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PARLIAMENT: ITS ROMANCE;
ITS COMEDY; ITS PATHOS.



PARLIAMENT:



ITS ROMANCE
ITS COMEDY
ITS PATHOS.



BY

MICHAEL MACDONAGH,
^

AUTHOR OF " THE BOOK OF PARLIAMENT,"
AND " IRISH LIFE AND CHARACTER."



WESTMINSTER:
P. S. KING & SON,
ORCHARD HOUSE.

R H



BRADBURY AGNKW & CO. LD., PRINTERS,
LONDON AND TONBRIDGE.



PREFACE.



IN "The Book of Parliament," published in 1897,
I have endeavoured to describe the two Houses of
Parliament engaged in the work of law-making,
dwelling particularly on the human element of the
operation. In this volume I deal with phases of
Parliament still keeping to its human, rather than
to its historical, side which have hitherto not been
noticed in books on the Constitution.

The chapters originally appeared as articles in
various magazines. In Good Words were published
" THE KING : His PREROGATIVES AND DISABILITIES,"
" THE OLD HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE NEW," " THE
OLD HOUSE OF LORDS AND THE NEW," and " PRIVILEGE!
PRIVILEGE ! " ; in Temple Bar, " THE GREAT SEAL OF
ENGLAND " ; in The Fortnightly Review, " THE FIRST
OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL SOVEREIGNS " (under the title
of " QUEEN VICTORIA AS A STATESMAN ") ; in The
Nineteenth Century, " THE EVOLUTION OF THE PARLIA-
MENTARY OATH," " THE QUAINT SIDE OF PARLIAMENT,"
and " UNPARLIAMENTARY EXPRESSIONS"; in Macmillaris
Magazine, " MAIDEN SPEECHES," " CURRENT COIN OF
THE POLITICIANS," and "THE HUMOURS OF PARLIA-
MENTARY REPORTING " ; in Literature, " HANSARD "



vi PREFACE.

(included in the series " Among My Books ") ; and
in The New Liberal Review, " LAST SPEECHES OF
GREAT PARLIAMENTARIANS." My most grateful acknow-
ledgments are due to the editors of these magazines
for their kind permission to republish the articles.
Some of the Chapters have been rewritten, and much
new matter has been added.

It was the favour with which the articles were
received on their original publication that induced
me to think that they may be acceptable in collected
form.

I hope my book will prove not only a recreation
to while away a leisure hour for the general reader,
but a help to serious students of Constitutional history,
and the development of Parliamentary institutions.



MICHAEL MAcDONAGH.



LONDON,
April, 1902.



CONTENTS.

CRAP. PAGE

I. THE KING : HIS PREROGATIVES AND DISABILITIES . . I

II. THE FIRST OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL SOVEREIGNS . 25

III. HOW EDWARD VII. OPENED HIS FIRST PARLIAMENT . 84

IV. THE OLD HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE NEW . . Io8
V. THE OLD HOUSE OF LORDS AND THE NEW . . .127

VI. " PRIVILEGE ! PRIVILEGE ! " 145

VII. THE GREAT SEAL OF ENGLAND ..... 159

VIII. THE EVOLUTION OF THE PARLIAMENTARY OATH . .179

IX. MAIDEN SPEECHES 213

X. THE QUAINT SIDE OF PARLIAMENT .... 252

XI. THE CURRENT COIN OF THE POLITICIANS . . . 278

XII. UNPARLIAMENTARY EXPRESSIONS 308

XIII. " HANSARD " 343

XIV. HUMOURS OF PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING . . . 364
XV. LAST SPEECHES OF GREAT PARLIAMENTARIANS . . 379



PARLIAMENT:

ITS ROMANCE, ITS COMEDY, AND ITS
PATHOS.



CHAPTER I.
THE KING : His PREROGATIVES AND DISABILITIES.

THE King stands at the head of Parliament, the
three constituent parts of which are the Sovereign, the
Lords, and the Commons. According to the theory
of the Constitution, Parliament is the King's Great
Council summoned to deliberate with him on the
affairs of the nation, to advise him as to the condition,
the wants, and the wishes of his subjects ; and a Bill
does not become an Act of Parliament, or, in other
words, the law of the land, even though it has passed
through the House of Commons and the House of
Lords, until it has received his Royal assent. The
first clause "the enacting clause," as it is termed
of every Act of Parliament runs " Be it enacted by
the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the
consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the
Commons, in Parliament assembled, and by the
authority of the same, as follows." But beyond this
legislative power which the King possesses as a sepa-
rate and independent part of the Legislature, his
Majesty, by right of the Prerogative of the Crown,
p. B



2 PARLIAMENT.

is the supreme executive authority of the State in all
matters, civil and military.

