should take such 

* Extract from the Diary of the Speaker, quoted in Morley's Life of Gladstone, 
vol. 3, p. 52. 


measures as he thought proper to expedite it. This regulation 
formally conferred on the Speaker the power which he had 
already usurped. The next step was to incorporate some- 
thing of the kind in the permanent] procedure of the House. 
In a special session, held in the autumn of 1882, new 
procedure rules were adopted under which the Closure 
became a part of the parliamentary machine. Obstruction 
thus brought about an immense augmentation of the 
powers of the Speaker. Parliament was, indeed, revolu- 
tionized ; but it was thereby made more efficient for the 
work it is called upon to do as the greatest constitutional 
machine that has yet been constructed by man for the 
elevation and perfection of humanity, so far as that purpose 
can be achieved by legislation. 



AT the close of the session of 1883, Mr. Speaker Brand 
retired, and was made a peer with the title of Lord 
Hampden. He was succeeded by Arthur Wellesley 
Peel, the nominee of the Liberal Government. 

Mr. Peel was but the third thought of Gladstone. The 
man whom the Prime Minister desired to see in the vacant 
Chair was the Solicitor-General, but Sir Francis Herschell 
declined the offer,^ and just ten years later was presiding 
over the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor in Gladstone's 
second Home Rule Administration. Gladstone next turned 
to Mr. Goschen. He was a Member of Gladstone's first 
Cabinet in 1 868, but on the return of the Liberals to power 
in 1880 he was not sufficiently in agreement with their 
political programme, especially the promised extension of 
the franchise to all householders in counties and boroughs 
alike, again to take office. Goschen would have been glad 
to be able to accept so high a distinction, but keenness of 
^ Lucy, " From behind the Speaker's Chair " [Sir and Magazine, August 1896). 


vision is essential in the Speaker, and unfortunately his 
eyesight was weak. There used to be a story told that, 
in order to test his vision, he took the Chair one day the 
House was not sitting, when a number of his colleagues 
scattered themselves over the benches on each side, below 
the Gangway ; and as he failed quickly to identify them he 
made up his mind that he was physically unfit for the 
position. Sir Henry Lucy, in his Sixty Years in the Wilder- 
nesSy prints a letter from Lord Goschen recounting why he 
failed to become Speaker. The rehearsal of the story did 
not, it seems, take place. But a famous oculist was sent 
for. He at first gave a favourable verdict. On reaching 
home, however, he wrote Mr. Gladstone a letter doubting 
the wisdom of the appointment. Says Lord Goschen : — 

" Mr. Gladstone was annoyed, and thought Mr. Bowman 
had gone beyond the points on which he had been specially 
consulted, and wrote me that he had not altered his own 
opinion as to my fitness, but that I was now at liberty to 
claim my freedom. I at once stated that I could not, after 
such a letter, undertake the post ; and, to tell you the truth, 
I felt a great sense of relief, not disappointment — for I had 
been half-hearted about the matter from the first." 

The credit of discovering Arthur Wellesley Peel is due, 
it is said, to Sir William Harcourt, Gladstone's first 
lieutenant for many years. It was generally agreed by all 
authorities who were intimately acquainted with the House 
of Commons during the last half of the nineteenth century, 
that Mr. Peel was the strongest of all the Speakers in that 
period. But when his name was first mentioned as the choice 
of the Government for the Chair, in February 1884, grave 
doubts as to his fitness fur the post were expressed on both 
sides of the House. The old Tories murmured against his 
appointment, because it would mark a violent break in the 
old historical and personal associations of the Speakership. 
In the first place, Mr. Peel was not of the country gentry, 
to whom, whether Liberal or Tory, it was supposed the 
Chair of the House of Commons by traditional right 


belonged. He did not even sit for a county constituency. 
He represented the borough of Warwick, to which he was 
first returned in 1865. Even at the opening of the last 
quarter of the nineteenth century the feeling still survived 
that to represent a county was socially as well as politically 
a higher distinction than to represent a borough. A county 
division was therefore regarded as the fitting seat for a 
Speaker, and for the representative of a borough to be 
elected to the Chair was of veiy rare occurrence indeed. 
More than that, Mr. Peel wore a beard ; and it was looked 
upon as even a more violent departure from the ancient 
traditions of the Chair to elect a man who was not clean 
shaven. Indeed, it was suggested that Queen Victoria, 
who was a great stickler for tradition, was hardly likely 
to approve the appointment for the first time of a bearded 

Objections of more substance and reason were also 
raised. Mr. Peel was comparatively unknown in the House 
of Commons. He was fifty-five years old. Though he had 
been nearly twenty years in Parliament he rarely took part 
in the debates. He had served for a short term as under 
Secretary to the Home Department, under Sir William 
Harcourt. To that post he was appointed on the formation 
of the Liberal Government in 1880, but before the session 
was out he resigned on account of ill-health, and in his 
fitful attendance in the House, during the subsequent three 
sessions, he had sat on the back benches a silent Member, and 
was so retiring and unobtrusive that to the general body his 
appearance was unknown. Moreover, even this brief service 
in a subordinate place in the Administration then in power 
was brought up in judgment against him. So jealous is 
the House, as a whole, of the impartiality of the Speaker, 
that there has always been a desire that he should come to 
the Chair unspoiled by the dust of Party conflict. But there 
were some who, going beyond that proper feeling, took the 
unreasonable view that as Mr. Peel had been a Member of a 
Liberal Government he must necessarily always remain a 
political partisan. There were others, however, who rightly 


thought that experience in office, which brings knowledge 
of affairs and men, was rather a qualification for the 
Speakership. Were there not several precedents of Speakers 
who had held Party positions before their elevation to the 
Chair even in the nineteenth century? Sir John Mitford 
was Attorney-General, Charles Abbot was Chief Secretary 
for Ireland, Manners-Sutton was Judge Advocate-General ; 
Abercromby had sat in the Cabinet, and Brand had acted 
as Principal Whip. Nevertheless, the only qualification 
which some would admit that Peel possessed for the Chair 
was that he was the bearer of a great parliamentary name. 

Peel's election took place on February 26, 1884. The 
fact that he found general favour only among the Liberals 
is indicated by the circumstance that, instead of being 
proposed and seconded by Members sitting on different 
sides of the House, — the almost invariable custom when 
there is only one candidate for the Chair, — his proposer, 
Mr. Whitbread, Member for Bedford, and his seconder, 
Mr. Rathbone, Member for Carnarvonshire, were both 
supporters of the Government. 

But most of the doubts as to the fitness of Mr, Peel for 
the position were swept aside by the mingled gravity and 
dignity of his demeanour on being conducted to the Chair, 
by his striking presence as he stood on the dais, by the 
stately eloquence of the speech in which he returned thanks. 
" I know full well," said he, " what is the greatest attribute 
and ornament of the Chair." Then in the resonant and 
emphatic tones of that splendid voice, in which the House 
from that day took great delight, he went on in a swelling 
sentence : — 

" I know how necessary it is for any man who aspires to 
fill that great office to lay aside all that is personal, all that 
is of Party, all that savours of political predilection, and to 
subordinate everything to the great interests of the House 
at large, to maintain not only the written law, but, if I may 
say so, that unwritten law which should appeal to, as it 
always does appeal to, the minds and consciences of the 
gentlemen of the House of Commons to promote and to 


hand on unimpaired the traditions of this House ; and over 
and above all its most cherished and inestimable traditions, 
— I mean that personal courtesy, that interchange of 
chivalry between Member and Member, which I believe to 
be compatible with the most effective Party debates and 
feelings, and which, 1 am sure, is one of the oldest, and I 
humbly trust may always be the most cherished, tradition of 
this great representative Assembly." 

This address, so admirable in taste, temper, and tone, 
took the House by storm. The customary felicitations to 
the Speaker-elect were offered by Mr. Gladstone, as Leader 
of the House, and Sir Stafford Northcote joined in them as 
Leader of the Opposition. " In the eloquent and powerful 
words which you have addressed to us," said the latter, " we 
find additional confirmation, were it necessary, as to your 
personal character and ability." The right hon. gentleman's 
concluding sentences, however, seem to confirm the rumour 
of the Lobbies at the time, that if the Conservatives were 
returned to office at the next General Election they would 
select another Speaker. " If your nomination may be said 
to be due to the Ministry, or the Government of to-day," 
said Sir Stafford Northcote, "it has been, at all events, 
accepted generally by the House. Sir, it would ill become 
me, and it would not become the House itself, to anticipate 
the action of future Parliaments. But this I may safely say 
— that so long as you occupy the Chair you will receive, 
from all parts of the House, a full, an entire, and an un- 
divided confidence."^ 

No attempt, however, was subsequently made to dis- 
place Mr. Peel from the Chair. He was opposed — as I 
have already recounted — when seeking re-election at the 
General Election of 1885; but was reappointed Speaker, 
without opposition, three times, namely, January 13, 1886; 
April 6, 1886; and August 4, 1892, 

' Parliamentary Debates (3id series), vol. 285, pp. 17-30. 




DURING his first session as Speaker, occasions frequently 
arose for the exercise by Mr. Peel of his official 
powers and personal tact in the maintenance of order 
and decorum. Political feeling ran high, especially in refer- 
ence to affairs in Egypt, and the discussions of the subject 
in the House of Commons were marked by unusual personal 
ascerbity. On March 15, 1884, Mr. Ashmead Bartlett 
moved a resolution on behalf of the Opposition, declaring 
that it would be highly discreditable to this country were 
the Government to abandon Khartoum and the Eastern 
Soudan to slavery and barbarism. It was a Saturday sitting, 
and the Government asserted that the arrangement between 
the two sides was that the day should be employed in dis- 
cussing certain votes of supply rather than a motion which 
virtually amounted to a vote of want of confidence. 

After a long and bitter debate the motion was defeated. 
Immediately after the division Sir Michael Hicks-Beach rose 
from the front Opposition bench and informed the Speaker 
that just before the numbers were announced by the tellers 
he heard Sir William Harcourt, the Home Secretary, say 
from his place on the Treasury Bench, " This dirty trick has 
not succeeded " ; and he asked whether that was language 
which ought to be used in the House. 

" Language of the kind described by the right hon. 
gentleman used publicly in this House would undoubtedly 
be a great breach of the privilege of the House," said the 
Speaker. " But I do not know under what circumstances 
the expression was used," he added, with caution and circum- 
spection, — " whether it was used in private conversation, or to 
what it was intended to refer, or whether it was intended to 
be heard. I therefore wish to draw a distinction between 
words used in the confidence of private conversation and 
words used in a debate in this House. Perhaps the right 



hon. gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- 
ment, will offer an explanation." 

Sir William Harcourt, thus appealed to, said he would 
never have thought of using such an expression in public 
debate. " As to the expression of my own private opinion," 
he added, "to my own friends upon transactions of this 
character, I consider myself free." The Leader of the 
Opposition, Sir Stafford Northcote, said that the expression, 
whether used publicly or privately, conveyed an accusation 
which was altogether untenable; it gave pain to those 
against whom it was directed, and they would be guilty of 
the gravest dereliction of duty if they did not call attention 
to it. Thereupon Sir William Harcourt withdrew the ex- 
pression, declaring his regret that what was intended to be 
private should have reached the ears of the right hon. 
gentlemen opposite and be regarded by them as offensive.^ 

It happened that on the next occasion the expression 
" dirty trick " was used in the House the Speaker had to call 
his elder brother, Sir Robert Peel, to order. The scene, 
which was watched with almost thrilling interest by the 
House, occurred on August 8, 1884. Sir Robert Peel com- 
plained that the report of the vote for the Irish Constabulary 
upon which he had intended to speak was taken late the 
previous night, although before he left at half-past eleven 
o'clock he had been told it would be postponed to another 
sitting. What followed is thus recorded in the parliamentary 
report : — 

Sir Robert Peel: If the Secretary of State for the Home 
Department were here I would ask him what is the meaning 
of this— as he would call it — "dirty trick" (cries of "Order, 
order "). 

Mr. Speaker : I think that is an expression which should 
not be used, and I am sure the right hon. baronet will with- 
draw it. 

Sir Robert Peel: It is an expression used by the Secretary 
of State for the Home Department himself. 

Mr. Speaker: It is an expression which I thought, and 
said at the time, was an unparliamentary and improper ex- 

^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 285, pp. 1725-8. 


pression — one which I hoped would never be used again, 
and it was withdrawn. 

Sir Robert Pcel\ Oh, certainly, sir, certainly; if the right 
hon. gentleman withdrew, I shall at once withdraw and 
apologize to the IIousc.^ 

In the course of the same session the Speaker came into 
conflict with the Members of the Irish Party on questions 
of order. On April 8, 1884, a debate on the subject of the 
Royal Irish Constabulary was raised by Mr. Parnell. In 
the course of a speech Mr. T. M. Healy, having referred 
to the death in gaol of a prisoner arrested for agrarian 
conspiracy, said : " He observed that the Chief Secretary 
(Mr. Trevelyan) was receiving with a smile his statement 
as to this young man's death. The right hon. gentleman 
might laugh ; it well became his callousness." At this point 
Mr. Trevelyan interrupted with the indignant exclamation : 
"It is an absolute falsehood to say that I laughed at the 
death of the young man," which evoked cheers and loud 
cries of " Order." The Speaker rising at once, said that the 
remarks of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. T. M. 
Healy) had reached such a high level of violence that he 
felt bound to interfere. He proceeded : — 

"The hon. Member has charged Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment in language exceeding anything I have heard in this 
House. He has charged them with conniving at murder ; and 
he has made a statement with reference to the Chief Secretary 
for Ireland which was couched in language which I conceive 
ought not to be used by one Member of this House to 
another. I can only warn the hon. Member that if this 
language is continued I shall resort to those powers with 
which the House has invested me to prevent what I consider 
a public scandal." 

When the Speaker sat down amid the cheers of Members 
generally, Mr. Healy, quite unabashed, rose and said he had 
thought the object of the Speaker's interposition was to 
reprove the Chief Secretary for having made an accusation 
of falsehood against a Member of the House. "The Hon. 

' rarliamentary Debates (3rd scries), vol. 292, pp. 276-8. 


Member," said the Speaker sternly, " is not entitled to enter 
into an argument with the Chair. I have simply done my 
duty." Then the Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, 
explained that the smile of the Chief Secretary, which 
irritated the hon. Member for Monaghan, had really been 
caused by a remark which he had made to him in conver- 
sation. Mr. Healy said he was satisfied that the Chief 
Secretary had not been laughing at him ; and the Chief 
Secretary apologized for having made use of an unparlia- 
mentary expression. But the incident was not to end in 
this amicable way. The hon. Member for Monaghan, as 
the following extract from the report shows, persisted in 
airing his grievance against the Chair : — 

Mr. Healy : Now, Mr. Speaker, I beg to ask your ruling 
as to whether the statement of the Chief Secretary was in 
order or not ? I have respectfully urged you to give your 
ruling, and you have not deigned to do so (" Order, order "). 
You have ruled when you were not called upon — (" Order, 
order") — with regard to my general language; and now I 
wish to ask whether the Chief Secretary was in order in 
using the language that he did ? 

Mr. Speaker: I understand the Chief Secretary has 
withdrawn the expression he used on the understanding 
that the hon. Member withdraws the expression he used 
also (cries of " Rule "). I did express myself — not, I think, 
too strongly — in terms of strong reprobation of the course 
which had been pursued during several minutes by the hon. 
Member. I thought the language he made use of exceeded 
in violence anything I have heard while I have been in the 
Chair, and demanded the reprobation of the Chair, and I 
took upon myself to warn the hon. Member in moderate 
terms, that if language of this kind was repeated I should 
be obliged to take serious notice of it, and to exercise those 
powers with which I am vested. I shall not take any 
further notice of the matter. I regard the point of order 
as settled. 

Mr. Healy: I am glad you have settled the point of 
order to your own satisfaction. (Cries of " Order " and 
" Name him.") 

Mr. Spiaker: The language of the hon. Member is not 


respectful to the Chair, and is not respectful to this House. 
I hesitate to name the hon. Member. I am very unwilling 
to exercise the powers entrusted to me, or to appear to act 
with anything like precipitancy. But I warn the hon. 
Member that this sort of language will not be tolerated.^ 

Another Irish scene occurred on November 5, 1884, 
which further illustrates the determination and resource of 
Mr. Speaker Peel in dealing with insubordination. Frank 
Hugh O'Donnell attacked the Government for their opposi- 
tion to a Bill relating to the Poor Law in Ireland, which 
was introduced by the Nationalists, and was twice called to 
order by the Speaker for irrelevance, the question before 
the House being the adjournment of the debate. The hon. 
Member thereupon asked whether he was not to be allowed 
to use arguments in support of the views of the Irish 
Members concerning the Bill. 

Mr. Speaker: That is not the question. The hon. 
gentleman has again travelled from the question. I am to 
judge as to whether the hon. Member is, or is not, confining 
his remarks to the question ; and if the hon. gentleman 
deviates, in my opinion, from the question it is my duty to 
tell him so. I have already twice told him that he is 
diverging from the question. 

Mr. O'Donnell: I am absolutely convinced that I was 
bringing forward arguments in support of the plea that this 
Bill be not adjourned ; and I respectfully protest (cries of 
** Order ") — i respectfully protest 

Mr. Speaker : Order, order ! 

