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leagues in Lord Grey*s adminis-
tration had declared that no dif-
ference of political opinion could
counterbalance the inestimable ad-
vantage of having Sir Charles
Sutton in the chair, said, he had
expected that disclosures would
be made regarding that gentle-
man's conduct in the performance
of his duties, which would call
upon the House, not merely as a
matter of honour, but as an act
of justice, to dismiss him as a
convicted intriguer. The proposer,
however, of Mr. Abercromby had
uttered no charge; nay, he had
admitted that personally the late
speaker stood as high as ever in
the opinion of the country, but
had nevertheless maintained that
he must be sacrificed to '^ a great
public principle." The seconder
equally disclaimed all intention to
make any charge; Sir Charles
Sutton himself, feeling that he
must place himself beyond the
reach not merely of conviction,
but of suspicion, had met the
charges so long and so persever-
ingly urged against him in the
public prints, fairly, manfully, and
unanswerably. But still came back
that great public principle which
was said to be of such paramount
importance, on the present occasion
at least, that all considerations of
fitness and qualification must give
way before it. This principle
seemed to be, that the person fill-
ing the office of speaker should be
known to entertain opinions in
conformity with those of the ma-
jority of that House. Was that a
new proposition? Was it not

advocated by a certain p rtion of
those members who supported Lord
Grey's administration in 1 833, and
was it not then met by the admi.
nistration with the declaration, that
it was not a principle which should
determine the appointment of a
speaker? What had happened
smce 1833 to induce them to alter
their conduct } It was said, in-
deed, that 1833 was the case of
an ordinary election, when there
was no important question on
which there had been an appeal to
the country, and with regard to
which a mistake might arise from
their choice of a speaker. But
what would the House say to May,
1831, when an appeal was made
to the country involving the whole
principle of the Reform Bill — nay,
the very existence of it — when tfie
question was, whether the country
and the parliament would have
reform or not.^ Was there ever
an occasion where a great public
principle stood more boldly forward
as the basis and groundwork of a
dissolution than in that instance?
Yet the first act in that parlia-
ment of a reform administration,
in the very agony and struggle of
the Reform Bill, was to propose
to the House, and the House unani-
mously to elect as speaker, one
whose political principles were
opposed to their own. They were
told that it was essential that the
crown should not be under a de-
lusion as to the sentiments of the
House, and that no such mistake
could be entertained in 1831 or
1833, because on both those
occasions the ministers, wielding
the whole power of the govern-
ment, might safely, on such a sub-
ject, sacrifice principle to expedi-
ency. But if a great public prin-
ciple were involved in the question,
no expediency, nothing on earthy

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28] . A N N U A L R fi G I S T E R, 1835.

should have induced the govern-
ment to act as they did. In truth,
the great public principle seemed to
be, that this (question, though not
a test of principle^ might be made
a very good test of the strength of
parties ; for in what consisted the
change of circumstances, by which
the supporters of the late speaker
in 1833 were his antagonists in
1835 ? It consisted in this : " We
were in office in 1833 ; we are not
in office now." The only difference
that had been pointed out between
the cases of 1833 and 1835 was,
that, in the first instance, the
speaker was proposed by the go-
vernment, wielding all the power
and control of the government,
and with a large majority at its
back, but that in the present in-
stance the majority might be less,
and that they should take an op-
portunity to signify to the crown
that they had no confidence in the
present administration. Now, if
this was what they meant, he
Would say, that an act of grosser
injustice, an act savouring more
of resentment than of justice, never
could be perpetrated, than to take
the decision of that point, upon
a question materially affecting the
honour and character of an indi.
vidual. If it was the intention to
try the strength of parties, let the
question be manfully brought to
issue upon an address for the re-
moval of the administration. He
would say to them, do not injure
and damage character — do not
commit such an injustice — and he
would appeal to the honour and
candour of the House, whether it
was not an injustice to remove a
s}>eaker against whom they had
not only admitted that there was
no personal charge, but whom they
had acknowledged to be pre-emi-