And what are the exclusive rights, privileges, and
powers which the Prerogative confers upon the King?
Mr. Pickwick, it will be remembered, was arrested at
Ipswich for contemplating a breach of the peace by
righting a duel. " I believe duelling is one of his
Majesty's most undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks ? "
said the mayor of the town to his clerk, when the case
came before his worship. " Expressly stipulated in
Magna Charta, sir," replied Mr. Jinks. " One of the
brightest jewels in the British Crown wrung from his
Majesty by the barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks ? " said the
mayor. "Just so, sir," assented Mr. Jinks. "Very
well," continued the mayor, drawing himself up
proudly, " it shall not be violated in this portion of
his Majesty's dominions." Now, though the privi-
leges conferred by the Royal Prerogative do not
include the exclusive right of fighting duels, they are,
nevertheless, curiously varied and peculiar. Walter
Bagehot, an acute thinker, attempts in his illumina-
tive work "The English Constitution" to enumerate
some of the powers of the Sovereign as the pre-eminent
executive authority of the land. Writing of Queen
Victoria he says :

" She could disband the army (by law she cannot
engage more than a certain number of men, but she
is not obliged to engage any men) ; she could dismiss
all the officers, from the general commanding-in-chief
downwards ; she could dismiss all the sailors too ;
she could sell off all our ships of war and all our naval
stores ; she could make a peace by the sacrifice of



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. 3

Cornwall, and begin a war for the conquest of Brittany.
She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom,
male or female, a peer ; she could make every parish
in the United Kingdom a * university ' ; she could
dismiss most of the civil servants, and she could
pardon all offenders. In a word, the Queen could by
Prerogative upset all the action of civil government
within the Government ; could disgrace the nation by
a bad war or peace, and could, by disbanding our
forces, whether land or sea, leave us defenceless
against foreign nations."

It would seem, therefore, that the King as the
executive authority is omnipotent. Indeed, if his
Majesty were to exercise the extreme, but undoubted,
rights of his Prerogative, a monstrous and grinding
despotism would be established in this ancient home
of freedom without violating the letter, at least, of
the law. But extraordinary as are the powers of the
King, as set forth by Bagehot, he possesses other
rights and privileges of which few of his subjects,
perhaps, are aware ; and possibly not even his Majesty
himself fully realises the rare and wonderful attributes
with which he has been endowed by the Constitution.

The law, for instance, declares that the Sovereign
can never be under age. In other words, the law does
not recognise the incapacity of an infant King or
Queen to exercsie the functions of the Sovereignty.
Lord Eldon, explaining this dictum of the law during
a debate in the House of Lords in 1830, on the
question of appointing a Regency in the event of
King William's death, until the Princess Victoria, the
heir to the Throne, was eighteen years of age, said :

B 2



4 PARLIAMENT.

"If an infant Sovereign were to be on the Throne
whose head could not be seen over the integument
which covers the head of my noble and learned friend
on the Woolsack he would be supposed to have as
much sense, knowledge, and experience as if he had
reached the years of three score and ten." Never-
theless, should it happen that an infant King or Queen
succeeded to the Throne, a Regent would be appointed
by Parliament, vested with the executive authority of
the Crown until the King or Queen came of age ; just
as during the long years of the mental incapacity of
George III. the Prince of Wales was authorised by
Parliament to exercise, as Regent, all the powers oi
the Royal Prerogative necessary to the government
of the Realm. The law also seems to ascribe immor-
tality to the Sovereign. " Kings should disdain to die,
and only disappear." So sang a poet named Flatman
on the death of Charles II. But " The King never
dies" is a very ancient maxim of the Constitution.
"The King never dies," writes Sir William Blackstone,
the eminent commentator on English law. " Henry,
Edward, or George may die; but the King sur-
vives them all." Thus we find that it is to the
Sovereign as ruler, and not to the Sovereign as
human being, that the law denies the privilege of
death. Not for an instant is the Throne vacant. The
moment the Sovereign dies, that moment the reign of
his successor begins. " The King is dead ! Long live
the King!" Immediately after the death of George
III., which took place at Windsor, at 8 o'clock in the
evening of January 29, 1820, a herald appeared at one
of the windows of the castle overlooking the town,
and, after a fanfare by two State trumpeters to arrest



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. 5

the attention of wayfarers, he cried aloud: "The
King is dead ! Long live the King! " This ceremony
was dispensed with at the deaths of George IV.,
William IV., and Victoria.