Mr. O'Donnell: Sir, I respectfully protest against your 
interference with the legitimate course of the discussion 
(" Order, order ! "). 

Mr. Speaker: I must call upon you to resume your seat, 
on account of the irrelevancy of your observations to the 
question before the House. 

Mr. O'Donnell: Mr. Speaker, sir, I protest. I would 
say — (cries of " Order ! "). 

Mr. Speaker : Again I must call upon you to resume 
your seat. 

Mr. O'Donnell : Sir, I wish to protest against this use 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 287, pp. 91-S. 


of the power of calling on Members to sit down when using 
legitimate arguments, and thus stop their observations 
(" Hear, hear," and " Order "). And as you have taken that 
step I wish you to — (cries of " Name him ! "). 

Mr. Speaker: I have twice — three times — called the 
hon. Member's attention to the fact that his observations 
were not relevant, and that he was wandering from the 
subject of the debate 

Mr. O'Donnell: I was not. I was not. 

Mr. Speaker: I did so in terms which are before the 
House. You have not thought proper to pay any attention 
to my ruling (Ministerial cheers) ; and I now name you, Mr. 
O'Donnell, as disregarding the authority of the Chair. 

Mr. Gladstone, as Leader of the House, then moved, in 
accordance with the Standing Order, that Mr. O'Donnell 
be suspended from the service of the House. As the hon. 
Member was leaving the Chamber, before the division on 
the motion, he said, addressing the Speaker : " You have 
played an unexpected part, Monsieur le President." The 
motion was carried by 163 votes to 28.^ 

Once the Nationalists attempted to arraign Mr. Speaker 
Peel before the House. The procedure adopted was not 
that of a vote of censure, but that of a motion for the 
adjournment of the House. On March 3, 1885, Mr. 
Thomas Sexton asked for leave to move the adjournment 
of the House, for the purpose of calling attention to "a 
definite matter of urgent public importance" — the form 
of words always employed in such a motion — namely, the 
course of action pursued by Mr. Speaker during the sitting 
of the House on February 24, 1885. On that day the 
Irish Members protested against a resolution moved by 
Gladstone as Leader of the House, postponing all notices of 
motion until an adjourned debate on Egypt and the Soudan 
was concluded, as they had secured by ballot the oppor- 
tunity for the discussion of an Irish question. In the course 
of the debate on the resolution the Speaker silenced Mr. 
William Redmond on the ground that his speech was ir- 
relevant, applied the Closure rule by putting the question, 
' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 293, pp. 1035-7. 


as he considered that the subject had been adequately dis- 
cussed, and " named " Mr. WiUiam O'Brien for disregarding 
the authority of the Chair by crying out " We will remember 
this in Ireland," for which the hon. Member was forthwith 

Mr. Sexton's motion declared that these actions of the 
Speaker constituted a " danger to the constitutional rights 
of Members of this House to speak and vote." Under the 
Standing Orders a motion of this kind for the adjournment 
must not only have the support of forty Members, who stand 
up in their places at the call of the Speaker ; but the Speaker, 
if he thinks fit, may not permit it to be discussed at all, for 
the reason that in his view it is not a matter of urgency. In 
this instance Mr. Speaker Peel declared he would take upon 
himself not to allow the motion to be submitted to the House. 
"It is my duty," he said, "to respect the rights of every 
hon. Member of this House, but in common with all other 
Members of the House I have my rights, and my right is 
that if my conduct is impugned it should be impugned by 
a direct appeal to the House upon notice of motion, properly 
given, when a direct issue would be laid before the House, 
and an amendment be moved which shall test the judgment 
of the House." ^ 



BUT though the Speaker can only be criticized in the 
House by means of a direct vote of censure, and any 
attack upon him outside, in the Press or on the 
Platform, is liable to the pains and penalties of a breach 
of parliamentary privilege, the rulings and decisions of Mr. 
Peel did not escape animadversion. Three accusations of 
partiality in the administration of the Closure which were 
made against him outside the House of Commons by the 
same Member of the House are noteworthy. 

' Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 294, pp. 1912-17. 


It was the famous episode of 1881, when Mr. Speaker 
Brand, though not entitled to do so by the rules, stopped 
the proceedings on the Crimes Bill, which, as I have already 
explained, led to the introduction of the Closure, or the " gag," 
as it is called by the " Outs " when it is applied to them by 
the " Ins." The rule as originally carried empowered the 
Speaker to terminate a debate when it appeared to him 
that the subject had been adequately discussed, or that it was 
the evident sense of the House that the question should 
be put. But as the Closure was inoperative unless it was 
supported by 200 Members if opposed by 40, or by 100 
Members if opposed by less than 40, the Speaker shrank from 
the risk of having his decision flouted, and accordingly the 
rule was rarely applied. It was amended, however, in 1887. 
The initiative of the Chair was taken away, and the responsi- 
bility of moving the Closure was transferred to the Minister, 
or, indeed, to any private Member. Moreover, it is put into 
force if carried by any majority. But by whomsoever the 
Closure may be moved, it is in the discretion of the Speaker 
to refuse to put it to the House if he thinks its application 
is not justified. 

Friday, April i, 1887, was the fifth night of the debate on 
the motion of Mr. Balfour, Chief Secretary for Ireland, to 
bring in a Bill " to make better provision for the prevention 
and punishment of Crime in Ireland." At half-past two 
o'clock in the morning Mr. W. H. Smith, the Leader of the 
House, moved the Closure, — " That the question be now 
put," — and it was accepted by Mr. Peel. As Gladstone 
walked down the floor, leading the Liberal Opposition into 
the " No lobby," the Nationalists jumped to their feet and 
applauded him enthusiastically, and mingled with their 
cheers were resentful cries directed against Mr. Peel, such 
as " Where are the rights of the minority ? " and " Down with 
the Speaker ! " 

Sir Edward Russell, editor of the Liverpool Daily Posty 
who was in Parliament at the time, relates that the Liberal 
Leader was deeply grieved by Peel's action in applying the 
Closure. " During the division on the Closure," says Sir 


Edward Russell, " somebody went up to him in the Lobby 
to speak to him about something else. Mr. Gladstone said : 
" Don't talk to me about anything else, Ireland, coercion — 
anything. The Speaker has hit me under the fifth rib." ^ 
The Closure was carried by a majority of io8. Then as the 
Speaker rose to put the question, that leave be given to bring 
in the Crimes Bill, Gladstone, as a demonstration of protest, 
left the Chamber, followed by the Liberal Opposition and 
the Nationalists, still giving vent to their indignation against 
the Chair, as well as against the Government, and the motion 
was agreed to unchallenged. 

On the following Monday morning The Times published 
a speech by Mr. Conybeare, a Radical who sat for Camborne, 
made at a meeting held in London for the purpose of 
organizing a public demonstration against the Crimes Bill. 
Mr. Conybeare said there could be no possible excuse for the 
Speaker in accepting the Closure. " The Speaker was no 
longer an impartial President of the Mouse of Commons," he 
continued. " He had descended from his high position, and 
become an ally to one Party in the House, and that the 
most tyrannical." When the House of Commons met that 
afternoon, Mr. Henry Chaplin called attention to the speech, 
and asked the Speaker whether it was not a breach ^of 
privilege. Mr. Peel replied that the speech was unquestion- 
ably a matter affecting privilege, but whether or not it was a 
breach of privilege rested with the House to decide. He went 
on to say that he could afford to pass over any imputations 
intended to be cast upon him by the hon. Member, but the 
matter was graver than that, for it was a reflection upon the 
House through its elected Speaker. In tones of impressive 
dignity, and yet with an undercurrent of deep personal 
feeling that was unmistakable, he thus concluded : — 

" I can understand in the present heat of Party feeling, 
when men's passions are aroused, words escaping hon. 
gentlemen which in their cooler moments they would 
repudiate. I hope that the words of the hon. Member were 
not premeditated or deliberate. I can only say that it is my 
' Russell, That Reminds Me, 96. 


wish, as it is my duty in the Chair, to allay Party feeling if I 
can (an ironical cheer from a Home Rule Member) — yes, if I 
can — notwithstanding the sneer of the hon. Member — to 
allay any heat or passion in this House. But it is a strange 
thing, indeed, that within a few weeks after I have been 
invested with an absolute discretion by a Standing Order 
passed by the House of Commons, as to whether I shall give 
or withhold my assent to a motion for closing debate — it is, I 
say, a strange, and I hope it is an unprecedented, thing that 
an hon. Member of this House should think it becoming in 
him to charge me in the action I took with having thereby 
become a partisan of either the one side of the House or 
the other. I shall say no more to the House of Commons, 
because I wish, if possible, to calm down any personal 
feeling. I will only add this, that I am content to leave my 
conduct in this Chair to the judgment of every fair and 
right-minded and honourable man." 

Mr. Conybeare then spoke. He neither adopted nor 
disclaimed the language attributed to him. Notice that the 
question would be raised had not been given to him until he 
entered the House he said, and therefore he had had no 
opportunity of seeing the newspaper report. But if it were 
found accurately to represent what he had said, and appeared 
to convey a reflection upon the Speaker " as the occupant of 
the Chair," he would most fully and humbly express his 
regret. He went on to say that he regarded the matter as 
a grave constitutional question, and had spoken with a full 
consciousness of the gravity of the situation. His interpreta- 
tion of the Closure rule was that it should be employed 
solely against obstruction, and he argued that there could 
not have been obstruction in a matter which was supported 
" not by a mere handful of Members," but by Gladstone, " the 
oldest and most respected Member of the House," and the 
whole of his Party, as well as by the Irish Members led 
by Parnell. 

Mr. W. H. Smith followed with a tribute to the Speaker's 
perfect impartiality, and to the absolute confidence which he 
commanded. Neither Gladstone nor Sir William Harcourt 
were present on this occasion. It fell to Mr. John Morley to 
repudiate, on behalf of the Opposition, any imputations upon 


the Chair, and to express their opinion that the Speaker used 
his position and authority rather to calm down Party passions 
than to inflame them. As it was presumed that Mr. Conybcare 
had apologised for his speech, or had modified it or explained 
it away, the subject was then allowed to drop,^ 

In the following session Mr. Conybeare made a repeti- 
tion of the same charge against the Speaker in a letter to 
a London newspaper. On July 19, 1888, the House was 
debating the second reading of the Bann Drainage Bill, 
introduced by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Mr. 
Conybeare opposed the measure on the ground that, as 
it tended principally to the benefit of the landlords of a 
particular district, it should be undertaken by an Irish 
Administration representative of and responsible to the 
Irish nation. Just at midnight, when opposed business 
came to an end, but before Mr. Conybeare had finished 
his remarks, the Closure was moved and carried. Subse- 
quently, on the usual motion for the adjournment of the 
House, Mr. Conybeare sarcastically asked that the Bill, 
when next proceeded with, should be taken at a convenient 
hour, so that he might have the opportunity of continuing 
and concluding his observation without fear of interruption 
by the Closure. " He had no hesitation in saying," he added, 
"that the Closure was, under the circumstances, simply a 
public scandal." 

" Order, order ! " cried the Speaker, — " the remark that the 
hon. Member has just now made must be withdrawn." " Mr. 
Conybcare, speaking in a low voice," says the report in the 
Parliavientary Debates, " said ' I withdraw the remark.' " The 
Speaker did not hear the submission of the hon. Member, 
for he " named " him for disregarding the authority of the 
Chair. It was then pointed out to the Speaker by some 
Liberal Members that Mr. Conybeare had withdrawn the 
expression. " I did not so understand him," said the 
Speaker, "but I accept his word most unreservedly." 
" I said, sir, most distinctly that I did withdraw," 
Mr. Conybeare declared. "Then I accept at once the 

' ParliaiHcnlary Debates (3rd series), vol. 3 1 3, p. 371. 


statement of the hon. Member," said the Speaker apolo- 

On the following day Lord Randolph Churchill called 
attention to a letter which appeared in TJie Star — an 
evening newspaper published in London — over the name 
of the Member for Camborne, and headed " Mr. Conybeare 
and the Speaker," with a view to moving that it was a 
breach of privilege. The letter, which was read by the 
Clerk, contained the following passages : — 

" I had spoken but a quarter of an hour when one of 
the Tory rank and file moved the Closure, and the Speaker, 
who is supposed to exercise his discretion impartially for 
the protection of the minority, at once put the question. 
Such a proceeding I stated later on was nothing short of 
a public scandal ; and although, in obedience to the rules 
of parliamentary decorum (which require that a Member 
should not, by passing a reflection on the Speaker, reflect 
upon the whole House), I withdrew the expression when 
called upon to do so. I have not the slightest doubt but 
that every Radical outside the House (as are most of those 
within it) is of the same opinion. For here is a Bill 
deliberately handing over vast sums of English money 
as a gift to Irish landlords, and we English, Scotch, and 
Welsh representatives are not to be allowed even half 
an hour's debate as to whether it is a justifiable proceeding 
or not. The Government says you shall not debate the 
matter, and Mr. Speaker backs them up. I hope every 
elector in the Speaker's constituency will be careful to 
mark his conduct." 

Then came a paragraph which Lord Randolph Churchill, 
— in moving subsequently that the letter was " a gross libel 
upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, and deserves 
the severest condemnation of the House " — characterized as 
the gravest in the document, and as one " utterly at variance 
with every sentiment of gentlemanly honour." It runs : — 

" As I may be blamed for withdrawing my description 
of the proceeding, I may add that I did it deliberately, 
for the following reasons : — 


" I. The withdrawal of an unparliamentary expression does 
not do away with the effect produced by using it. Nor does 
it imply any alteration of a deliberately expressed opinion. 
It remains on record. 

" He gloss' homomocIC, he di phren anomatos. 

" 2. Suspension from the House would do no good to 
any one except by pleasing the Tory Government, who 
would be delighted to be rid of a very uncomfortable thorn 
in tlieir side. 

" 3. My desire and my duty being to prevent the passing 
of those objectionable Bills, I should simply have forwarded 
the plans of the Government, and defaulted in my duty to 
my constituency, had I caused myself to be suspended for 
a week." 

Mr. Conybeare made no statement beyond admitting 
that he wrote the letter, and in accordance with the usual 
custom, when the conduct of a Member is impugned, he 
withdrew from the Chamber while the matter was under 

The Speaker then said that though he was not bound 
to state the reason why he had accepted the Closure, he 
thought it due to the House to do so. He understood that 
no Irish Member wished to speak on the Bill, or had any 
objection to it, but in any case opportunities for the ex- 
pression of views would be afforded on the subsequent stages 
of the measure. Mr. William Redmond, who next spoke, 
declared that if the Closure had not been accepted the 
Irish Members would have taken part in the debate. In 
the course of the discussion which followed it was intimated 
that Mr. Conybeare desired to retract one part of his 
letter. "My hon. friend," said Mr. Labouchere, "has just 
sent me a note in which he says he has been considering 
the matter, and that, so far as paragraph No. 1 is concerned, 
as it was open to a construction not at the time he wrote 
it intended by him, and suggested that he was ready to 
depart from his word, he withdraws it, and regrets the 
expression." In the end the House decided by 245 votes 
to 168, or a majority of yy, that the letter was a gross 


libel on Mr. Speaker, deserving the severest condemnation 
of the House ; and Mr. Conybeare was suspended from 
the service of the House " for the remainder of the session, 
or for one calendar month, whichever should first 
terminate." ^ 

In 1893, Mr. Conybeare came again into conflict with 
Mr. Speaker Peel, and as on the two previous occasions 
the hon. Member impugned the conduct of the Chair in 
regard to a motion for the Closure. It was in the heat of 
the session, when Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill was 
slowly and laboriously making its way through Committee. 
On July 3 the Daily Chronicle published a letter from Mr. 
Conybeare animadverting on the refusal of the Speaker 
to accept a Closure motion which he had moved at half- 
past three in the morning. It contained this passage : — 

" Another, not insignificant, advantage I gain by it — 
i\amely, that it called pointed attention — which the 
Speaker's curt severity only emphasized the more — to the 
contrast between his treatment of the Tory majority under 
the parallel circumstances of June 10, 1887. But then, of 
course, a Liberal Home Rule Bill is not to be compared 
with a Tory Coercion for ever-and-ever Bill. I believe I 
moved the Closure at nearly the same hour at which it 
was accepted by the Speaker on the historic occasion of 
the 1887 precedent." 

The attention of the House was called to the letter, on 
July 4, by Mr. Tritton, the Unionist Member for Lambeth.- 

The Speaker, addressing the House, maintained that his 
action in refusing the Closure actually led to a friendly 
arrangement between the two sides of the House. He 
deprecated any severe declaration on the part of the 
House which it might possibly be willing to take regard- 
ing the writer of the letter, and added : " My only course 
is to leave my conduct to the judgment of calm-thinking 
and fair-minded men." 

Gladstone, as Leader of the House, said he attached the 

^ Parliamentary Debates (3rd series), vol. 329, p. 48. 
^ Ibid. (4th series), vol. 14, pp. 820-25. 


greatest weight to the recommendation proceeding from 
the Chair, and thought it would be wise if the House 
would act in accordance with it. lie added, however, that 
at the same time there ought to be no doubt as to the 
universal sentiment which prevailed in the House in 
regard to the impartiality of the Chair. Mr. Balfour, the 
Leader of the Opposition, spoke in similar tones. Mr. 
Tritton accordingly did not proceed with the motion which 
he had intended to submit to the House. 