merely for the purpose of testing
the strength of parties.^ Again,
they were told that by the election
of speaker they were to judge
what were the principles, political
opinions, expectations, and views
of the House. But if the opinions
of the successful candidate were to
be assumed to be those of the major,
ity of the House, he would ask those
who intended to support Mr. Aber-
cromby, whether they were pre-
pared to declare that his principles
were theirs, and that by his public
declarations they would be bound }
If the matter were so put, that to
vote for Mr. Abercromby was to
coincide with him in political
opinion, he would at once say,
that he widely differed from him,
and on that ground alone he might
rest his objection to raising him
to the chair. The member for
Edinburgh was understood to sup-
port the principle of triennial par.
liaments, or, at least of materially
shortening the duration of parlia-
ments, and he was inclined to sup-
port vote by ballot. On both of
these points he was opposed to
that gentleman, and had conclu-
sively made up his mind against
the voluntary principle as opposed
to a church establishment. Here
were three points of fair but de-
cided political differences on most
important public questions; and,
in conformity with the principles
of those who said they were bound
to support a candidate of their own
political views, he was not bound
to vote for one from whom he
widely differed. Or if this prin-
ciple for supporting a candidate
was disclaimed, what became of
the alleged necessity of electing
the member for Edinburgh as a
proof of the preponderance of re-
form principles, and as a test of the

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of Commons to carry those prin-
ciples into effect ? Members either
were, or they were not, about to
support a candidate on the ground
of agreement with hfm in political
principle. If they were bound to
do so, then he candidly declared
he did not agree with the member
for Edinburgh, and could not sup.
port him. If, again, they were
not bound to vote on political
grounds in the election of a speaker,
then they indicated no political
opinion by their choice, and the
country had not the boasted test
of parliamentary competency for
reform arising out of the election
of a speaker. He would leave it to
those who intended to vote for Mr.
Abercromby to state on which of
these two grounds they chose to
proceed ; but on one or other of
them they must vote. He did not
agree with either of the candidates
in political principle; but acting
on the declarations which he had
before made, and in perfect con-
sistency with all the political
opinions which he had ever enter,
tained and expressed, he was
bound to say in justice, candour,
and honour, that no case had been
made out to induce the House on
the present occasion to withdraw
that support which it had hitherto
cheerfully given to the gentleman
who for so many years had filled
the chair.

Lord John Russell, who, hav-
ing assumed the station of a leader
In getting up the opposition to the
late speaker, was bound to dis-
charge its duties in defending what
he had proposed, maintained, that
it was a fallacy to suppose that
Sir Charles Sutton would be dis-
graced, if he were not re-elected,
and argued that the argument of
Lord Stanley went to deprive the ,
House of Commons of one of its

choicest privileges. According to
that doctrine, nothing more would
be required in future to decide an
election than that a -late speaker
should get some anonymous jour-
nalist to accuse him of base and
dishonourable conduct in counsel-
ling the dissolution of parliament,
and intriguing for the dismissal of
ministers ; and that the party ac-
cused should come down to the
House and protest on his honour,
which could not bfe doubted, that
he was innocent. Immediately
Ujpon this the option of the House
of Commons was at an end, if it
was true that they were bound to
replace the unjustly accused in the
chair, under the penalty of fixing
upon him, if they refused to do so,
the character of a dishonourable
and convicted intriguer. But the
House had not met to listen to a
criminal accusation against the
late speaker, to pass a vote of cen-
sure, or to furnish matter for an
impeachment ; they were there to
exercise one of the most important
privileges incident to the House
of Commons — to choose a servant
and organ, to select a gentleman
to preside over their debates ; and
in performing this act they were
not to be deterred from its due
execution by taunts of fixing an
unfair and dishoifourable charac-
ter on one of the candidates by re-
fusing to elect him. Whatever
might now happen, it was not
without precedent, not only in an-
cient, but in comparatively mo-
dern times. When the House did
not approve of the conduct of a
speaker, it had placed another in
the chair. In the time of Lord
North, Sir Fletcher Norton being
then speaker, he let fall some ex-
pressions displeasing to that minis-
ter, who, having a majority of the
Commons with him, was deter-