The succession to the Throne is not, however, a
matter of indefeasible hereditary right. There are
conditions attached to the tenure of the Crown. The
succession is limited by the Act of Settlement, passed
in 1700, to the House of Hanover, and the hereditary
right with regard even to the members of that House
may be set aside by Parliament. With all the ap-
parently limitless power of the Prerogative, there is
one thing the Sovereign is absolutely prohibited from
doing, and that is, marrying a Roman Catholic. Not
only must the King or Queen of this Realm be a Pro-
testant, but if the Sovereign were to contract a matri-
monial alliance with a member of the Roman Catholic
Church he or she would forfeit the Crown. The Bill
of Rights, passed in 1689, in the first Parliament after
the Revolution, thus lays down the law on this point :

" That all and every person or persons that is, are,
or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion
with the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the
Popish religion, or shall marry a Papist, shall be
excluded, and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess,
or enjoy the Crown and Government of this Realm
and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging,
or any part of the same, or to have, use or exercise any
regal power, authority, or jurisdiction within the
same ; and in all and every such case or cases the
people of these Realms shall be and are hereby
absolved of their allegiance ; and the said Crown and



6 PARLIAMENT.

Government shall, from time to time, descend to and
be enjoyed by such person or persons, being Protes-
tants, as should have inherited and enjoyed the same,
in case the said person or persons so reconciled,
holding communion, or professing, or marrying as
aforesaid, were naturally dead."

The law also ascribes to the King perfection
in thought and deed. One of the most ancient
maxims of our Constitution is : " The King can do
no wrong;" and Blackstone, commenting on it, writes:
" The King is not only incapable of doing wrong,
but even of thinking wrong ; he can never mean to do
an improper thing ; in him is no folly or weakness."
Incredible as it may appear in these days of limited
monarchy there was a time in our history when the
literal meaning of the phrase " The King can do no
wrong," was accepted almost universally. Every act of
the Sovereign, no matter how unrighteous and oppres-
sive, was regarded save, perhaps, by those who suffered
from it as necessarily right and just. As in theory
the King has never been supposed capable of commit-
ting any crime or misdeed whatever, should he, in
practice being human do a wrongful act there is
no proceeding known to the law by which he can be
brought to account and made personally responsible.
He cannot be sued in any Court, either civilly or crimi-
nally, for any act of personal misconduct. " We are
therefore," says the courtly Blackstone, " out of rever-
ence and decency to forbear any idle inquiries of what
would be the consequence if the King were to act thus
and thus, since the law deems so highly of his wisdom
and virtue, as not even to presume it possible for him



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. 7

to do anything inconsistent with his station and
dignity, and therefore has made no provision to remedy
such a grievance." So that if the Sovereign were,
we will say, to forge a cheque he could not be brought
to trial, or if he were to defame any of his subjects he
would not be liable to an action for damages. He is
amenable to no earthly tribunal ; and his Royal person
is, by law, sacred and inviolable. "The erring
Prince," an ancient writer on the Constitution says,
" must be left to the rebukes of his own conscience,
and to his personal accountability to God alone."

The law says that the wrong-doing of a servant
is the wrong-doing of the master. But there is an
exception made in the case of the King. As his
Majesty can do no wrong it is assumed that no
wrong either can be done by his servants in the
employment of the State. This is true, at least, to
the extent that if a merchant-vessel were wrecked
or damaged by the negligent management of a
King's ship, or a man-of-war, there is no redress.
In the case of Tobin v. The Queen, damages were
sought for the loss of a schooner which was burned
by the captain of a man-of-war under the mistaken
impression that it was engaged in the slave trade.
The Court dismissed the action on the ground that
the maxim " The King can do wrong " was true
in the sense that the Sovereign is not liable to be
sued, civilly or criminally, for a supposed injury.
But this immunity is not extended to those who
may do wrong by the King's direct command. No
one can plead the orders of the King in defence
of any act not otherwise justifiable by law. The
person who executes the unlawful orders of a



8 PARLIAMENT.

Sovereign is amenable to punishment. This arises
out of the abolition, by the Bill of Rights, of the power
of the Crown to dispense with or suspend laws, which,
under the Stuarts, was made the cover of all sorts
of injustices. There is no power in the Crown,
that Statute declares, to dispense with the obligation
to obey the law. The law, in other words, is above
the King ; and he is bound to govern according to
the law. Therefore, though the King himself cannot
be brought to trial as a criminal or a misdemeanant,
any person who acted illegally at his command would
be liable to criminal or civil proceedings, according
to the legal maxim that all persons engaged in an
outrage are individually responsible.