Mr. Conybeare, who had been unavoidably absent on 
this occasion, attended in his place on July 7, and claimed 
the indulgence of the House to make a personal explanation. 
He contended that the Speaker was a public authority and 
a public servant, and it was outrageous that any public 
servant should be superior to the criticisms of the pubic 
press. He proceeded to say that his letter was not a charge 
of partiality against the Speaker, but a suggestion of an erroi 
of judgment in that he had attributed to the passage of the 
Coercion Act of 1887 greater importance than to the passage 
of the Home Rule Bill, and that the acceptance of the 
Closure of 1 887 and its refusal on this occasion had suggested 
that in the view of the Speaker the Opposition of 1887 was 
obstructive, while the present Opposition was not. 

Mr. R. T. Read (afterwards Lord Chancellor Loreburn) 
on a point of order, asked whether in making a personal 
explanation Mr. Conybeare was not confined to explaining 
his personal conduct, whereupon the Speaker, speaking with 
some warmth, said : — 

" Yes ; but I do not altogether choose to sit quiet under 
the fresh imputations of the hon. gentleman. All I can say 
is that if the doctrine he has laid down is accepted by this 
House, I would not consent to occupy this Chair for twenty- 
four hours." 

Gladstone then moved that the letter constituted a 
breach of the privileges of the House, and this was seconded 
by Mr. Balfour. Mr. T. M. Healy appealed to Mr. Cony- 
beare to express regret for the pain he had evidently caused 
the Speaker. Mr. Conybeare, responding to the appeal, said 


he had no intention of inflicting any pain on the Speaker. 
He proceeded : "I do unreservedly state my regret to Mr. 
Speaker, adding that I acted in the way that I did in the 
belief that I was maintaining a public principle." 

The hon. Member then withdrew from the House. Mr. 
Chamberlain protested against the use of the word " pain." 
He submitted that the Speaker had not shown " pain," but 
natural indignation at a gross offence. Gladstone, on the 
ground that the withdrawal by Mr. Conybeare was not " a 
frank, intelligent, and complete apology," moved " that Mr. 
Conybeare be suspended for one week from the services of 
the House." Mr. Balfour seconded the motion. On the 
suggestion of Mr. Sexton there was an interval of a few 
minutes, during which Mr. Samuel Storey (then one of the 
foremost Radicals in the House) left the House and returned 
with Mr. Conybeare, who, reading from a written statement, 
said : " I desire to express my unqualified regret for the 
publication of any expressions reflecting on Mr. Speaker. 
I withdraw them." 

In the circumstances Gladstone desired to withdraw his 
motion for the suspension of the honourable Member. At 
this there was some demur on the part of the Opposition, as 
the apology only referred to the " publication." Mr. Balfour, 
however, while regretting that Gladstone desired to with- 
draw his motion, advised his friends not to force a division, 
and the motion was then dropped.^ 


"ON THE pounce" 

MR. PEEL'S conception of his duty as Speaker was 
fundamentally serious and earnest. It could not 
well be otherwise in so grave and austere a person- 
ality. His aim obviously was to preserve and hand on un- 
diminished to his successors the solemnity with which the 

^ Parliamentary Debates (4th series), vol. 14, pp. 1094-I111. 


centuries have invested the Chair ; and his ceremonious 
bearing as President of the House of Commons was equalled 
by the firmness of his control and guidance of the debates. 

Indeed, the whole demeanour of Mr. Peel in the Chair 
was, in its severe dignity and loftiness, its somewhat melan- 
choly pride of isolation, eminently calculated to command 
deference and respect. He was tall and spare of stature in 
his flowing silken robe. The face that looked out from the 
heavy grey wig was long and narrow, rather dark in com- 
plexion, and terminated in an iron-grey beard closely 
trimmed. It was a grave face, and the keen, peremptory 
eyes under prominent brows emphasized the predominantly 
strong, simple, and righteous expression. In truth, Mr. 
Peel looked what he really was — one of the most masterful 
Speakers that ever presided over the House of Commons. 
He dominated the Chamber with his stately presence, his 
austere features, his searching and inflexible glance, and his 
voice, in which there was something of the silver and arrest- 
ing tone of the clarion. 

He never tolerated anything which, in his opinion, 
derogated in the slightest degree from the authority and 
dignity of his office, for which he had himself so deep and 
reverential a regard. Once he had occasion to call Parnell 
to order with some show of severity. Later on the Irish 
Leader happened to be passing by the Chair, on his way to 
the division lobby, and, without meaning to be rude or to 
reflect on Mr. Peel's decision, he said : " I think, Mr. Speaker, 
you were rather too hard on me just now." Mr. Peel 
instantly exclaimed in a voice with indignation, but 
low, and yet loud enough for the reproof to be heard by 
Members who happened to be near the spot : " How dare 
you ! How dare you say that to me ! " The hot words seemed 
to imply that if Parnell was a dictator in Ireland he must not 
attempt to approach the Speaker of the House of Commons 
with any seeming lack of due respect and decorum, or in any 
way to fall short of the deference to be paid to the rank, the 
dignity, the authority, and ancient prestige of the Chair. 

In a different way Mr. Peel showed his mettle in an 

«0N THE POUNCE" 347 

encounter with Sir William Harcourt. He called the right 
honourable gentleman to order for irrelevancy. The right 
honourable gentleman was generally of a genial disposition ; 
but he had a quick and warm temper, and when thwarted 
was disposed to be hasty in showing his irritation. At any 
rate, he paid no heed to the Speaker's reminder that he 
was straying from the question before the House. " Order, 
order," said the Speaker in a more decisive tone. Then Sir 
William Harcourt turned an angrily flushed face on the 
Speaker, and brusquely insisted that his remarks were quite 
to the point. " Order, order," said the Speaker in reproving 
tones, — "the right honourable gentleman is now arguing 
with the Chair, which cannot be permitted." Sir William 
Harcourt wisely swallowed his indignation, and changed the 
tenor of his remarks. 

The tone in which Mr. Peel gave expression to the 
warning cry of " Order, order " was varied to suit the special 
circumstances of each case. When the Member addressing 
the House offended against any of the rules unwittingly 
there was a gentle persuasive note in the voice of the 
Speaker. The well-meaning Member, disposed withal to 
take liberties, was pulled up in a half-deprecatory tone of 
protest. But the Speaker was all anger and relentlessness 
in the case of a deliberate breach of the rules of decorum, 
or an impertinent and perverse trifling with the House, or 
blustering arrogance and defiance on the part of a Member. 
He showed himself, on such occasions, a terrific upholder 
of order by sweeping down on the offending Member in 
clouds of wrath. Nothing could be more sharp and 
peremptory than his cry of " Order, order," and, delivered in 
a manner most expressive of indignant displeasure and stern 
rebuke, it usually silenced the most turbulent. 

As he vigilantly followed the speeches in a debate, he 
.seemed to be most sensitive to the slightest indication of the 
approach of a disturbance. It was easy to tell by his 
physical restlessness in the Chair, and the mentally dis- 
quieted look on his face, when he anticipated a breach of 
order. " You are too much on the pounce," said an angry 


Irish Member — Mr. Edward Harrington — once, smarting 
under his reproof. The remark was disrespectful, but it was 
highly graphic. " On the pounce " just expressed the 
attitude of Mr Peel, sitting on the edge of the Chair, anxious 
and impatient, his hands grasping the arm-rests, a look of 
pain and displeasure on his face, and leaning forward in a 
crouching attitude ready to swoop at the proper moment, 
swiftly and sternly, on the offender and nip the incipient 
disorder in the bud. It cannot be said that he had a 
perfectly equable and imperturbable temper. At times he 
was perhaps too authoritative and impulsive, and many a 
Member who felt that his rebuke was unwarranted or too 
severe was disposed to show resentment. He suffered 
much while in the Chair from a varicose vein. It was an 
unpleasantly familiar sight to see the right leg of the 
Speaker stretched on supports, and his drawn and harassed 
expression of face during the long sitting. 

The half-hour's release, between 8 and 9 o'clock, then 
given to the Speaker — during which the proceedings were 
suspended — was usually spent by Mr. Peel in reclining on a 
sofa with the painful limb in a position of welcome but brief 
ease. This was the cause, no doubt, of the irritableness 
which he sometimes displayed in the Chair. 

Infringements of order were really a sore personal grief 
to him. Essentially a man of supreme rectitude of mind, 
possessed of a great ideal as to the office that he filled and 
its responsibilities, he felt deliberate breaches of the rules as 
a personal insult, and therefore meted out to the offenders 
a full measure of personal resentment. I remember the 
terrific spectacle he presented on an occasion when a single 
cry of " Shame " came from the Irish benches in relation to 
one of his rulings. He sprang from the Chair, trembling 
with indignation, and shouted towards the unknown culprit 
in the crowd below the Opposition Gangway, "That is a 
shameful expression for you to use." The nervous twitching 
of his face, its fierce and resolute expression, showed how 
deeply he was stirred by what he regarded as the folly 
and wickedness of the exclamation. But few allowed his 


imperious displays of temper, natural in one so high-strung 
and emotional, to weigh against his fearless resolution to 
preserve the order and decorum of the House of Commons, 
and his noble anxiety that the great traditions of the Chair 
should suffer no damage or depreciation in his day. 



THE most splendid exhibition of Mr. Peel's influence 
and authority took place on a night the record of 
which would have otherwise disgraced irretrievably 
the annals of the House of Commons. It was the night of 
the brawl in Committee on the Home Rule Bill of 1893. 

On July 27 the House was in its forty-seventh sitting — 
and the last — in Committee on the Bill. At 10 o'clock, in 
accordance with the Closure resolution, the " guillotine " was 
to fall and bring the proceedings to an end. Mr. Chamber- 
lain rose, at a quarter to the hour, with the evident intention 
of giving emphasis to the closing scene by a philippic 
against the Government. He dwelt upon the many changes 
which Gladstone had made in the Bill in order to win 
support or disarm opposition. All these surrenders had 
been accepted by the docile followers of the Government. 
" The Prime Minister calls ' black,' and they say ' it is good ' ; 
the Prime Minister calls * white,' and they say 'it is better,'" 
said Chamberlain in his concluding sentences. " It is always 
the voice of a god. Never since the time of Herod has 
there been such slavish adulation." 

A roar of angry protest against the allusion to Herod 
rose from the Government benches. " Judas ! " cried Mr. T. 
P. O'Connor, and the execrable name of the arch-traitor was 
taken up and shouted by the excited Nationalists. The 
Chairman of Committees (Mr. Mellor) put the question, and 
as Members began to leave their places to go to the division 


lobbies Mr. Logan, a Liberal, crossed the floor and sat 
down defiantly in the accustomed seat of the Leader of the 
Opposition, Mr. Balfour, which at the moment was vacant. 
The Unionist Members sitting behind, among whom Mr. 
Hayes Fisher and Mr. George Wyndham were conspicuous, 
resenting this intrusion, seized Mr. Logan by the shoulders 
and pushed him out of the seat. 

As a spectator of the scene from the Reporters' Gallery, I 
noticed, while this incident was proceeding, Mr. T. M. Healy 
rise from his corner seat below the Gangway and endeavour 
to force his way behind the front Opposition bench, with the 
obvious intention of going to the aid of Mr. Logan, but he 
was stopped by Mr. Gibson-Bowles, who was sitting at the 
corner of the second bench. At the same moment most of 
the other Nationalist Members, now on their feet, moved 
towards the Gangway. It was uncertain whether they were 
bent on supporting Mr. T. M. Healy by physical force, or 
were peaceably on their way to the division lobby. Prob- 
ably they were differently actuated, some being eager for 
the fray and others intent only on overwhelming their 
opponents by their votes. At any rate. Colonel Sanderson, 
the leader of the Irish Unionists, who occupied the corner 
seat of the third bench above the Gangway, was convinced 
their intentions were hostile, and, striking out with his 
clenched fist, he dealt Mr. Michael Austin, the Nationalist, 
who happened to be nearest to him, a severe blow on the 
face. Immediately he was himself struck by Mr. Crean, 
another Nationalist. 

All was now confusion and tumult around the Gangway 
dividing the Nationalist from the Unionist benches on the 
Opposition side. A mist seemed to hang over this quarter 
of the House, — no doubt it was but in the eyes of excited 
spectators, — and through it could be seen swaying figures and 
angry gestures, as if a general brawl was in progress. The 
strangers in the crowded public galleries sprang to their feet 
and leaned forward, eager to see what was the cause of the 
angry cries and exclamations, and those in the front rows, 
observing what appeared to be a free fight on the floor, 


expressed their indignation in hisses. I noticed that Glad- 
stone not only averted his gaze, but with a perturbed 
expression of face reclined on his side along the Treasury 
bench, so that the Table might the more effectually hide the 
horrid business from his view. Happily, it was not so 
violent a scene as it appeared, or as it was described in some 
of the newspapers the next morning. One account declared, 
with a touch of humorous exaggeration, that when order 
was restored the floor was found to be strewn with scarf- 
pins and artificial teeth. Those who lost self-control and 
applied physical violence to each other were few in number. 
Most of the struggling Members, Nationalist and Unionist, 
were really peacemakers endeavouring to restrain and calm 
their more pugnacious colleagues. 

The Chairman of Committees, in obedience to the cries 
of the House, sent for the Speaker. It was universally felt 
that at such a critical moment the place at the helm must 
be yielded to that dominant personality. He alone could 
bring back calm to the passion-tossed assembly ; he alone 
could soothe the ruffled nerves of Members. It was for him 
also to mete out punishment to the offenders as he thought 
fit. A minute or two elapsed before Mr. Peel appeared. In 
that short pause the deepest silence prevailed. Members 
were engrossed in speculating on what had happened and 
on what the Speaker was likely to do. I am disposed to 
think that most of them expected to find in Mr. Peel a rigid 
attitude of severe repudiation of their conduct. At last the tall 
gaunt form of the Speaker, in wig and gown, appeared from 
behind the Chair, and there arose from all parts of the 
Chamber a loud shout of greeting in which deep relief was 
expressed, and angry resentment by each side of the other, 
as well as devotion to this strong man, and confidence that 
the evil which had happened would now be set aright. 

The cheers were prolonged as the Speaker stood on 
the platform of the Chair facing the House. He did not 
present the stern and relentless front to which Members 
were accustomed in times of disorder, and which they 
expected to see emphasized at this moment of unutterable 


shame. He had laid aside even that austerity and remote- 
ness which were habitual with him on ordinary occasions. 
I thought he looked strangely soft and benignant. He was 
at once dignified and gentle, with a simple and yet noble 
seriousness. Not a hard word had he to say. His voice, in 
asking for explanations of what had happened, was quite 
caressing. At once recriminations broke out. Each side 
endeavoured to put the other in the wrong. But soon the 
Speaker interposed in the spirit of paternal expostulation 
with an appeal to the better nature and finer instincts of the 
House. He expressed the hope that "in the interest of 
debate, and in the higher interests of the character of the 
House," Members would " allow the regrettable incident to 
pass into oblivion," and would proceed with the rest of the 
business of the evening " in a manner which would do honour 
to the traditions of the House, and would not allow any 
enemy of our constitution to rejoice." Like a parent, wise 
as well as fond, dealing with a fractious child in a brain- 
storm, he laid a calming hand on the troubled brow of the 
House and gently soothed it. And the House responded 
to the caress. It became subdued and humbled, and full of 
the spirit of reconciliation and atonement. Truly, a striking 
manifestation of the force of personality and tact.^ 


MR. peel's good-bye 

THE House of Commons met on April 8, 1895, to hear 
from Mr. Peel himself the announcement of his resig- 
nation, which had been anticipated so far back as 
March 9 in the "Political Notes" of TJie Times. The 
Chamber was thronged. Members of all sections of the 
House were sincerely and deeply stirred by the thought 
that they were about to lose their great Speaker — that 
they would see no more his grave and dignified person- 

' Parliamentary Debates (4lh series), vol. 15, pp. 723-33- 


ality in the Chair, and hear no more the measured and 
resonant voice calling them by name and putting the 
question for their decision. The scene for its striking 
impressiveness takes really a high place among memorable 
parliamentary incidents. It was charged with genuine 
sorrow, a feeling that is but rarely displayed in the House 
of Commons. 

As Mr. Peel rose from the Chair to make his announce- 
ment all the Members silently greeted him by taking off 
their hats. Standing on the dais in wig and gown, pale 
and erect, with his arms folded, he spoke for just ten minutes 
slowly and deliberately in a voice that was clear and ringing, 
but yet showed signs of deeply felt if strongly suppressed 
emotion. The speech was of grave and measured eloquence, 
and, like all his utterances from the Chair, felicitously said 
the proper word and touched the right chord. Considera- 
tions of health which he could not overlook had obliged him 
to come to the decision to resign, a decision adopted after 
deep deliberation and with the utmost reluctance. He had 
passed through many sessions, some of storm and stress, 
others of comparative, but only of comparative, repose. 

" If during that time," said he, " I have given offence to 
any one Member, or more Members, or to any section of 
the House, I hope that an Act of Oblivion may be passed 
(cheers). If I have ever deviated from that calm which 
should characterize the utterances of the occupant of this 
Chair, I hope every single Member of the House will believe 
me when I say that I have never been consciously actuated 
by any personal or political feeling (loud cheers) — and that 
in all I have done and said, I have at least, according to 
my poor judgment, tried to consult the advantage and the 
permanent interests of this Assembly (cheers)." 