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miDed to have a speaker of the
same mind. Lord North there-
fore proposed another gentleman
for the chair, making some com.
plimentary speech, to the effect
that Sir Fletcher Norton was too
old a servant of the House and
ought to be relieved from his du-
ties; and he carried his motion.
But could it be pretended that the
character of Sir Fletcher Norton
was disgraced to all eternity, be-
cause the HouaiB did not reelect
him to the chair ? It would l)e
DO attack on the character of Sir
Charles Manners Sutton, if the
House refused to elect him on this
occasion ; but indelible disgrace
would be fixed upon the House, if it
were determined that they had no
choice but again to elect him,
In regard to the imputations them-
selves to which the late speaker
had been exposed, Lord John Rus-
sell admitted that the accusation
of his ha> ing been engaged in any
intrigue to overturn the late mi-
nistry was a fiction. He was ready
to declare, both of him and of the
Duke of Wellington, and of Sir
Robert Peel, his entire belief that
there existed i^o ground or foun-
dation for the charge. With re-
spect to the other charges, the
late speaker had admitted that he
attended privy councils at the time
the late ministry was dismissed,
and when the Duke of Wellington
was first lord of the treasury, and
held the seals of three secretaries
of state. He attended several
privy councils before the return of
Sir Robert Feel to this country.
Recently the practice had been to
call to the privy council members
of the cabinet, and no others were
summoned. There was no pecu-
liar summons from his majesty in
such cases; the thing was done
hv order of the nrime minister.

who summoned those to attend on
whom he relied, as holding politic
cal opinions in unison with his own;
and at the period in question the
Duke of Wellington was prime
minister. If Sir Charles Sutton
had intimated the slightest opin-
ion that he thought such a pro-
ceeding inconsistent with his pub-
lic character, he would have been
at once excused. The number of
privy councillors amounted in all
to 200 and upwards, and it there-
fore could not be necessary that
the speaker of the House of Com-
mons should appear there against
the known opinion — against what
would have been the declared opin-
ions of that House of Cdmmons.
He did not impute to him that he
had done wrong intentionally in
attending not only the first, but
several privy councils ; yet, as he
had been chosen speaker by a
House of Commons decidedly ad-
verse to those who had just ac-
cepted office, his name ought not
to have been mixed up with the
transaction : such conduct was not
that which best became the dig-
nity and impartiality of his official
character. All this, however, in-
volved no question of dishonour ;
and should he be rejected on this
occasion, there would be no degra-
dation — nothing to cause him to
retire from the chair with painful
or mortified feelings. There had
been nothing dishonourable in his
course ; his political bias had got
the better of him, and had induced
him to concur in acts which, as
speaker of the House of Commons,
he should have avoided — and this
was a fair ground for objecting to
his re-election.

His lordship admitted that he
had borne a willing part, as a
member of the reforming minis-
trv of 1853. in raisinsr the late

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speaker to the chair. He had
doDe so, he said, because he felt
exceedingly solicitous and perhaps
somewhat diffident, as to the cha-
racter of the reformed House of
Commons. He felt no doubt, that,
in point of intelligence, honesty,
and public virtue, it was far supe-
rior to any other House that had
ever sat } but he did not feel sure,
that, having a number of new
members who had not turned their
attention to parliamentary forms,
there might not be some deficiency
in that respect, which would ren-
der the House the subject of un-
deserved obloquy. On that ground
he departed from the general rule,
that the speaker should be the
organ and representative of the
House, for the purpose of securing
the advantage of the late speaker's
experience ; and if nothing of a par-
ticular nature had occurred since,
perhaps that gentleman might
have been again proposed for the
chair without much objection ; but
considering what had happened,
and taking into account all the
circumstances of the case, he
thought there no longer remained
any room to doubt as to the course
which the House ought to take.
The principle which the ancient
practice and doctrine of the House
sanctioned, and which it was es-
pecially necessary to vindicate at
the present moment, was, that
the chair should be filled by a man
zealous in behalf of the liberties
of the people, to be the organ of
that House with the crown, and to
represent their feelings firmly,
without fear of ofiending or a wish
to conciliate those who might have
the power of dispensing favours.
It no doubt was the prerogative
of the crown to dismiss and ap-
point ministers, and to dissolve
parliaments ; but the people also