" A subject, so long as he continues a subject,
has no way to oblige his Prince to give him his
due, when he refuses it ; though no wise Prince
will ever refuse to stand to a lawful contract." So
writes Samuel Puffendorf, the great Saxon jurist,
in his " Law of Nature and Nations." However,
though there is no means at the disposal of a
subject to oblige the King to meet his liabilities,
should he choose to repudiate them as the personal
acts of the King are not under the cognisance of
the law there is a procedure known as " Petition
of Right," by which, with the gracious consent of
the King, the matter in dispute may be investigated,
should it be thought that his Majesty was in wrongful
possession of real or personal property, or of money
due by him to a subject, either by way of debt, or
damages on breach of contract. The first step
taken by the subject in such a matter is to present
a petition to the Home Secretary setting forth the



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. 9

alleged cause of action. The Secretary of State
then informs the King, and if his Majesty orders
the petition to be endorsed with the fiat, "Let right
be done," the suit proceeds in the Courts in the
ordinary way, as between subject and subject, not
upon compulsion, however, but as a matter of grace.
Another disability of the King is that he cannot
appear as a witness in a Court of law. He is,
therefore, unable to give evidence in any cause in
which he is a party. But even if judgment be
obtained against the King under a " Petition ot
Right," his goods cannot be distrained or taken in
execution. Should he refuse to pay the debt, the
creditor has absolutely no remedy whatever.

His Majesty is not burdened by any taxes or rates.
He is never troubled with the formidable yellow
form issued annually by the Inland Revenue Depart-
ment asking searching questions about the amount
of one's income, with a view to taxation ; and he
is in blissful ignorance of the demands of the
parish overseers for local rates in respect of his
palaces. The Sovereign is exempt from taxation,
because the revenue of the Realm being his in
theory, now ; formerly in reality it would be use-
less and ridiculous for him to tax himself. His
Majesty is also exempt from toll. In the reign
of George III. a toll was charged for crossing
Hampton Bridge. One day there was a Royal hunt
on Hounslow Heath. The stag swam across the river,
and the Royal hunting party followed by Hampton
Bridge. Seeing them approaching at a furious canter,
and being unaware that the King was with them,
the toll-collector closed the gates. " The King !



io PARLIAMENT.

the King!" shouted the hunters angrily, and the
collector at once opened the gates and allowed
them to pass. A few minutes later another party
appeared, and the gates being again shut they also
cried out : " The King ! the King ! " But the
collector this time was determined to have his toll.
" I've let King George through, God bless him,"
he said, " and I know no other King in England.
If you have brought out the King of France, hang
me if I let him through without the blunt." Sud-
denly the King himself appeared in the party ; and
the toll-collector with many humble apologies flung
the gates open. Owing to the delay the stag was
lost, and the King in high dudgeon sent an attendant
to the collector for an explanation of his conduct.
The collector stated that a guinea had always been
paid when the Royal hunt passed over the bridge,
and that he had allowed the first party to cross
without question, thinking that the King was with
them. His Majesty, satisfied with the explanation,
directed that toll should be paid for forty of his
attendants. Driving over the bridge a few days
later George let down the carriage window, and
laughing heartily, cried out to the toll-keeper : " No
fear of the King of France coming to-day."

The King does not pay probate duty or death
duty on legacies that may fall to him, or property
which he may inherit. The will of Prince Albert,
who left considerable property, was never lodged
as the wills of all subjects must be lodged in
Somerset House. Whether her Majesty Queen
Victoria was within her rights in withholding the
will is a question upon which jurists are divided.