In his concluding passages he said : — 

" Finally, let me say a few parting words in conclusion ; 
and I wish to speak, not with the brief remnant of authority 
which is still left to me with the sands of my official life 
rapidly running out, I would rather speak as a Member of 
thirty years' experience in this House who speaks to his 


brother Members and comrades, if I may dare to use the 
term (cheers). I would fain hope that, by the co-operation 
of all its Members, this House may continue to be a pattern 
and a model to foreign nations, and to those great peoples 
who have left our shores and have carried our blood, our 
race, our language, our institutions, and our habits of thought 
to the uttermost parts of the earth. I would fain indulge in 
the belief and the hope, and as I speak with the traditions 
of this House and its glorious memories crowding on my 
mind, that hope and that belief become stronger and more 
emphasized, though with both hope and belief I would couple 
an earnest but an humble prayer than this House may have 
centuries of honour, of dignity, and of usefulness before it, 
and that it may continue to hold not a prominent only, but 
a first and foremost position among the Legislative Assem- 
blies of the world (loud cheers)." 

Sir William Harcourt, as Leader of the House, expressed 
in a few words "the deep and painful emotion" which the 
announcement of the Speaker's resignation had evoked. 
The right hon. gentleman also gave notice that on the 
following day he would move the two customary resolutions, 
— one of thanks to the Speaker for " the zeal, ability, and im- 
partiality" with which he had discharged his duties, and the 
other that an humble petition be presented to Queen Victoria 
asking that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to 
confer on the retiring Speaker " some signal mark of her 
royal favour," and assuring her that whatever expense she 
should think fit to be incurred on that account the House 
would make good the same. The Speaker then retired, and 
the Chair was taken by Mr. Mellor as Deputy Speaker.^ 

On the next day Mr. Speaker Peel again took the Chair, 
and again the Chamber was crowded in every part. Sir 
William liarcourt, in moving the resolutions, made a most 
felicitous little speech. He said the real authority of the 
Speaker rested absolutely on the confidence of the House. 
That confidence Mr. Peel had earned, anti that authority he 
had exercised to his own high honour .md to their great 
advantage. He had added fame to a name among the most 

* rarliamentary /debates (4th series), vol. 32, pp. 11 26-9. 


illustrious in the annals of the House of Commons, and he 
had exalted the dignity of a station the highest to which an 
English gentleman could be called. " It has been said," the 
right hon. gentleman proceeded, " that the memory of the 
departed who have deserved well of their country is a 
possession for ever ; and the House of Commons, when you, 
sir, have left it, will enshrine the record of your Speakership 
among its purest and noblest traditions." 

Mr. A. J. Balfour, as Leader of the Opposition, seconded 
the resolutions. He referred to the personal feeling of grief 
which animated all Members of the House, and added : — 

" For it will be said of you, sir, not merely that you have 
occupied a great place in the long line of illustrious Speakers, 
perhaps the greatest place for many generations past (cheers) ; 
but it will also be said of you, that each individual Member of 
the House found in you a kind and considerate guide (cheers), 
and that you carried with you in your retirement not merely 
the respect and admiration of all who have watched your 
great career, but also the love and affection of every single 
Member of this great Assembly whose interests you have 
served so well (loud and prolonged cheers)." 

Representative Members on the back benches joined the 
leaders of the two great political Parties in giving testimony 
to the high qualities of Mr. Peel's Speakership, and the 
affection in which he was personally held. Mr. Joseph 
Chamberlain, as Leader of the Liberal Unionists, said a 
few highly appreciative words. The action of the Irish 
Nationalists was especially noteworthy. At this time they 
were split into two sections, generally known as " Parnellites " 
and " Anti-Parnellites"; but they united in paying a tribute 
to Mr. Peel which, it was said, was by him the most highly 
prized of all. Mr. Justin M'Carthy, who led the larger 
Anti-Parnellite section, recalled that the Speaker, in his 
valedictory address the day before, said that the time of 
his election to the Chair was a time of storm and stress. 
*' It was," said he, " a time of storm and stress for you, sir, 
still more, perhaps, for myself and for my colleagues. But 
we have learned to know each other better since that time. 


and I am now glad to say, proud to say, on behalf of all 
my friends in this House, that we recognize your absolute 
impartiality (loud cheers), as well as all the many other 
exalted qualities which you have displayed in the Speaker's 
Chair." Mr. John Redmond, the Leader of the Parnellites, 
said the Nationalists had been forced by their conception of 
their duty often to utter jarring notes and to take action in 
the House distasteful to the sentiments of the majority of 
Members, but under every circumstance of excitement and 
unpopularity they had always met from the Speaker uniform 
courtesy and impartiality. 

The resolutions were carried neniine contradicente. There 
was a slight departure from precedent in the resolution of 
thanks. The original draft as submitted to the Cabinet referred 
— like all similar resolutions of the past — to the " zeal and 
ability " of the Speaker, and at the suggestion of one of the 
Ministers the word "impartiality" was added. The inter- 
polation was not only approved by the House, but afforded 
keen satisfaction to Mr. Peel himself. 

Mr. Peel remained in the Chair till the close of the sitting 
at a quarter-past 12 o'clock. The Naval Works Bill was 
under discussion. All through the evening the Speaker 
held an informal levee. Member after Member came up to 
the Chair to bid him good-bye. The hand-shaking was 
marked by extreme cordiality. The memories that thronged 
on Mr. Peel during his last hours in the Chair must have 
been sad as well as triumphant ; but happily they were 
undarkened by the thought of any serious indiscretion or 
mistake. At the end, the occupants of the two Front 
Benches took leave of him by the hand. As he stepped 
from the Chair for the last time the Members rose to their 
feet and uncovered, and cheered him warmly. He bowed in 
acknowledgment of this final greeting ; then turned and 
disappeared from the Chamber. 

The Journals contain no reference to this remarkable 
scene. The record of the day's proceedings thus concludes : 
" And then the House, having continued to sit till a quarter 
of an hour after twelve of the clock on Wednesday morning. 


adjourned till this day." But the Journals contain a report 
of Mr. Peel's valedictory speech. A speech can only be 
inserted on \hQ Journals — which are intended to be a record 
of things done and not of things said — by a special resolution 
of the House, and this was moved by Sir William Harcourt 
the day before. 



AFTER an interval of many years there was a return to 
the custom of appointing a lawyer to the Chair in 
the election of William Court Gully, in succession to 
Peel, on April 10, 1895. The son of a physician, Mr. Gully 
was born in London in 1835, educated at Trinity College, 
Cambridge, and went from the University to the Bar, to 
which he was called in i860. He was returned to Parlia- 
ment for Carlisle in 1886, and in the same year was appointed 
Recorder of Wigan, a position which he filled until the 
crowning event of his life in 1895. 

He was elected to the Chair under very remarkable 
circumstances. He had been in the House of Commons 
for close on ten years. His speeches were few and far 
between. In some sessions he was absolutely silent. Yet 
there is an interesting legislative achievement to his credit. 
He succeeded in having passed a little Bill which made it 
actionable to have spoken calumniously of the chastity of 
a woman, thereby remedying a strange defect in the law. 
But professional work claimed all his energies, even at St. 
Stephens. A specialist on patent and company law, it was 
his habit to spend his time in a secluded part of the Library, 
where silence is strictly enjoined, immersed in his briefs, and 
he hardly ever entered the Chamber except when summoned 
by the division bells. Then, having discharged his duty to 
his constituents or his Party, by recording his vote, he would 
hasten back to his legal work. His parliamentary career may 


be said to have virtually begun as well as ended on the day 
he was nominated for the Chair by the Liberal Government. 

The Unionists proposed Sir Matthew White Ridley, for 
whom they claimed that during the twenty-seven years he 
had been a Member he had frequently served as Chairman 
of the Grand Committee upstairs, and had obtained from 
active personal experience a thorough acquaintance with the 
rules and procedure of the House. Not since the famous 
contest between Manners-Sutton and Abcrcromby in 1835 
was an election to the Chair marked by such bitter Party 
rancour. There was a heated encounter between the Leader 
of the Opposition and the Leader of the House. Mr. Arthur 
Balfour, in supporting the Unionist candidate, replied to the 
insinuation of Mr. Samuel Whitbread — Mr. Gully's pro- 
poser — that the Unionists desired to have in the Chair a 
representative of the landed interest. He said that if they 
looked through the list of Speakers during the past hundred 
years they would find that the Tory Speakers had not, as 
a rule, been landowners, and that if they wanted to discover 
specimen representatives of the landed interest they would 
find them in those great Whig Speakers, Mr. Denison and 
Mr. Shaw-Lefcvre. He proceeded to say that Mr. Gully's 
ambition had hitherto lain in a sphere totally outside the 
House of Commons. Was not the hon. and learned gentle- 
man wholly unknown to Members in any capacity connected 
with the transaction of the business of the House. " He 
has never, so far as I am aware, opened his lips in our 
debates," continued Mr. Balfour; "he has never, so far as 
I know, served on a Private Bill Committee ; he has never, 
so far as I know, served on a Select Committee ; he has 
never, .so far as I know, attended on a Grand Committee." 
He asserted that the Government, in proposing for the 
Chair a Member who had taken so little part in parlia- 
mentary proceedings, and had so little identified himself 
with parliamentary life, had absolutely broken all the 
traditions of the House. 

Sir William Harcourt, the Leader of the House, replied 
to Mr. Balfour with considerable acrimony. He charged the 


right hon. gentleman with having, by his interposition in the 
debate, departed from the precedent established by the great 
masters of parliamentary law, who, on the occasion of the 
last contest for the Chair in 1839, determined that neither of 
the Party leaders, Lord John Russell and Sir Robert Peel, 
should take part in the proceedings. He then went on to 
refer to the negotiations which had taken place behind the 
scenes, with the object of trying to select a candidate who 
would be acceptable to both sides. As Leader of the House 
it was his first object, he said, to secure, if it were possible, 
a unanimous election ; and the Government would have 
supported Mr. Leonard Courtney, a member of the Opposition, 
who had been Chairman of Committees for years and whose 
fitness for the Chair could not be questioned. But who 
defeated that aim? "It was the veto of the ri^ht hon. 
gentleman," he replied, "who in the name of the minority — 
and in that case it would have been a small minority — 
undertakes to dictate to this House, and to its majority, who 
shall be designated to be in the Chair." 

At this there were Opposition cries of " What about 
Campbell-Bannerman ? " Though a Member of the Cabinet 
he desired to be Speaker, and the Opposition would have 
supported him. " In answer to that," said Sir William 
Harcourt, " I have to say that it would have been contrary 
to all parliamentary precedent that a member of the Cabinet 
should have gone from the Treasury Bench to the Chair. 
That in itself was, to my mind, an objection of the strongest 
character to such a proceeding."^ 

A division was taken, and the Government candidate was 
elected by the small majority of eleven.^ Thus did Mr. 
Gully come to the Speakership. As he was being conducted 
to the Chair the majority of the House — even most of the 
political Party of which he was a Member — saw him for the 

^ The right hon. gentleman was theoretically correct in saying it was con- 
trary to precedeni: for a Cabinet Minister to pass to the Chair straight from the 
partisan atmosphere of the Cabinet. Abercromby had been a Cabinet Minister, 
but at his election to the Speakership by the Whigs in 1835 a Tory Government 
was in office, though not in power. 

^ Parliamentary Debates (4th series), vol. 32, pp. 1369-96. 


first time ; and they saw a man who, at any rate, was pos- 
sessed of the traditional physical qualities for the Speakership. 
He had a fine presence. A very handsome gentleman he 
was, with clear-cut features, fresh complexioned, and evidently 
of urbane, smiling manners. In truth, when he appeared 
later in wig and gown he looked every inch the Speaker. 



MR. Gully discharged the duties of the Speakership 
to the satisfaction of all. He kept the House well 
in hand with mingled firmness and urbanity, and 
throughout his term of office retained the confidence of both 
sides. It can hardly be said, however, that he was a great 
Speaker. As a highly trained lawyer he had the faults of 
his qualities. The weakness of his Speakership was that it 
was too much influenced by the literalism of the lawyer. He 
was a routinist, and he had the defects as well as the merits 
of the stickler for the strict rule. His manner was softer and 
far less authoritative than that of Mr. Peel. Oftentimes 
this is but the outer and visible sign of a timid disposition 
and an uncertain mind. But Mr. Gully was by no means 
uncertain. In the interpretation of the rules he was far 
stricter than Mr. Peel, though his decisions were delivered 
in a tone and spirit the most courteous and urbane, and — 
what was perhaps a weakness — he was disposed to give 
reasons for them when they were questioned. 

There is no more trying period of a sitting for the Speaker 
than " Question time," when Members — provided they give 
notice of their queries, so that they may be printed on the 
Order Paper — have the right of interrogating Ministers on 
matters of administration. Mr. Peel allowed the Ministers 
to be cross-examined by means of " supplementary questions " 
having relation, more or less, to the subject of the main 
question. Mr. Gully brought the practice to an end, 


regarding it as an abuse of the right of interrogating 
Ministers. He insisted that the supplementary question 
must literally arise out of the answer to the main question 
given by the Minister; and as he was the judge of its 
relevancy, there arose a sore feeling among Members that 
their legitimate desire for information in relation to public 
affairs was hampered by the cold, lawyer-like preciseness 
and pedantry of the Speaker. 

Mr. Speaker Gully, like Mr. Speaker Brand in 1 881, was 
confronted by a situation of exceptional difficulty, with 
which, being also unprecedented, the existing rules of the 
House provided no way of coping. On March 5, 1901, the 
House was in Committee of Supply on a vote on account 
of ;^ 1 7, 304,000 for the Civil Service and Revenue Depart- 
ments. Until midnight the Committee was debating an 
amendment hostile to the policy of the Board of Education, 
and after the division on this amendment Mr. Arthur Balfour, 
Leader of the House, moved the Closure on the vote. The 
motion, of course, shut out for the time, at any rate, the 
raising of any other question of administration. It happened 
that, included in the vote on account were two millions 
sterling affecting Ireland, and by the application of the 
Closure the Nationalist Members were denied the oppor- 
tunity of discussing some Irish questions for which they had 
waited during the night. As a protest they adopted the 
extreme, though not unprecedented, course of declining to 
leave their places and go into the lobbies to vote in the 
division on the Closure. By reason of the new method of 
taking divisions, which came into use in 1907, such a 
demonstration would now pass unnoticed. During a 
division the doors of the Chamber are now left open, and 
Members are free to remain in their seats, to come or go, 
to vote or not to vote, as they please. But at that time, 
when a division was challenged, the doors were locked, and 
every Member who was in his place was obliged to pass 
through one or other of the division lobbies, and have his 
vote recorded. If a Member did not desire to vote he was 
expected to walk out before the doors were locked. There- 


fore the Nationalist Members who refused to budge when 
the Chairman of Committees (Mr. J. W. Lovvther) directed 
the House to be cleared for the division were guilty of a 
serious breach of order. The Chairman sent for the Speaker, 
as he was bound to do, when Members take an obstructive 
and disorderly line in Committee, and reported the circum- 
stances, and, as they continued contumacious the Speaker 
" named " twelve of the large group of Irish Members present 
for wilfully obstructing the business of the House and dis- 
regarding the authority of the Chair. The suspension of 
these Members was moved by Mr. Balfour. As the 
Nationalists declined to name tellers, no division was taken 
on the motion, and the Speaker declared it carried. 

The suspended Members were then directed to leave the 
House, but they again refused, and the Speaker ordered 
the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove them by force. In previous 
scenes of the kind the force employed consisted simply of 
the hand of the Serjeant-at-Arms, At its touch on his 
shoulder the intractable Member, " yielding to superior force," 
as he was careful to declare, rose from his seat and walked 
out. Mr. Speaker Brand had to cope with a similar 
emergency the day after his famous coup dVtat in i8bi. 
Parnell was " named " for " wilfully disregarding the authority 
of the Chair" — by persisting in moving that Gladstone be 
not heard — and the usual motion for suspension was sub- 
mitted by the Leader of the House. A division was 
challenged on the motion, and was proceeded with, though 
the Nationalists remained in their seats and took no part in 
the voting. On the completion of the division, the motion 
for the suspension of Parnell having been carried by 405 
votes to 7, twenty-eight Nationalists were " named " and 
suspended en bloc. " Then followed a curious scene, which 
lasted nearly half an hour," says a contemporary account. 
" The Speaker read out the names of the twenty-eight 
Members one by one in alphabetical order, and directed 
them to withdraw. Kach in turn refused to go unless com- 
pelled by superior force, and each was in turn removed by the 
Serjeant-at-Arms by direction of the Chair. Each made 


a little speech ; and while some walked out when touched 
by the Serjeant-at-Arms, others refused to move until the 
messengers were brought in." ^ 

The Irish Members " named " by Mr. Speaker Gully, and 
suspended accordingly, likewise refused to quit the Chamber 
unless compelled by superior force. Unhappily, they meant 
what they said in the letter as well as in the spirit. Some 
of the messengers of the House were summoned to carry 
out the order of the Speaker, but such was the resistance of 
the suspended Members that the muscular powers of these 
officials proved inadequate to the task. In the circumstances 
the Speaker directed a body of police to be called in, and 
nine of the contumacious Nationalists, fiercely resisting to 
the last and singing " God save Ireland," were borne on the 
shoulders of constables out of the Chamber amidst tremend- 
ous clamour. The scene will be for ever memorable for 
this, if for nothing else, that for the first time in the long 
history of Parliament a body of police crossed the sacred 
Bar of the House of Commons to suppress an attack on its 
authority and dignity. 