possessed their privileges, and if
the sword of prerpgative were
drawn, it became necessary to have
in readiness the shield and buck,
ler of popular privilege 5 and he
knew no privilege more sacred, or
less to be infringed, than the right
of the House to place its repre-
sentative in the chair. Members
had been sent there, not because
the electors liked their manners,
but because they agreed with them
in political sentiment, and because
they thought their representatives
would reform abuses. Let all who
wished to see the reform of abuses,
have a speaker to aid as an organ
in those reforms. Let them give
the country an earnest that they
meant to set zealously about real
reform — that they were not going
to cheat and deceive the people by
mock reform -, and that, while
with undoubted loyalty to the
throne they respected the prero-
gatives of the king, they were de«
termined to maintain the privi*
leges of the people.

Sir Robert Peel began by bear-
ing testimony to the fact, that
Sir Charles Sutton had been in no
way connected with the formation
of the new government. On un-
dertaking the duty of forming a
ministry, he had asked Sir Charles
whether he would find it con-
sistent with his principles, feel-
ings, and sense of duty, to take
office? He answered, that he did
not seek employment in an official
capacity in the service of the
crown, and his reason was this:
" I have served in the chair for a
period of eighteen years, and I do
think that, if I were now to enter
into the arena of discussion (after
so long a service in the chair, and
my personal connexion with the
authority of that situation), I
should run the risk of lowering it,

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if I appeared on the floor of the
House of Commons as a member
of the government." After this
answer, he did not feel it his duty
to consult the lale speaker, either
as to the formation of the govern-
ment, or the policy to be pursued.
Not one word on those subjects
passed between them. He had
then asked Sir Charles, whether,
in the event of a dissolution of
parliament, he had any wish to be
re-elected to fill the chair ? The
reply was, that he had no wish or
feeling on the subject ; that it was
a matter in which he had no per.
sonal interest, inasmuch as by the
liberality of the House he was
already amply provided for ; that
the impediment on the ground of
ill healthy which had led him to
meditate retirement on a former
occasion, no longer existed; and
that if it was thought that his
services would be of any value to
the public, as long as his health
would permit, he should feel it his
duty not to withhold them. He
expressed no opinion on the sub-
ject, and least of all any wish that
he should resume the office, if
there should be any indisposition
on the part of the House to receive
him. The question now was,
whether, since the former speaker
had professed his willingness to
serve, it was right and fitting
that they should elect another?
Nobody contested the position
that the House had a right to
choose whom they pleased; but
this right was a trust for the pub-
lic good, and ought to be exercised
with discretion. It did not be-
come them to insist on the barren
and abstract right, but to consider
the greater point, viz. how it
could be exercised with justice.

for authority to be set against the
example of Earl Grey and the
first reformed parliament, but had
found none, except the conduct of
Lord North towards Sir Fletcher
Norton. A worthy precedent truly !
Did that case proceed upon any
intelligible principle? Was not
the argument employed then some-
thing like that used upon the pre-
sent occasion — namely, " You
have given us offence upon one
ground, or we wish to gain an ad-
vantage upon one ground> but we
will assign another for depriving
you of the means of rendering
further service to the House of
Commons ? " The ground of Lord
North's objection to Sir F. Norton
was a speech delivered by the
latter at the bar of the House of
Lords. Did Lord North assign
that as his reason for displacing
him ? No. His reason was pre-
tended solicitude for the health of
Sir Fletcher Norton. Thus it was
evident, that Lord North was so
convinced, that whatever might
be the abstract right of the House,
they would, by exercising it, in-
flict injustice upon Sir F. Norton,
that he carefully avoided stating
in the face of the House his real
reason for wishing to get rid of
him. Without doubting the right
of the House to refuse to re-ap-
point the late Speaker, the question
was whether it was fair and just,
not towards the individual alone,
but towards the office, to do so ?
Was the House called upon by a
sense of fitness or justice to choose
any other person in the place of
him who had received his appoint,
ment by the almost unanimous
sanction of six parliaments — who
had served the House of Commons
for eighteen years — against whom