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. u

This leads to the consideration of the rights of the
Sovereign's Consort. Prince Albert was Queen
Victoria's husband, but he was also her subject.
Before their marriage her Majesty desired to have him
made King Consort. " For God's sake let's hear
no more of it, Ma'am," said Lord Melbourne, who
was Prime Minister at the time. " If you once
get the English people into the habit of making
kings you may get them into the habit of unmaking
them." Such was the hostility with which the
Prince, as a foreigner, was regarded that the House
of Lords, on the motion of no less a personage than
the Duke of Wellington, rejected a proposal, sub-
mitted to them before the marriage took place,
that his Royal Highness should rank in pre-
cedence next to the Queen ; but by a decree
of the Queen a remarkable illustration of the
power of the Prerogative this distinction was con-
ferred upon the Prince subsequently. It was not,
however, until 1857 four years before his death
that the title of "Prince Consort" was bestowed
on him by Royal Letters Patent, with the con-
currence of the leaders of both political Parties.
The Prince also enjoyed freedom from arrest, as
the Consort of the- Sovereign, but he could have
been sued in any Court of justice. At that time,
which, of course, was before the Married Women's
Property Act was passed, the property of a wife
was the property of her husband. From this law
the estate of the Queen was exempt. The Queen
Consort is also a subject of the King. The chief
privilege conferred on her by her position is freedom
from arrest.



12 PARLIAMENT.

None of the King's household or menial officers
or servants employed in waiting or attending on
the Royal presence can be arrested, or taken in
execution in civil actions, unless the permission of
the Board of Green Cloth, which regulates the
duties of Royal officials and servants, is first ob-
tained. This privilege was not instituted for the
personal benefit of these servants, but in order that
the Sovereign may not be put to inconvenience by
being deprived of the services of an attendant, and
also as a mark of respect to the Throne. There
is a case in which a warrant for the arrest of a
Royal servant who was also in trade, and con-
tracted in the course of his business a debt which
he declined to pay, was refused by a Court of law
on the ground that he was privileged from arrest.
Royal servants are also exempted from serving on
juries. Exemptions of a similar character apply to
the palaces. No arrest or anything in the nature
of a judicial process can be executed within a Royal
residence unless by consent of the Board of Green
Cloth. To strike a person in the King's palace, and
to draw blood, was formerly punishable by the loss of
the offender's right hand and imprisonment for life.

Another privilege of the King is that his consent
must be obtained before a member of the Royal
family can marry. Formerly it was high treason for
any man to contract marriage, without the approval
of the Sovereign, with the Sovereign's children, or
reputed children, his sisters, or aunts, or the children
of his brothers and sisters. Under the Royal Marriage
Act of 1772, passed in the time of George III., a
marriage with any of the King's near relations, unless



THE KING'S PREROGATIVES. 13

with his Majesty's consent and approbation, is null
and void. This statute was passed because of the
marriages of the Duke of Gloucester with the widow
of Lord Waldegrave, and the Duke of Cumberland
with the widow of Colonel Horton. Before that time,
however, it had been decided by the judges that the
King's sanction was necessary to a marriage with
one of the Blood Royal. In the year 1718, George I.
commanded the Lord Chancellor to obtain the judg-
ment of the judges of the High Court upon the
following question : " Whether the care and approba-
tion of his Majesty's grandchildren when grown up
did belong of right to his Majesty as King of the
Realm or not?" Six of the twelve judges answered
the question in the affirmative. Charles II. had
obliged his brother, the Duke of York (afterwards
James II.), to allow the young Princesses, his
daughters, to be brought up in the Protestant Faith ;
and arranged the marriage between the eldest,
Princess Mary, and the Prince of Orange. ''Happy
it was for two nations that the King in the marriages
of Mary, Queen to William III., and of Queen Anne
had his Prerogative," said Baron Aland Fortescue in
his judgment, "for had the pretended paternal right
prevailed the English nation had been for ever undone
and our religion destroyed ; and we had never seen
the many and great blessings we enjoy and are like
to enjoy by this family sitting on the Throne of Great
Britain."

But the matrimonial alliances of the children of the
Sovereign must now be approved by the Ministry.
In the matter of the disposal by Queen Victoria of the
hand of the Princess Louise on the Marquis of Lome



i 4 PARLIAMENT.

in 1871 the Administration of the time were consulted.
Gladstone, the Prime Minister, speaking in the House
of Commons on February 13, 1871, on the motion
that an annuity of 6,000 be settled on the Princess
for life, said: u In the resolution which the Queen
has taken that the absence of Royal rank shall not
of itself, and in every case, form an insuperable bar
to the suit for the hand of one of her daughters,
she is not acting without the advice of responsible



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