The situation was one of great difficulty, its circumstances 
were exceptional, and no one — not even the Speaker — is 
always discerning and wise. Mr, Gully, therefore, did not 
escape criticism. The employment of the police for such a 
purpose, on the floor of the House of Commons, was felt to 
be a degradation of Parliament. But to what other alter- 
native could the Speaker have resorted in such a sudden, 
unexpected, and distracting emergency ? It was impossible 
to have imagined that the Nationalists would carry their 
protest to so extreme and unprecedented a point as to 
necessitate their being forcibly thrust or carried out of the 
Chamber. Moreover, it might be said that the Speaker 
was bound at all costs to maintain his authority. No doubt, 
also, he called in the police reluctantly against his will, and 
under the direst and most inexorable pressure. Was there 
any other way open to him ? He might have followed 
the example of decision and courage set by Mr. Speaker 

1 Annual Register (i88l), pp. 55-6. 


Brand in 188 1, and, rising, as his predecessor rose, superior 
to the rules at the call of a tremendous crisis, have adjourned 
the House at his own instance and on his own responsibility. 
But not to every Speaker is given the capacity for rapid 
thought and clear decision amid the confusions of un- 
anticipated circumstances. 

The moral authority of Mr. Gully was never quite the 
same again as it had been before that memorable and 
unhappy night. In his rulings there was indicated a 
certain nervousness not noticeable previously. And he 
was not allowed to forget his error of judgment. For the 
rest of his Speakership the Nationalists in moments of 
excitement and disorder were given to shouting, " Police ! 
Police ! Send for the Police ! " 

It is an episode that can hardly be repeated, for a new 
Standing Order was immediately passed which enables the 
Speaker to deal with serious disorder by simply quitting the 
Chair and putting out the lights. "In the case of grave 
disorder arising in the House," it runs, " the Speaker may, 
if he thinks necessary to do so, adjourn the House with- 
out question put, or suspend any sitting for a time to be 
named by him." The first application of the new rule was 
on May 22, 1905. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, Leader 
of the Liberal Opposition, moved the adjournment of the 
House in order to call attention to the Prime Minister's 
statements in regard to the proposed Colonial Conference 
on the question of fiscal reform. The Colonial Secretary, 
Mr. Lyttelton, got up to reply, but the Opposition received 
him with cries of " Balfour," and refused to hear him. For 
one hour exactly, from 9.30 to 10.30 o'clock, disorder and 
tumult prevailed in the Chamber. This was perhaps the 
longest "scene" on record. As a rule disorderly incidents 
in the House of Commons occur unexpectedly and quickly 
terminate, though the reports in the newspapers may give the 
impression that they last for hours. The "scene " was also 
remarkable for the fact that the entire House, the two front 
benches as well as the back benches, took part in it. Through 
the accident of the illness of Mr. Speaker Gully it happened 


that on this occasion of grave difificulty and peril the Chair 
was occupied by Mr. J/ W. Lowther as Deputy Speaker. 
After several vain efforts to subdue the tumult he declared 
the sitting at an end. 



MR. Gully retired from the Chair in 1905, and was 
made a peer with the title of Lord Selby. The 
choice of the Unionist Government, then in power, 
for the Speakership was Mr. James William Lowther, who 
had acted as Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker 
for ten years. The selection was unanimously approved 
by the House. Mr. Lowther was elected Speaker without 

Mr. Lowther is essentially a " Parliament man," not only 
in himself, but also by heredity. He comes of an old and 
distinguished Westmoreland and Cumberland family which 
has been associated with the House of Commons for over 
two hundred years without a break. He was born in 1855, 
the son of the Hon. William Lowther, who was Member for 
Westmoreland for a quarter of a century. Educated at Eton 
and Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr. Lowther was called to 
the Bar in 1879. He first entered Parliament in 1883 ^s 
Member for Rutland, and a Conservative. In 1885 he stood 
for the Penrith division of Cumberland, and failed ; but he 
succeeded in 1886, and has represented that constituency 
ever since. For four years, from 1891 to 1895, he held office 
in the Unionist Government as Under-Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs. He was appointed Chairman of Ways and Means 
and Deputy Speaker in 1895, and filled the position for ten 
years. It was a long and toilsome apprenticeship for the 
high and more vastly responsible eminence of the Chair. 

On June 8, 1905, Mr. Lowther was elected Speaker. 
The Parliament was prorogued on August 11, never to meet 


again, for it was dissolved in December. Though he was 
thus in office only for two months, and though the Liberals 
emerged from the General Election of January 1906 
triumphant beyond all example, the continuity of the 
Speakership was recognized by his re-installation in the 
Chair. This was done not only unanimously, but amid the 
acclamations of all sections of Members. Brief as had been 
his occupancy of the Chair, he had shown the House of 
what metal he was made. Never has there been a more 
genial guide of the proceedings of the Commons. Never 
has there been a more impartial judge between high and low 
in the House. 

Mr. Lowther is a bearded Speaker. If the portraits 
of the long line of Speakers are examined it will be found 
that in the days of Elizabeth, and for some time before and 
after her reign, nearly all the Speakers had beards and 
moustaches. Then came a long succession of clean-shaven 
Speakers, which was not broken until 1883, when a Speaker 
with a beard was elected in the person of Mr. Peel. As 
I have already indicated, many Members were at the time 
distressed by the unfamiliar spectacle of a bearded Speaker, 
and there was even talk of petitioning Mr. Peel to shave his 
chin. Mr. Gully followed with a clean-shaven face, which 
fitted the great grey wig so perfectly. But Mr. Lowther, 
like Mr. Peel, declined the razor, and presented himself in 
the Chair as the House had always known him, wearing 
a fair beard and moustache, and with his blue eyes and 
ruddy cheeks, looking the country squire addicted to sports 
and the open-air life. 

In the Liberal Parliament of 1906, Mr. Lowther had to 
face three hundred new Members, strangers to St. Stephens 
and its ways, and the rise of a strong, able, and ambitious 
Labour Party. These uncertain and incalculable elements, 
uninfluenced by, because unfamiliar with, the parliamentary 
traditions and unwritten rules of conduct, created a situa- 
tion of the most trying character for the Speaker. But 
Mr. Lowther soon impressed his winning and irresistible 
personality on the House, and by his unbiassed judgment, 

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his sense of seeing things in their true proportions, his 
tolerance and humour, soon won its unreserved confidence. 
His most invaluable gift is his genial and unerring mother 
wit. It is a daily delight to the House. More than that 
is its efficacy in tempering the asperities of debate. Mr. 
Lovvther can be stern and inflexible when he thinks the 
occasion requires the display of these qualities. But it is 
his mellow and wise toleration of human eccentricity and 
waywardness that he most displays. He has the valuable 
faculty of perceiving the light side of incidents and 
situations. He knows how to indulge the collective 
humours of the House, as well as individual foibles and 
mannerisms and small vanities, and often when a storm 
seemed brewing has some cool and sagacious remark or 
some witty joke from the Chair dispelled the menacing 
clouds by catching the dangerous current in the air and 
turning it harmlessly down to earth. 

In debate one night a charge of wilful obstruction was 
received with resentful cries by those against whom it was 
directed. The Speaker was appealed to whether it was in 
order to accuse hon. Members of wilful obstruction. " I 
have seen the thing done, and have heard the accusation 
made," was the dry comment of the Speaker. On another 
occasion a Member made a statement which turned out to 
be inaccurate. " Is not an expression of apology due from 
the hon. gentleman ? " the Speaker was asked. " I am 
afraid a great deal of time would be occupied in this way," 
said Mr. Lowther rather sardonically. He is the incarnation 
of common sense. On occasions of bitter dispute between 
the two sides a brusque word, thoughtlessly uttered from 
the Chair, tends to exacerbate the spirit of discord in the 
Chamber. But Mr. Lowther, by one of his well-pointed 
jokes or little ironies, usually contrives to render innocuous 
a situation with the promise of mischief; for when the 
House is moved to laughter personal rancour or petty 
passion dissolve and give way to sweet reasonableness and 
good humour. 

Mr. Lovvther permits at question-time more freedom and 


latitude in the asking of supplementary interrogations — 
arising out of the ansv/ers of Ministers to the printed 
questions of Members which appear on the daily Order 
Paper — than was allowed by Mr. Gully, whose aim it was 
to suppress these supplementary inquiries. Thus Mr. 
Lowther has reverted, to some extent, to the practice of 
Mr. Peel, who, in effect, placed no curb on the attempts of 
Members to elucidate points left undetermined by the 
Ministerial answers. But in the session of 191 1, Mr. 
Lowther laid down a rule with respect to questions in 
words characteristically terse and to the point. " If," he 
said, " questions are at all important they should be put 
on the Paper. If they are not important they should not 
be asked." 

Mr. Lowther has also the knack of keeping the flow of 
supplementary questions within reasonable bounds by a 
neat phrase or a dry sarcasm, just and appropriate to the 
occasion. A Minister, though severely heckled, vouchsafed 
no information. " Arising out of that answer," the baffled 
and angry interrogator cried, only to be cut short by the 
Speaker's " Order, order," and the humorous sally — " The 
hon. Member is mistaken ; there has been no answer." A 
Member noted at question time for his frequent and verbose 
interpositions, which were more expressions of opinion than 
inquiries, was thus reproved : " The House is always glad 
to hear the hon. Member's speeches, but not at question 
time." Once an indignant Member appealed to the Speaker 
against the immovable silence of the Prime Minister, Mr. 
Asquith, with respect to a certain question. " Has not a 
private Member the right to ask a Minister any question 
relating to his Department ? " " Certainly," said the Speaker, 
" hon. Members have the right to ask questions," — here Mr. 
Lowther was interrupted by the cheers of the hon. Member 
and his friends, — " but," he proceeded drily, " that does not 
necessarily mean that Ministers are obliged to answer 

Mr. Swift MacNeill, the well-known and popular 
Nationalist Member, one day in his resentment of an un- 


satisfactory answer to a question relating to Ireland, indulged 
in a characteristic outburst of voluble and sarcastic merri- 
ment. "The hon. Member," said the Speaker gravely, 
" must put his interruption in the form of an interrogation." 
No one enjoyed more than the Irishman this commentary 
on one of his qualities. On another occasion the same 
hon. Member, who had vainly tried to catch the Speaker's 
eye, at the close of question-time rose to a point of order. 
He said that he wished to address a supplementary question 
to the Secretary for War. " I am afraid the hon. Member 
is too late now," said the Speaker. " Then, sir, I am the 
victim of my own courtesy," was^ the genial remark of Mr. 
Swift MacNeill. " The hon. Member," said the Speaker with 
his ready appreciation of the humour of an occasion, " is 
rather the victim of an unusual inactivity on his part." At 
the end of question- time, on another day, a Member com- 
plained that a question which he had had on the Paper for 
a fortnight, addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
had been put off again and again at the request of the 
right hon. gentleman. " On Thursday," said he, I was 
asked to postpone it until to-day, and I am now asked to 
again postpone it," From the Speaker came a most un- 
expected reply. " The hon. Member," said he, " must not 
look at me in such a reproachful manner." 

Here is another example of Mr. Lowther's ready wit 
at question-time : — 

Earl Winterton : I have some doubt as to whether 
the question I am about to put arises directly out of the 
right hon. gentleman's reply 

TAe Speaker-. If the noble lord has any doubt, he 
had better not ask it. (Laughter.) 

Earl Winterton : On consideration. Sir, I think I 
have no doubt. (Laughter.) 

The Speaker: On consideration, I think I have. 
(Loud laughter.) 

That Mr. Lowther can be stern was illustrated by an 
incident of the session of 1909. The Lord Advocate of 
Scotland, Mr. Ure, made a speech in the country in which 


he said there was a danger that under Tariff Reform the 
money for old age pensions would be unavailable. In 
reference to this speech a Unionist Member asked the 
Prime Minister, in a question of which he had given private 
notice, whether his attention had been called to the fact 
that in some constituencies posters were being used "to 
reproduce the dishonourable statements of the Lord 
Advocate." " The hon. Member," said the Speaker per- 
emptorily, " must know that he must not insert an adjective 
of that kind. I think he had better put his question on 
the Paper." " Of course, I apologize if you say I ought not 
to use the word, and I withdraw it," said the Member ; 
"but in view of the great apprehension I do ask to be 
allowed to continue the question." But the Speaker was 
relentless. " As the hon. Member's epithets are rather 
of a doubtful character," said he, " I should like to see 
the question on the Paper." 

One night in the session of 1909 also Mr. Lloyd George 
was interrupted in the course of a speech by a young Irish 
peer sitting on the Opposition benches. At last the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, resenting the ejaculations, 
exclaimed : " I should think the argument would be plain 
even to the colossal intellect of the noble lord." Immedi- 
ately the young peer was on his feet, appealing to the 
Speaker for sympathy. " Is it in order for the right hon. 
gentleman to refer to my colossal intellect ? " he asked. 
" Well," said the Speaker in his most level tone of voice, 
" I think it is not only in order, but is rather complimentary 
than otherwise." 

In the same session Mr. Byles, the Radical Member 
for Sal ford, lectured Members for their long and irrelevant 
speeches. " The Speaker," said the hon. gentleman, " often 
shows excessive patience with prolix Members. One of 
the Standing Orders allows the Speaker to arrest irrelev- 
ance " Here the Speaker arose and, interrupting 

Mr. Byles, said : " I am afraid I shall have to put that 
order in force now. The hon. Member is going beyond 
the limits of the motion before the House." The House 


laughed heartily ; and the merriment increased when Mr. 
Byles, rising happily to the occasion, said he was obliged 
to the Speaker for giving a striking example of the kind 
of repression he desired to see applied to other Members. 

The many volumes of the Parliamentary Debates will 
be searched in vain for any witticisms from the Chair 
before the advent of Mr. Speaker Lowther. Some of 
Mr. Lowther's immediate predecessors were great Speakers. 
All of them were models of devotion to duty. But all 
of them seem to have found that presiding over the 
House of Commons was anything but agreeable and 
amusing. They were by temperament and disposition 
incapable of extracting, at times, some relaxation and 
humour out of their occupancy of the Chair ; for they lacked, 
one and all, the priceless quality of being able to see 
the comic and ludicrous side of things. 

Shaw-Lefevre was mainly concerned with presenting 
to the House a port of stately dignity ; Denison, with 
exquisite shyness, shrank from obtruding himself on the 
notice of the House ; the foibles of Members only brought 
a pained expression to the sensitive face of Brand ; Peel 
was so intensely in earnest that his stern brow scarcely 
ever relaxed ; Gully acted upon the mere letter of the rules 
with the pedantry of the lawyer. Gravity was the mark 
of all these Speakers. They never indulged in a timely 
witticism or a gentle pleasantry themselves, and the jokes 
of Members scarcely ever crumbled into smiles their set 
and solemn countenances. 

Mr. Lowther, then, is the first of the Speakers with a 
kindly, humoristic eye for the extravagances and incon- 
gruities of Members. It must not be supposed, however, 
that he is a jocular gentleman in wig and gown who passes 
his time in the Chair of the House of Commons saying 
funny things. He is a man of rare individuality. He 
has all the qualities which are regarded as essential in 
the Speaker. Among the first are a fine presence and 
personal dignity. His temper and demeanour are im- 
perturbable. The voice is full, deep, and yet soft and 



lulling. It never loses its evenness. It is the voice of 
a strong, good-humoured man who will not allow himself 
to be confused or worried or irritated, like Peel and Gully, 
but waits upon events with philosophic calm and resigna- 
tion, ready to do the right thing or say the soft word 
when the moment comes for him to intervene. When he 
stands up to call to order or to reprove, what a contrast 
between his composed and leisurely manner and the 
boisterousness of the Member upon whom he fixes his 
tolerant but steady gaze. 

Still, his humour remains his most valuable gift. It is 
natural, unforced and genial. While Mr. John Burns was 
explaining the Town Planning Bill he was persistently 
interrupted by Mr. Lupton, a perverse, though clever, 
Member sitting below the Gangway. "This," said the 
Speaker, '' is a debate, not a conversazione." Nothing 
could be more good-humoured and yet more effective. His 
tact in turning points of order aside with a jest saves many 
a scene. They usually relate to matters of small importance, 
— though, for the moment, the Members especially con- 
cerned are very excited about them, — and they are best 
treated as much ado about nothing. Thus it is that the 
relations between the House and the Chair was never closer 
or more homely ; and, in consequence, never has the authority 
of the Speaker been more willingly recognized and cheer- 
fully accepted by all sides. 