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possibility of his being actuated
by any motive of personal interest,
to continue in the performance of
its duties ? Would the House allow
their late speaker to suffer by six
weeks of uncontradicted calumnies
against him, uncontradicted by
himself or by his authority until
that day, and which calumnies,
and not a sense of his unfitness
for the office, had raised a feeling
against him amongst the constitu-
ents of somehon. members? Every
insinuation had been given up,
except that the Jate speaker at-
tended certain privy councils,
which some persons seemed to
think might have been instru-
mental in the formation of the
present government. Every other
charge but that had been aban-
doned. All the testimony which
had been borne to the speaker's
impartiality, ability, and experi-
ence remained in full force. Now,
what was the amount of this
charge? If the House thought
that the speaker ought not to be
a privy councillor, let it declare
so J but if he be one, why should
he he blamed for performing the
duties of the office ? An erroneous
opinion was entertained by a part
of the public that the meetings of
the privy council which had been
referred to were deliberative as-
semblies. It was also a great
mistake to say, that they were at-
tended only by members of the
cabinet. Any members of the
council not members of the cabi-
net might attend, and they fre-
quently did so. Their duty was
merely ministerial, and they offered
not a word of advice to the sove-
reign. The charge respecting the
late speaker of attending councils
was as nothing compared with his
solemn disclaimer that he had
been directlv or indirectly a party

to the dismissal of the late govern-
ment, the formation of the present
one, or the dissolution of Parlia-
ment. These were the calumnies
that formed the ground taken up
by the public press, and the ground
on which constituents had advised
their representatives to vote against
the late speaker s re-election. He
implored members to reflect, that if
their impressions rested originally
on erroneous grounds, they were
bound in manliness to refuse to
vote upon those grounds. They
might oppose the re-election of
Sir Charles Sutton upon public
principle, if they thought it applic-
able to the case 5 but if either
they or their constituents origi-
nally formed the determination of
opposing him upon the erroneous
grounds which he had adverted to^
he had sufficient confidence in
their manliness and honour to be-
lieve that they would not act upon
that determination. Then as to
public principle, some had put it
in this way, that the speaker
ought to represent the opinion of
the majority of the House. Was
that a good principle to establish ?
Was it wise to hold out a tempta-
tion to the speaker to seek favour
with the majority of the House ?
If the speaker performed his duty
with integrity and impartiality in
the chair, was it not wiser to re-
gard only that part of his conduct
which came before the House — to
look merely to his qualifications
for the office — instead of asking
whether his political opinions were
in accordance with those of the
majority of the House.? This
question had been decided by the
first reformed Parliament. If it
were fitting that the speaker's
opinion should follow those of the
majority of the House, why on
that occasion was not that prin-

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ciple acted upon, when the party
sitting opposite had the power to
carry it into effect? Could there
be a more conclusive proof than
was at that time afforded by the
conduct of that party, that the
House was not really called upon
to elect a speaker whose opinions
were in conformity with those of a
majority? Lord John Russell, it
now af)peared, had concurred in
that election — because he wished
to take advantage of having a
Speaker of ability, experience, and
judgement — because, in short, he
wanted to pi^otefct the character of
the reformed Parliament. Well,
Sir Charles Sutton had done the
work required of him ; he had
rescued the reformed Parliament
from the disgrace of being lowered
in public opinion ; and the grate-
ful return tendered to him was,
that the very party, who Jiad called
him to, their aid, wished to dis-
grace him in the eyes of men.
Disgrace him ! did he say? He

Online LibraryLodovico Antonio MuratoriThe annual register → online text (page 4 of 116)