These relations between the House and the Chair were 
trikingly manifested on February 20, 191 1, when the 
subject of the Whips' Lists, which had been raised by Mr. 
Laurence Ginnell on the occasion of the unanimous choice 
of Mr. Lowther as Speaker for the fourth time at the 
opening of the first Parliament of King George v.,^ came 
again before the House. Mr. Josiah W^edgwood, the Liberal 
Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne, wrote a letter to Mr. 
Ginnell expressing sympathy with his action on the first 
day (jf the session. In this communication Mr. Wedgwood 
declared that the Speaker " was not a bit impartial," being 
' See Chap. VI., " Guardian of the Privileges of the House." 


swayed by his political opinions to the extent that he en- 
deavoured to prevent the advocacy of the single tax, of which 
land policy Mr. Wedgwood was the champion. The letter 
was not intended for publication, being obviously a private 
explosion of irritation. But Mr. Ginnell sent it to an Irish 
newspaper called the Midland Reporter, and thus the com- 
munication was brought before the House as " a gross libel 
on Mr. Speaker," and a grave breach of privilege. 

Mr. Wedgwood withdrew all the imputations contained 
in his letter, and tendered to the Speaker and the House 
a full and unreserved apology. On the suggestion of the 
Speaker the explanation of the hon. Member was accepted 
and the motion was withdrawn. Then it was moved that 
the publication of the letter was a breach of privilege, Mr. 
Ginnell was unrepentant and defiant. As the letter was 
not marked "private," he deemed it his duty to send it 
to the Press in order to show the public how their business 
was conducted in the House of Commons. For the rest, 
the whole burden of his speech was the iniquity of the system 
by which the Whips supply to the Chair lists of Members 
who desire to take part in important debates. " The specific 
complaint against the Speaker and against the Chairman of 
Ways and Means," said he, in extravagant terms, " is that 
by receiving from the Party Whips lists of Members secretly 
selected, and by giving them preference and precedence in 
debate, they consciously or unconsciously co-operate with 
the Whips in depriving of their undoubted rights the 
Members maliciously kept off those lists. (Laughter and 
some Ministerial cheers.) This is unfair, illegal, and un- 
constitutional." (Cries of " Order ! " and interruption.) 

The discussion which followed was of deep interest. 
It disclosed the methods by which full-dress debates are 
organized. It also revealed the existence among Liberal 
Members of a large amount of underlying discontent with 
the Whips' Lists, as a menace to free discussion in the House 
by still further curtailing the few opportunities for the ex- 
pression of their views available to independent Members, 
whose names did not appear on these lists. As to that the 


Speaker made a statement of the greatest importance and 
weight. He said : — 

" Perhaps the House will allovv me to say a word or 
two. I need hardly say that I do not propose to defend 
myself against a charge of partiality (Hear, hear), but the 
House might like to know exactly how the matter stands 
with regard to what has been the system termed handing 
in lists of Members. When a big debate takes place it is 
extremely convenient for the Speaker — and this also in- 
cludes the Chairman of Committees — to know what Members 
on either side of the House are prepared with speeches with 
regard to the particular motion under discussion. Our time 
is generally limited, and the Chair is anxious to discover 
the most representative men in order to call them, so that 
the different views of different sections of the House may 
be before it. In 1906, when I was confronted by a very 
large number of new faces that I did not know, I asked the 
Whips, continuing a former custom, to supply me with the 
names of Members desiring to take part in debate. That 
custom has continued. It is only applicable to what the 
House calls full-dress debates. I do not — and I am sure 
the Chairman of Committees does not — consider myself 
bound in any way to limit my discretion to the number of 
names which appear on the list. It is a great convenience 
to the Chair to know what gentlemen are particularly 
interested in the subject-matter which is under discussion. 
One hon. Member has been kind enough to inform me — a 
matter of which I was not aware — that although his name 
never appeared on any official list handed in either to myself 
or to the Chairman of Committees, during one session he 
was called upon no fewer than twenty times. I think that 
that is a sufficient refutation of the suggestion that the 
Chairman of Committees and myself are in any way limited 
to the list of names. (Hear, hear.) Notwithstanding what 
has been said, I shall certainly continue to ask for and 
receive lists from all Parties in this House, because I con- 
ceive that it is of great value to the Chair, and it is also of 
great value in seeing that all sections of the House get 
proper representations in the debates that take place. 
(Cheers.) " 

Nevertheless, there was something like an uprising of 
protest on the part of the dumb battalions who sat on the 


Ministerial back benches. Mr. Byles, the Liberal Member 
for Salford, contributed a comment, pertinent and very 
pointed, on the statement that it is the practice of the 
Speaker to call on those Members whom he thinks the 
House would wish to hear. " I would suggest," said the 
Hon. Member, " that it is extremely desirable that the House 
should sometimes have to listen to those whom it does not 
wish to hear." Mr. Martin, a Liberal Member sitting for a 
London constituency, asserted that as he had thought it his 
duty to vote against the Government his name had been 
put down not on the Whips' List shut in their black-books. 
He then proceeded to give the following entertaining 
account of his vain seeking for an opportunity to join in a 
debate : — 

" On one occasion, in order to put himself right with his 
constituents (laughter), he wanted to say a very few words 
indeed upon a question then before the House. He tried 
three days (laughter) — yes — he got up every time the 
Member speaking sat down, but presently he began to 
notice that the hon. Member who was called upon had not 
been in the House at all a few moments before, but rose 
with calm confidence and was at once called upon. On a 
subsequent occasion, noticing the same thing again, an 
hon. friend said to him : ' You have not taken the right 
way. You should go to the Chairman of Committees and 
tell him you want to speak.' Being a new Member he acted 
upon the advice. The Chairman said : ' What do you want 
to say ? ' He should be here a long time before he should 
think it possible to explain to the Chairman of Committees 
what he was going to say. (Laughter and cheers.)"^ 

Mr. Ginnell was suspended from the service of the 
House for a week. There was a division, and the motion 
was carried by 311 votes to 84, or a majority of 227. The 
minority thought that censure, without suspension, would be 
adequate punishment for the offence. Thus ended the 
fullest and frankest, and therefore the most significant, 
debate on the relations between the Chair and the House 
' The Times, Februarj' 21, 191 1. 



that has ever taken place. But there was not the sh'ghtest 
sympathy shown in any quarter of the House with the 
imputation of unfairness to the Speaker. By common 
consent Mr. Lowthcr had succeeded in elevating impartiality 
to a fine art. 

Thus there is nothing that the House of Common resents 
more warmly, or with a keener pang of pain, than an attack 
on the/ Speaker. Such is its jealousy of the dignity and 
authority of the Chair, that it has encompassed it with an 
atmosphere of extraordinary reverence. It has come almost 
to believe that the Speaker can do no wrong. Certainly, 
every parliamentary sword would leap from its scabbard to 
avenge even a look that threatened him with insult. 


Abbot, Charles, hostility to Catholic 
Emancipation, 58, 69, 291-95 ; 
"Naming" a member, 64; and 
the casting vote, 71-73 ; posts 
offered to, 87 ; equipment, 95-96 ; 
Baron Colchester, 99, 106, 295-97 ; 
otherwise mentioned, 206 note ^, 
302, 328 
Rev. John, 291 

Abercromby, James, election, 20, 87- 
Z%, 302-5, 359 note'^ ; emoluments, 
93 ; the Barony of Dunfermlii^, 

^__ 99, 100, 308 ; letter to Spring- 
Rice, 303 ; Speakership, 306-7 ; 
otherwise mentioned, 3^8 
Sir Ralph, 303 

Abraham, William, 108-9 

Acton, Lord, " Historical Essays," 
quoted, 176 note\ 

Addington, Henty, election, 3-4, 90, 
287 ; and the Act of Union, 68 ; 
and the casting vote, 71 ; the story 
told by, 83 ; Prime Minister, 86, 
113, 290; the Speaker's chairs, 
94-95 ; his Viscountcy, 99 ; salary 
and residence, loi ; the Speaker's 
House, 102 ; the duel between Pitt 
and Tierney, 287-88 ; impartiality 
questioned, 288-89 j hrst Speaker 
of the Imperial Parliament, 289- 
90 ; otherwise mentioned, 302 

"Addled Parliament," the, 203, 206 

Addresses to the Sovereign, the Speaker's 
position, 34-35 

Agincourt, 139 

Alexandra, Queen, marriage, 36-37 

Alington, William, Speaker 1429, 
141-42, 152 
William, Speaker 1472, 152 

" All the Talents," 86 

Allowance Acts, 92-93 

Althorp, Lord, 48-49, 288, 299 ; re- 
marks on the Speakership, 302 

American Colonists, the, 282-83 

Anne, Queen, and the Veto, 8; Speakers, 
93 ; Parliaments, 264, 268 

Anson, Sir William, quoted, 8 note^ 

Apsley, Lord Chancellor, 281 

Armstrong, Sir Thomas, 255 

Army Discipline Bill, 1879, 58 

Arrest for Debt or Trespass, immunity 
for Members of Parliament, 134 

Arundel, Archbishop, 130, 131 

Asquith, H. H., 368 ; on the opposi- 
tion to Gully, 22 

"Assembly," the term, 225 

Athenaeum Club, the, 24 

Atkins, Sir Robert, 255 

Attainder, Bill of, against the Duke of 
York, 149 

Audley, Thomas, Speaker 1536, 162- 
63 ; Chancellor, 163-65 

Austin, Michael, 350 

Bacon, Lord Chancellor, 171; "Of 
Praise "^ted, 177 
Sir Nicholas, 171, 182-84 

" Bad Parliament," the, 123 

Baillie, 310 

Baker, Sir John, Speaker 1547, 167 

Balfour, Arthur, and Gully, 22, 24 ; mo- 
tion to suspend Dillon, 60 ; Crimes 
Bill, 337; Tritton's motion, 344-45 ; 
seconds Harcourt's resolution on 
Peel's retirement, 355 ; proposes 
Sir Matthew White Ridley, 358 ; 
moves the Closure, 361 ; moves 
suspension of Irish members, 362 

Bamiylde, Thos., Speaker /;■<? tempore. 

Bankruptcy Act, 1883, 32 

Bann Drainage Bill, 340 

" Barebone's Parliament," the, 109, 

Bamet, Battle of, 152 
Barre, Colonel, 2S0 ; an incident of, 

1 77 1, 47-48 
Barrington, Lord, 278 




Bartlett, Ashmcad, 330 

Balluirst, 292, 293 

Bayiiard, Richard, Speaker 1421, 141 

Beaconslicld, Earl of, and Denison's 

cleclion, 4 ; (jn Shaw-Lefevre, 66 ; 

on Abercromby's re-election, 306 ; 

returned to office, 1874, 315; and 

obstruction, 321 
Beauchamp, Sir Walter, Speaker 1416, 

Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, 141 
Beaumont, M.P. 1859, 42 
Bedford, John, Duke of, Regent 141 5, 

Bell, Sir Robert, Speaker 1572, 184- 


Bellamy's, Old Palace Yard, 2S5 

Bentinck, J., and the Whips' List, 43-44 
M.P. 1859,42-43 

Berkeley, Sir Charles, 233 

Biggar, Joseph Gillies, and Court dress, 
no; the longest sitting, 319; 
and Milbank, 321 ; speech stopped 
by Brand, 322 

Birch, Colonel, 243 

" Black P>iars," Parliament meets at, 
156, 161 

Blackfriars Bridge Tramways, 77 

" Black Parliament," the, 163 

Black Prince, the, 120, 122 

Black Rod, duties, 2, 10, 176 ; Speaker 
Onslow and, 265-67 

Boleyn, Anne, 163 

Bosworth, Battle of, 153 

Bowes, John, Speaker 1435, ^4- 

Bowman, oculist, 326 

Boyle, Henry, 258 

Brand, Henry Bouverie, election, 20, 
24 note-; and the Whips' List, 43- 
44 ; Parnell's charge against, 58 ; 
term of office, 90; levees, no; 
visit to Denison, 310; and ob- 
struction, 315-17; \\\v,coup-d\'taty 
322-25 ; created Lord Hampden, 
325 ; and the Closure, 337-38 ; 
twenty-eight Nationalists named, 
362 ; otherwise mcfitioncd, 24 note -, 
328, 361, 364, 371 

Bray, Sir Reginald, \<^^note^ 

Bredock, Dr., 222 

Bright, John, 107, 108 

Bristol Castle, 130 

British Museum trusteeship, 100 

Bromley, William, Speaker 1 7 10, 96, 
264, 267 

Brooke, Rol>ert, 169 

Brougham, Lord, 98-99 

Buckingham Palace, visits of the Speaker, 

Budget, introduction, the Speaker's posi- 
tion, 70 

Burdclt, Sir Francis, committed to the 
Tower, 34 ; an incident of April 
1 83 1, 48 ; nominates Manners- 
Sutton, 299 

Burke, Edmund, speech, 40 ; on the 
doctrine of the "Speaker's Eye," 
William, 48 

Burley, William, 142 

Burnet, Bishop, quoted, 236-37, 247, 

Burns, John, 372 

Bussy, Sir John, election, 127-28 ; the 
Commons' petitions, 128; and 
Richard 11., 129, 131 ; beheaded, 

Byles, Mr., speech, 370-71 ; and the 
Whips' List, 375 

Cade's rebellion, 146 

Campbell, Lord, quoted, 104-5, 203 

Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H., 87, 359, 


Canning, George, administration, 87, 
310; supports Abbot, 295; and 
Wynn, 298 ; and Catholic emanci- 
pation, 300 

Canterbury, Viscount. See Manners- 
Sutton, Charles 

Cardwell, Mr. , speech, 42-43 

Carleton, Dudley, letter quoted, 97-98 

Carlton Club, 24 

Casting vote, the Speaker's right, 70- 

Castlereagh, Lord, 292, 293, 296 

Catesby, William, 153 

Catherine of Aragon, 163 

Catholic Emancipation, debate April 
1814, 58 ; Gratlan's Bill, 69 ; 
George in. and, 86 ; Addington 
and, 290 ; Abbot's hostility, 291- 
95 ; Manners-Sutton and, 300 

Cavendish, Lord, 239, 247 
Lord John, 278 
Sir Henry, quoted, 40 

Cecil, Sir William, 70, 179, 180 

Censure of the House, 33 

Chair, the Speaker's, 28 ; action of 
Charles I., 215-16; the Chair 
replaced, 217 

Chairman of Committees, 68, 85 ; as 
Deputy Speaker, 83 

Chairman of Ways and Means, 84 



Chairs of the House of Commons, 94-95 
Chamberlain, Joseph, and Dillon, 59- 

60; and Tritton's motion, 345 ; 

on the Home Rule Bill, 349 ; and 

Peel, 355 
Chamberlain, the Lord Great, duties, 


Chancellor, Lord, addresses to the 
Sovereign, 34-35 ; functions, 118; 
Chancellorship of Ireland, the 
Speakership and, 86-87 

Chaplin, Henry, 338 

Charlton, Sir Job, 18, 234, 235 
Sir Thomas, 148 

Charles I., and the Commons, 205 ; 
his first Parliament, 206 ; order 
to adjourn the House, 207-10 ; 
the Short Parliament, 211-12 ; 
Lenthall's speech, 213-14 ; raid 
on the Commons, 215-17; trial 
and death, 221-22 
II., restoration, 7, 222, 230; the 
oath of allegiance, 15 ; Speakers, 
70, 1 74 ; second Parliament, 232- 
33 ; European policy, 237-38 ; 
adjournments of the House, 237- 
40 ; and Seymour's election, 243- 
45 ; last Parliament, 250 

Chaucer, Thomas, 136, 140, 141 ; his 
protestations, 137-38 

Cheney, Sir John, 130-31 

Chesham, Lord, 36 

Chiltern Hundreds, 32 

Church Rates Bill, 74 

Churchill, Lord Randolph, 341 
Winston, 78 

Chute, Chaloner, 228-29 

Clandon Park, Surrey, 95 

Clarendon, cited, 213 

Clarges, Sir Thomas, 236 

Clayton, Sir Robert, 256 

Clergy Disabilities (Removal) Bill, 314 

Clergy in Parliament, 128-29 

Clerk of the House, the first, 117-18 

Closure, the, Speaker's discretion, 50- 
51 ; introduced, 324-25 ; applied, 
335 ; rules, 337-40 

Clothworkers' Company, the, 97 

Cobbett, WilUam, 107, 299 

Cobbett's Weekly Register, 34 

Cobden, Richard, 107-8 

Coke, Sir Edward, " Institutes," ^i^^/ifrf, 
173; his disabling speech, 189-90; 
illness, 190-91 ; and the Ecclesi- 
astical Bill, 191-92 

Colchester, Baron. See Abbot, Charles 

Colonial Conference, the, 364 

"Committee of Safety," 229 

Commons, House of, the Lobby, 27-28 ; 
original purpose, II9-20; meeting 
of April 28, 1376, 121-22 ; right 
to originate money grants, 136-38 ; 
engrossing the petitions, 139-40; 
Yorkist and Lancastrian parties, 
144-52; Wolsey's speech, 158; 
petitions, 1 70 ; summons to the 
Upper House, 176-77 ; Elizabeth 
and the, 183-86, 190-92 ; prayers, 
184-86; obstruction in 1604, 
200-1 ; sittings suspended through 
illness of Speaker, 201-2 ; James l. 
and the, 203-6 ; order of Charles 
I. to adjourn, 207-10 ; raid of 
Charles i., 215-17; raid of the 
apprentices, 219 ; the judicial com- 
mission for trial of Charles I., 221- 
22 ; Cromwell's raid, 223-25 ; 
power of Sovereign to adjourn, 
237-40; expulsion of Trevor, 255- 
57 ; the first Imperial Parliament, 
289-90 ; the longest sitting, 318- 
22 ; the night of the brawl, 349 ; 
police summoned, 363 

Commonwealth, Speakers, 7 5 estab- 
lished, 222 

Compton, Spencer, 39-40, 86, 270 

Convention Parliament, 1660, 7, 230, 
1688, 7, 253-54 

Conybeare, Mr., attacks on Peel, 338- 
40 ; his letter to The Star, 341-42 ; 
suspended, 342 ; personal, explana- 
tion, 343-44 ; apology, 344-4S 

Cope (Puritan), 187 

Cordell, William, 170 

Cornwall, Charles Wolfram, 7, 283-86 

Courtney, Leonard, 359 

Coventry, Sir William, 234, 239, 241, 

Crean, Mr., 350 

Creevey, and Abbot, 294 ; " Papers," 
quoted, 99 

Crewe, Sir Randolph, 203, 206 
Sir Thomas, 206-7 

Crimes Bill, 323, 344 ; application of 
the Closure, 337-40 

Croft, Sir James, 186 

Croke, John, and the Speaker's vote, 
70 ; ruling concerning speeches, 
195-96 ; speech to Elizabeth, 196- 
97 ; the address, 197-98 

Cromwell, Oliver, raid on the Commons, 
223-25 ; first Parliament, 226 ; 
death, 22S 



Cromwell, Richard, 228, 229 
Cust, Sir John, 40-41, 27S 

Dacre, Baron, 315 

Daily Chronicle, letter published, 343 

Danby, Lord, 244 

Dangerfield and "The Meal-Tub Plot," 

252, 254 
Debate, the. Speaker's position, 29-31 

Denison, John Evelyn, election, 1866, 
4, 108 ; " Diary," quoted, 9 ; 
"Putting the Question," 31 ; the 
address to Queen Victoria, 35 ; 
public functions, 36-37 ; and rights 
of new members, 42-43 ; and the 
Whips' List, 43-44 ; on his feelings 
as a Speaker, 52 ; stories of, 53-55 ; 
in the division lobby, 69, 74-75 ; 
and the Tests Abolition (Oxford) 
I^i'li 75-76 ; and the casting vote, 
76 ; withdrawal from the House, 
84-85 ; Lord Palmerston's letter to, 
87-88 ; created Viscount Ossington, 
lOi ; the Speaker's House, 105 ; and 
The O'Donoghue affair, 311-12; 
as a Speaker, 313-14, 371 ; obstruc- 
tion introducedunder, 314-15; oiker- 
7vise mentioned, 2i^note-, 310, 358 

Deputy Chairman of Committees, 84 

Deputy Speaker, first provision for, 83 

Digby, Lord, 258 

Dilke, 50 

Dillon, John, 59-60 

Disert, Earl of, 262 

Disraeli. See Beaconsfield, Earl of 

Dissenters at the Universities, 69, 300 

Divisions, new method introduced 1907, 
361 ; publication of lists, 308 

Dorewood, John, 131, 138-39 

Dowdeswell, Mr., 280 

Drury, Sir Robert, 154 

Dudley, Edmund, 154 
John, 154-55 

Dunces' Parliament, 134 

Dundas, Charles, 17, 290, 291 

Henry, charge of malpractices, 71-73 

Dunfermline, Lord. See Abercromby, 

Dunning, Joseph, 283 

Durham House, 147 

Dyer, James, 167, 168 

Edinburgh Review, 319 
Edward i.. Parliaments, 115 

11. and the Commons, 116 

III., Parliaments, 115, 151 ; death, 
120, 122-23 

Edward iv., Parliaments, 150-52; 
death, 152-53 
v.. 153 

VI., Parliaments, 38 note'^, 167-68; 
and the Commons, 102, 167 ; 
doctrinal changes, 161 
VII., marriage, 36-37 

Egyptian affairs, 330 

Eliot, Sir Gilbert, 286, 287 
Sir John, 206 ; his remonstrance, 

Elizabeth, Parliaments, 70, 90, 171, 
179-80, 194-98; Speakers' Ad- 
dresses, 131 ; establishment of 
Protestantism, 161 ; appointing 
the Speaker, 173-75 ; opening of 
Parliament, 176 ; Onslow's speech, 
182 ; and the Commons, 183-86, 
190-92 ; her speech to the Com- 
mons, 197 ; Speakers, 366 

Ellis, Welbore, 283 

Emmot, Mr., 15 note"^ 

Empson, Richard, 154, 155 
Peter, 154 

Ernly, Sir John, 245 

Essex, Earl of, insurrection, 198 

Estates of the Realm, AJisembly of 
April 28, 1376, 121-22 

Esturmy, Sir William, 134 

Evelyn, "Diary," quoted, 264 

Eversley, Lord. See Shaw-Lefevre, 

Ewes, Sir Simonds D', "Journals," 
the frontispiece, 176-77 ; quoted, 
171-73. 175-76, 178-79. 18S, 190- 
93, 195 ; and Onslow, 182 

Exclusion Bill, 250, 252 

Fairfax, Thomas Lord, 219, 221 

Fane, Sir Vere, 254 

Farren, Thomas, 94 

Fawkes, Guy, 186, 203 

Fellowes, Mr., 104 

Fenwick, Charles, and Court dress, 

Fiennes, Lord Commissioner, 227 
Finch, Sir Heneage, 207, 245 

Sir John, 207-11, 237 

Sir Moyle, 207 
" First Commoner," 85 
Fisher, Mr. Hayes, 350 
Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmund, 320 
Fitzwilliam, Sir Thomas, 154 
Hower, Roger, 140-41 
Foley, I'aul, 18, 258-60 

Thomas, 259 
Forstcr, W. E., 318 




Fortescue, Sir John, 147 

Fowler, Sir Henry, 66 

Fox, Charles James, 63, 282 

Foxe, " Book of Martyrs," cited, 164 
note ^ 

Franchise, the, first statutes, 139; re- 
stricted by 8 Henry vi. c. 7, 142 

Freedom from arrest, the claim for, 
134, 182-83 

Froude, quoted, 171 

Fuller, Mr., 64 

Gardiner, Bishop, 169 

Sir Thomas, 213 
Gargrave, Sir Thomas, 171 
Gavin, Major, 311 
George i., 269-70 
II. and Onslow, 273 
III., mental incapacity, 7, 286 ; Acts 
passed, 31-32 ; and Sidmouth, 86, 
95, 290 ; and Onslow, 99 ; Parlia- 
ments, 278 ; and Norton, 281-83 ! 
and Mitford, 290 
IV., 292, 295-97 
v., 372 
George, Lloyd, 370 
Germain, Lord George, 283 
Gibson-Bowles, Mr., 350 
Ginnell, Laurence, and the Whips' Lists, 

45-47, 372-75 

Gladstone, W. E., on Denison's election, 
4 ; on the Speakership, 30, 65 ; 
and the Whips' Lists, 44 ; and the 
Church Rates Bill, 74 ; Bill for the 
abolition of religious tests, 76 ; 
Denison and, loi ; on Aber- 
cromby's election, letter qzwted, 
305 ; administrations, 315, 316 ; 
the Protection of Person and 
Property Bill, 318 ; and the cotip- 
d^tai, 323 ; and Peel, 325, 329 ; 
moves the suspension of O'Donnell, 
335 ; and the Closure, 337-38 ; and 
the Crimes Bill, 339 ; Home Rule 
Bills, 343, 349 ; and Tritton's 
motion, 343-45 ; the brawl, 351 

Glanville, John, 211-12 

Gloucester, Duke of, 141 

Glyn, Mr., 44 

Goldesborough, Mr., 242 

Goldsborough, Sir John, 127 

" Good Parliament," the, 120, 123 

Goodrick, Sir Henry, 258 

Goschen, Mr., 325-26 

Goulburn, Plenry, 17, 308 

Gower, Sir John Leveson, 261-62 

Granby, Marquis of, 275 

Grant, Mr., 295 

Grantly, Baron. 5£:£Norton, Sir Fletcher 

Granvill, Colonel, 258 

Grattan, Henry, 69, 291-92 

Green, John, Speaker 1460, 149 

Gregory, William, Speaker 1679, 246- 

Grenville, Lord, election, 1789, 7,286- 

87 ; and "All the Talents," 86 ; 
and Norton, 280 ; as a Speaker, 302 

Greville, Charles, qtioted, 300, 305 

Grey, Anchitell, "Debates," quoted, 
239> 244 
Earl, 301 

Grimston, Sir Harbottle, 230, 254 

Guildford, Baron, 251 

"Guillotine," the, 51 

Gully, William Court, election, 16 note \ 
17, 18, 20-23, 359-60; vote of 
censure on, defeated, 59-60 ; and 
the division lists, 69 ; and the cast- 
ing vote, 76 ; and the Speakership, 

88 ; term of office, 90 ; as a 
Speaker, 360-66, 36S, 371-72 ; 
illness, 364-65 ; retirement, 365 ; 
otherwise tfientioned, 41, 66 

Gwyder, Lord, 103-5 

Habeas Corpus Act, 318 

Hall, "Chronicles," quoted, 161-62, 

Hallam, cited, 178 
Hampden, John, 215-18 
Hampden, Lord. See Brand, Henry 

Mr., 244 
Hanmer, Sir Thomas, his silver plate, 

93-94 ; equipment, 96 ; election, 

" Hansard," cited, 72 
Harbord, William, 236 
Harcourt, Sir William, and Peel, 326, 

327 ; called to order, 330-31, 347 ; 

and Peel's valedictory speech, 354- 

55, 357 ; reply to Balfour, 358-59 
Harding, Richard, 181 
Hare, Sir Nicholas, 165 
Harley, Robert, 86, 247, 261-62, 264 
Sir Edward, 261 
Sir Robert, 220-21 
Plarrington, Edward, 348 
Harrison, Thomas, 223-24 
Hartington, Marquis of, 1698, 261 ; 

1727, 272 ; 1879, 59 
Hat, the Speaker's, 96-97 
Hatherton, Lord. See Littleton, 

Edward John 



Hatscll, John, opposes Addiiigton's 
election, 3-4 ; " Precedents," 
quoted^ 8 «(?/<•', 18, 39, 41, 240, 
273-74 ; and Norton, 279-80 

Haxey, Thomas, 12S-29 

llazclrig, the raid of Charles, 2 1 5- 1 7 

Hcaly, T. M., motion for adjournment, 
320 ; called to order, 332-34 ; ap- 
peal to Tritton, 344 ; the brawl, 

. 350 

Heigham, Clement, 170 

Ileneage, Sir Thomas, 188 

Henrietta Maria, 213, 214 

Henry iv.. Parliaments, 126, 130, 135 ; 
accession, 130 ; and Savage, 131- 
34 ; and the lawyers, 134 ; and the 
Commons, 135 ; and freedom of 
speech, 136-38 
v., 138, 139, 141 

VI., " Parliament of the Bats," 141 ; 
illness, 146-47 ; the Parliament 
of October 1460, 149 ; flight, 150; 
his 23rd Parliament, 152 
VII., Parliaments, 153-55, '74 
Vlil., Parliaments, 90, 155, 156, 
166, 177-78 ; and More, 156; the 
Reformation, 161 ; the divorce, 
162-63 ; the attainder of Catherine 
Howard, 165-66 ; suppression of 
free chapels, 167 

Herschell, Sir Francis, 325 

Heyle, Serjeant, 195 

Hicks-Beach, Sir Michael, 330 

Hobby, Sir Edward, 70, 196 

Hobert, Sir Miles, 208 

Holinshed, quoted, 129, 131 

Holies, Denzil, Lord, quoted, 208 ; im- 
prisonment, 210 ; and Eliot's re- 
mon.strance, 210; the raid on the 
House, 215-17 

Home Rule Bills, 343, 344, 349 

Hooker, John, cited, 90-91, 172, 178 

Horse Guards, the Speaker's privilege, 

Houblon, Sir James, 256 

Howard, Catherine, 165-66 

Hume, Joseph, and the Speaker's 
emoluments, 93 ; and Court dress, 
107 ; and pensions, 298-99 ; op- 
poses Manners-Sutton, 299 

Hungerford, Sir Thomas, 115, 117, 122 
Sir Walter, 139 

Hunt, Roger, 141, 142 

Ilbert, Sir Courtcnay, 46 
Indemnity Act, 149 
Inglefield, Sir Thomas, 1 54-56 

International Exhil)ition, 1S62, 36 
Irby, Sir Anthony, 220 
Irish Parliament, the, 90 

James I., usages, 97 ; and the Com- 
mons, 203-6 ; first Parliament, 198 
II., 7, 213, 250, 253 
Sir Henry, 333 

JefiVeys, Judge, 251 

Jenkins, Sir Henry, 200-1 

Joddrel, Clerk, 265 

Jones, Gale, 34 

"Journals of the House of Commons," 
begun 1547, 172; account of 
Phelips' illness, 201-2 ; action of 
James i., 205 ; matters omitted, 
247-48 ; account of Speaker's elec- 
tion, 258; Peel's speech entered, 

Keate of Eton, 30 
Kenynett, Sir John, 121 
Khartoum, 330 
Kiss of Fealty, the, 142 
Knollys, Sir Francis, 185, 187, 189, 192 
Sir William, 195 ; speech, 192-93 

Labouchere, Mr., 342 

Labour Members and Court dress, 108 

Lacklcarning Parliament, the, 134 

Lambeth Palace, loi, 105 

Lancaster, John of Gaunt, Duke of, 

Land-League agitation, 318, 319 

Latimer, Lord, 122 

Lawson, Sir Wilfrid, 25 

Lawyers in the Chair, 174, 184-85, 235 

Lee, Richard, 220 
Sir Thomas, 23S, 244 

Lefevre. See Shaw-Lefevre 

Lenthall, William, 212 

William, Speaker, 1640, account of, 
212-13, 226 ; and Charles, 213-18, 
294; raid by the apprentices, 218, 
219 ; flight, 219-21 ; reception at 
the Guildhall, 222 ; and the king's 
death, 222 ; and Cromwell, 223- 
24; illness, 229-30; evidence 
against Scot, 232 

Ley, Clerk, 315 

Liberals and the Whips' Lists, 373-76 

Liberty of Speech, the claim for, 182-83 

Lisle, Lord Commissioner, 226, 227 

Littleton, E<lward John, 299, 300 
Sir Thomas and Seymour, 235-36 ; 
election, 258, 260-61 ; re-election 
opposed, 262-63 



Litton, Sir Roland, 200-1 

Liverpool, Lord, 295 

Lloyd, " State Worthies," 170 

Lockwood, Mr., loi 

Logan, Mr., 350 

Londonderry, Marquis of, 98 

Long Parliament, 210, 212, 229, 230 

Long, Sir Lislebone, 22S-29 

Lords, Commons and the, separate 
deliberations, 116-20; assent to 
Money Bills, 136-37 ; abolition in 
1649, 222 

Lovel, Sir Thomas, 153-54 

Lowe, Robert, budget of 1870, 69 

Lowther, Hon. William, 365 
James William, absence from the 
Chair, i^tiote^ ; election, 16 note^, 
20, 365 ; contest at Penrith, 25-26 ; 
on rights of members, 40 ; Deputy 
Speaker, 41, 365 ; Ginnell's attack 
on, 45-47 ; the casting vote, 77- 
78 ; abolition of the interval, 84 ; 
and Court dress, 109 ; Chairman 
of Committees, 362, 365 ; person- 
ality, 366-73 ; question time, 367- 
69 ; and the Whips' Lists, 373-76 
Sir John, 255 

Lucy, Sir Henry, 326 

Lupton, Mr., 372 

Luttrell, Colonel, 40, 48 

Lyndhurst, Lord Chancellor, decision, 

Lyons, Richard, 122 

Lyttelton, Colonial Secretary, 41, 364 

M'Carthy, Justin, and the coup-cT^tat, 
323 ; tribute to Peel, 355-56 

Mace, the, customs, i, 2, 6, 9, 10, 13, 
14, 27, 176-77, 265 ; order of 
Charles I., 209; Cromwell and the, 
224 ; at Whitehall, 231 

MacNeill, Swift, 368 

Mafre, Sir Peter de la, 126 

Maguire, John Francis, 314 

Mall, the, rights of the Commons, 35 
7tote ^ ; the Speaker's privilege, 98 

Manchester, Earl of, 219 

Manners-Sutton, Charles, election, 20, 
296-98 ; and Gladstone, 30 ; and 
Aloore, 67 ; party politics, 69 ; 
Praed's lines on, 81 ; anecdotes, 
83 ; posts offered to, 87 ; emolu- 
ments, 93 ; chairs and plate, 95 ; 
Viscount Canterbury, 99, 100 ; 
pension, 100 ; the Speaker's House, 
102 ; compensation claims, 103-5 > 
retirement speech, 1S32, 298 ; re- 

Manners-Sutton, C\\a.x\t%— (continued) 
election, 299-300 ; partiality, 300- 
301 ; the election of 1835, 300, 
304-5 ; attack on, 304 ; William 
IV. and, 305 ; dismissal, 309-10 ; 
otherivise mentiotud, 302, 328 
Mrs., loi 
Manning, " Uwes," qtioied, i^^no/e^ 
March, Earl of, 121, 149-50 
Marchant, Sir Denis le, 53, 74, 308 
Mare, Sir Peter de la, 115, 117, 121- 

Marney, Lord, 159 
Marriage Confirmation (Antwerp) Bill, 

Martin, Mr., 375 
Mary, 168, 169 

Queen of Scots, 188 
May, Erskine, 9, 312, 324 
Meal-Tub Plot, 252 
Melbourne, Lord, Administrations, 87- 

89 ; letter to Grey, 301-2 ; and 

Abercromby, 303, 306, 307 
Melbourne ParHament House, story of 

the Chair, 95 
Mellor, Mr., 349, 354 
Melville, Lord. See Dundas, Henry 
Meredith, Sir William, 279 
Meres, Sir Thomas, 245-46 
Mettayer, Lewis, 94 
Mid-Cumberland Liberal Association, 


Midland Reporter, Wedgwood's letter 
published, 373 

Midleton, Earl of, 251 

Milbank, Mr., 321 

Milman, Archibald, 53 note ^ 

Mitchell-Thomson, Mr., 78 

Mitford, Sir John, elected 1801, 6, 17, 
20, 290-91 ; resignation, 86 ; his 
chattels, 95 ; the barony of Redes- 
dale, 99 ; mentioned, 87, 328 

Monasteries, dissolution, 165 

Money Bills, special presentation, 37- 
38 ; Commons' right to originate, 

Monk, General, 230, 232 

Montague, F., 274-75 

Mooney, J. J., 60 

Moore, Thomas, and Shaw-Lefevre, 
67-68 ; "Diary," quoted, 83, lOl 

Mordant, Colonel Harry, 265 

Mordaunt, Sir John, 154 

More, Cresacre, 160 note ^ 

Sir Thomas, emoluments, 90 ; 
"History," quoted, 153; account 
of, 156 ; his protestations, 156-57 ; 



More, Sir Thomas — (cotttinued) 

the two petitions, 157-58 ; reply to 
Wolsey's speech, 158-60 ; fee and 
allowance, 160-61 ; speech to the 
Commons, 161-62 ; resignation, 
162-63 ; Rich's evidence, 163-64 

Morley, John, 339-40 

Mortting Advertiser, the, and the 
Whips' List, 43-44 

Morpeth, Lord, 299 ; and Abbot's 
speech, 292, 293, 295 

Morrice, Mr., 191-92 

Mortimer's Cross, 149-5C 

Morton, Cardinal, 156 
Sir Fletcher, 82 

Mowbray, Sir John, 23 

Moyle, Sir Thomas, 165 

Musgrave, Sir Christopher, 258 

National Council, the, 121 

Nationalists, interruptions, 41 ; and 
Court dress, 1 10 ; policy of ob- 
struction, 313-25 ; attacks on the 
Speaker, 335-36 ; and Peel, 337, 
355-56 ; tweU'e named by Gully, 
361-62 ; twenty-eight named by 
Brand, 362 

Naval Works Bill, 356 

Navy Bill, Pitt's, 288-89 

Neville, Thomas, 156 

"New Member," 42 

Noel, Mr., 44 

North, Lord, 278 
Roger, quoted, 251 

Northampton, Earl of, 270 

Northcote, Sir Stafford, 59, 316, 324, 

329, 331 

Norton, Lord, 283 

Sir Fletcher, reply to Fox, 63 ; 
elected, 278-79 ; a scene in the 
House, 279-80 ; re-election, 281 ; 
and the King, 281-82 ; in the divi- 
sion lobby, 282-83 ; Baron Grantly 
of Markenfield, 284 ; speech, 293 ; 
otherwise mentioned, 31, 47 

Nottingham Castle, 122, 123 

Oath of Allegiance, 14-17 

O'Brien, William, 336 

Obstruction, iio; in 1604, 200-1; 

Parnell's policy, 314 ; rise of the 

Nationalists, 316-17 
O'Connell, Daniel, claim to sit, loi ; 

opposes Manners-Sutton, 299 ; the 

agitation, 319 
O'Connor, T. P., the cry of "Judas," 


O'Donnell, Frank Hugh, obstruction, 
316; called to order, 334-35; 
speeches, 321 

O'Donoghue, The, and Peel, 311-12 

Oldhall, Sir William, 146, 149 

Onslow, Arthur, address to George ll., 
38 note ' ; reply to Wilkes, 63 ; 
term of office, 89-90, 310 ; treasurer 
of the Navy, 91, 274-75 ; the 
Speaker's chairs, 95 ; pension, 
99. 277 ; his wig, 176 ; principles, 
271-72 ; protestations, 272-73 ; 
fifth appointment as Speaker, 275- 
76 ; farewell address, 276-77 
George, pension, 99, 277 
George, Tory M.P., 47-48 
Richard, election, 18, 180-81 ; pro- 
testations, 181-83 ; precedent set 
by, 259 
Roger, 181 

Sir Richard, election, 265 ; and 
Harley, 262 ; encounter with 
Black Rod, 265-67 ; " Stiff Dick," 

Orders of the Day, 28-29 

Orphans' Bill, 255-57, 259 

Ossington, Viscount. See Denison, 
John Evelyn "" - 

Oxford, Earl of. See Harley, Robert 

Paddy, Sir William, 201 
Palgrave, Sir Reginald, 47 
Palmer, Roundell, 114 
Palmerston, Lord, and new members, 
42-43 ; letter to Denison, 87-88 ; 
and Shaw-Lefevre, 100 ; and 
Denison, 310-11 ; administration, 
315 ; mentioned, 36 
" Parliament of the Bats," 141 
Parliamentum Diabolicum, 149 
Parnell, Charles Stewart, attack on 
Brand, 58 ; policy of obstruction, 
no, 314-7; speech, 318-19; 
Milbank's question, 321 ; the 
coup detat, 323 ; and the Crimes 
Bill, 339 ; and Peel, 346 ; " Anti- 
Parnellites," 355 ; "named," 362 
Peace Preservation (Ireland) Bill, 314 
Peel, Arthur Wellesley, elections 1880 
and 1885, 21-22; comparing the 
Standards, 37 ; as a Speaker, 61, 
325-2S, 371, 372 ; his casting vote, 
76 ; resignation 1895, 87 ; term 
of office, 90"; presentation of the 
Commons' address, 1897, 96 ; and 
Court dress, 108 ; his address, 
328-29 ; maintenance of order, 



Peel, Arthur Wellesley — [^contimud) 
330-36 ; Crimes Bill introduced, 
336-40 ; Conybeare's attacks, 338- 
45 ; conception of his duty, 345- 
49 ; and Parnell, 346 ; the night 
of the brawl, 349-52 ; retiring 
speech, 352-54 ; Harcourt's reply, 
354 ; tributes from the House, 354- 
57 ; " Question Time,'" 360, 368 ; 
?nen(ioncd, 16 note^, 20, 65, 366 
Sir Robert, leader of the Opposition, 
48-49, 307 ; Prime Minister, 300 ; 
on the re-election of Shaw-Lefevre, 
309-10 ; mentioned, 359 
Sir Robert, junior, and The 
O'Donoghue, 311-12; called to 
order, 331-32 

Pelham, Henry, 220-21, 275 
Thomas, 275 

Pellew, Dean, quoted, 94-95 

Felling, Dr., 96 

Perceval, Prime Minister, 87 

Perrers, Alice, 122 

Peyton, Sir Robert, 250 

Phelips, Sir Edward, 199-202 

Philip of Spain, 169 

Philip and Mary, 169-70 

Pickering, Sir James, 123-24, 127 

Pitt, William, and Addington, 3-4, 
113; leader in iSoi, 17, 86, 290; 
and Dundas, 71-73 ; andy;he Act 
of Union, 68, 289 ; and Tierney, 
288-89, 311, 312 

Plague, the, 142 

Plate, the Speaker's, 93-94 

Playfair, Dr. Lyon, 320-22 

Plunket, Mr., 294 

Pollard, John, 169, 170 

Poor Law (Ireland) Bill, 334 

Popham, John, 185, 186 
Sir John, 145 

Potts, Dr., 76 

Powle, Henry, 236, 238, 253 

Powlett, Lord William, 265 

Praed, Winthrop Mackworth, lines on 
Manners-Sutton, 81 

Praise-God Barebones, 224 

Premiership and the Speakership, 86, 

Pride's Purge, 223 
Private Bills, 228 
Privileges of the Commons, II-19, 35 

note", 39 
Privy Councillors, precedence, 86 
Prorogation of Parliament, 38-39 
Protection of Person and Property ISill, 



Prynne, William, 135, 137 
Puckering, Sir John, 187-S8, 206 note ^ ; 

his reply to Coke, 190 
Putney Heath, 289, 312 
Pym, 215-17 

Quarterly Review on the Speaker's im- 
partiality, 24 
"Question Time," 29-30, 360-61 
Quin, John, 269 

Raleigh, Sir Waiter, 70, 186 

Ranelagh, Earl of, 260 

Rathbone, 328 

Read, R. T., 344 

Redesdale, Baron. See Mitford, Sir 

Redford, Sir Henry, 134 

Redistribution Act, 1885, 21 

Redmayne, Sir Richard, 140 

Redmond, John, 46, 356 
William, 335, 342 

Reform Bill, the, 20, 298, 299 

Reform Club, the, 24 

Reformation, the, opening stage, i6r 

Reformation Parliament, 163 

Regency Bill, 1910, 78 

Representation of the People Bill, 
1859, 42 

Reresby, Sir John, 239 

Rich, Sir Richard, witness against More 
163-64; Chancellor, 16^ note", 167 

Richard 11., succession, 121, 123 ; Par- 
liaments, 127 ; and the Commons, 
128-29 ; impeachment of his op- 
ponents, 129-30; and Bussy, 131 

.1"., 153 
Richardson, Thomas, 97, 203-6 
Ridley, Sir Matthew White, 17, 18, 21, 

23, 358 

Rigby, Richard, 278 

Right, Petition of, presented by Man- 
ners-Sutton, 104 

Rights, Bill of, 254 

Rigley, Mr., 282 

Rogers, Sir Edward, 179, 180 

Roper, William, " Life of Sir Thomas 
More," 158 note^, 159, i6o 

Rous, Francis, 109, 224-25 

Royal assent to Money Bills, 37-38 ; 
by Letters Patent, 166 ; under 
Elizabeth, 187 

Rump Parliament, 223, 229-30 

Rushworth, John, 213, 216 

Russell, George, 313 

Lord John, letter to Spring-Rice, 
89 ; attack on Manners-Sutton, 



Russell, Lord John— {coftfiniud) 

304 ; and Abercromby, 307 ; and 
Shaw-Lcfevre, 309-10 ; mentioned, 

315. 35? 
Lord William, 246-47, 252 
Sir F:dward, 337-38 
Sir John, 141, 142 
Rye House Plot, 253, 255 

Sacheverall, Dr. Henry, 266-67 

William, 240, 247 
Sackville, Lord George, 278 
St. Albans, Battle of, 146, 148 
St. John, Henry, 262 
Salisbury, Lord, letter to Roundell 

Palmer, 114 
Sanderson, Colonel, 350 
Savage, Sir Arnold, 126, 131-34, 173 
Sawyer, Sir Robert, 241-42, 252-53, 


Say, Sir John, 145, 152 
VVilliam, 230 

Scheldt expedition, the, 34, 64 

Scot, Thomas, 232 

Security of the Crown and Succession, 
Act for, 264 note ' 

Selby, Lady, iii 

Lord. See Gully, William Court 

Selden, John, 209, 210 

Serjeant-at-Arms, duties, 6, 8-10, 13, 
14, 27, 33, 34, 64, 176-77 ; the 
first, 1 17-18 

Seven Bishops, prosecution, 253 

Sevill, Hon. Henry, 251 

Sexton, Thomas, speech, 321-22 ; and 
Tritton's apology, 345 ; motion for 
adjournment, 335-36 

Seymour, Jane, 163, 235 

Edward, and Charles il., 7, 243-45 ; 
and the casting vote, 70 ; person- 
ality, 235-37 ; and the King's 
power to adjourn, 237-41 ; retire- 
ment, 241-42 ; the Parliament of 
1688, 253 ; proposes Harlcy, 261 ; 
vuntioHcd, 109, 174 
Henry, 241 

Shaftesbury, Lord, 98-99 

Shaw-Lefevre, Charles, election, 1839, 
17, 87, 308-9; and Denison, 35, 
36, 52, 54; prorogation, 1854, 
38 ; saying of, quoted, 43 ; person- 
ality, 66, 313-14, 371 ; .ind the 
British Museum, 69 ; Viscount 
Evcrslcy, 100,310; portrait, 107; 
re-election, 1841, 309-10; an(l 
obstruction, 314-15 ; titentioned, 
20, 24 vote"^, 306, 358 

Sheffield, Sir Robert, 156 

Shelbume Administration, 72 

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 17, 290, 

Short Parliament, the, 212 

Sidmouth, Lord. See Addington, 

.Sidney, Algernon, 253 

Skelton, Sir John, 165 

Smith, John, 262, 264, 265 
Sir Thomas, 172, 173, 17S 
W. H., 337, 339 

Snagge, Thomas, 188 

Somers, Lord Keeper, 260 

Somerset, Duke of, 167, 235 

South African War, 59 

Sovereign, the, and the Veto, 7-8, 
243-47 ; presentation of addresses, 
34-35 ; prorogation in person, 38- 
39 ; the supreme power, 125-26 ; 
choice of the Speaker, 173-74; 
power to adjourn, 237-40 

Speaker, the, tenure of office, 19-26, 
89, 90 ; nationality of Speakers, 
88, 89; emoluments, etc., 85, 90- 
99 ; rank, 86 ; pension, 99-101 ; 
the Speaker's leave-taking, iii- 
14; the first Speaker, 114-17; 
the office created, 119; protesta- 
tions, 123-26, 171, 175-76 ; the 
practice of "disabling," 127; first 
official description ot an election, 
168 ; appointment of a citizen, 
169 ; nomination of the Court, 
169 ; petitions for privileges, 170 ; 
appointment under Elizabeth, 173- 
75 ; summoned to the Upper 
House, 176-77 ; Deputy Speaker, 
first appointment, 201, 202 ; the 
oflice again in the gift of the King, 
233 ; the first contest, 242 ; the 
King's Veto, 243-47 ; election to 
precede the King's speech, 250- 
51 ; mode of election, 258 ; a 
partisan office, 263 ; first retiring 
pension, 277 ; Earl Spencer's re- 
marks, 302 

.Speaker's Allowance Bill, 91 

Speaker's Gallery, scats, iio-ll 

Speaker's House, lOi-il 

Speed, John, (/noted, 141 

Spencer, E.arl. See Althorp, Lord 

Spring- Rice, Thomas, 87-89, 302 

Standing (Orders revised, 317 
Stanley, H. M., quoted, 49, 50 
Star, The, letter published, 341 
Stale Trials, 16S3, 252-53 



Steele, Richard, 268 

Storey, Samuel, 345 

Stourton, William, 138-39 

"Strangers," 269 

Strangewaies, Sir James, 150-51 

Strangeways, Colonel, 236 

Strickland, Sir William, 265, 272 

Strode, William, and Finch, 209 ; im- 
prisonment, 210 ; the raid on the 
House, 215-17 

Struth, 306 

Sturmey. See Esturmey 

Sudbury Election petition, 31 

Suffolk, Duke of, 146 

Sullivan, A. M., 321 

Tests Abolition (Oxford) Bill, 75, 76 
Thorpe, Thomas, 146-50 
Thurlow, Attorney-General, 282 
Tierney, Pitt and, 288-89, 311, 312; 

on Abbot's speech, 294-95 
Times, The, article quoted, ill; speeches 

published, 338; Political Notes, 352 
Tiptoft, Sir John, 135, 137 
Town Planning Bill, 372 
Townsend, Thomas, 278 
Townshend, Thomas, 283 
Towton, Battle of, 150-51 
Tramway Bills, 77 
Treasureship of the Navy, Onslow's 

resignation, 274-75 
Tresham, Thomas, 149 
William, 142, 145-46 
Tressel, Mr., 117 
Trevelyan, 332 
Trevor, Arthur, 251 

Trevor, Sir John, 251 ; expelled for 

corruption, 255-57, 259-60 
Trinity College, Dublin, fellowships, 76 
Tritton, Mr., and the Chair, 343-44 
Trotter, Paymaster, 72-73 
Trumball, Secretary, 260 
Trussel, William, 116 
Turnour, Sir Edward, 232-34 
Tyrrel, Sir John, 141, 142 

Union, Act of, 68, 289 

" Unlearned Parliament," the, 134 

Ure, Mr., 369-70 

Vane, Sir Henry, 213 

Vansittart, 292, 293 

Vehicles (Lights) Bill, 77 

Vernon, Sir Richard, 141 

Victoria, tenure of Speakership under, 
19 ; address from the Commons, 
1858, 35 : prorogation, 38 ; jubi- 
lee, 1897, 96; Palmerston's letter 
to, 100 ; petition of right presented 
by Manners - Sutton, 104 ; first 
Parliament, 306 ; and tradition, 
327 ; and Peel, 354 

Vilonel, Boer general, 59 

" Votes and Proceedings," the nightly 
record, 85 

Vyvyan, Sir R., 48-49 

Yelverton, Christopher, 192-94 

York, Duke of, 250, 252 

York, Duke of, represents Henry VI., 

147 ; and Thorpe, 147-48 ; death, 


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