HC Deb 02 June 1817 vol 36 cc843-55

At four o'clock there was an unusually full attendance of members. The serjeant having brought the mace, and laid it under the table,

Lord Castlereagh

rose, and said he was commanded by his royal highness the Prince Regent to acquaint the House, that their late Speaker having communicated to his Royal Highness that he was compelled, from indisposition, to quit the chair; and his Royal Highness being anxious that no further delay should arise to the progress of public business, had signified his wish that they should immediately proceed to the election of a new Speaker. Then,

Sir John Nicholl

(addressing himself to the deputy clerk, who standing up, pointed to him, and then sat down) spoke as follows:

Mr. Dyson;—In rising to address the House, after having been indulged upon a similar occasion at the commencement of the present parliament, I feel great apprehension of incurring the charge of presumption; but I can assure the House, that it is with much reluctance I offer myself to its attention—a reluctance arising, partly from a fear of the imputation already alluded to, but still more from knowing that the task could hardly have devolved upon a person less capable of doing justice to the subject. I beg leave, at the same time, distinctly to declare, that my reluctance in no degree arises from any hesitation in respect to the fitness of the person whom I shall have the honour of proposing to fill the Chair of this House; for after endeavouring to divest myself of all feelings of private esteem and regard, (strong as I frankly avow these feelings to be) my opinion of his qualifications is fully confirmed. And I can with sincerity assure the House, that if a person better qualified had presented himself to my judgment, I should have held it due both to my own character and to the high respect I bear towards this House, to have withdrawn myself from the present undertaking.

The state of the parliament, now approaching the conclusion of its fifth session, renders it unnecessary to trespass long on the attention of the House. If we were at the commencement of a new parliament, when many members would probably be present for the first time, it might be expedient for the purpose of endeavouring to conduct the House to 3 proper choice to state in some detail the duties of this important station and the requisite qualities of a Speaker. But there can now be hardly a member present to whom such a statement is in any degree necessary. If it were, it might, perhaps, be better effected by a single sentence, than by the most laboured detail. It would require only to desire the House to recall to its recollection, what can never be effaced from its memory, those qualities which were concentrated and exemplified in our late, highly distinguished, and justly venerated Speaker. To lament his resignation and the cause of it, is not the business of the present moment. To do justice to his merits by any panegyric I could attempt to bestow upon them, would be as impossible as it is unnecessary. If his successor, whoever be may be, should be under some disadvantage in following so much excellence, he will at the same time while endeavouring to trace his steps, and to pursue his course, have the benefit of being conducted by the light of his example.

The business of the Chair, in modern times, from the number and nature of private bills, growing Out of the increased wealth and population of the country, has assumed a character, which is pretty generally admitted to render it expedient that we should select for our Speaker a person of professional education. In venturing to mention the name of my right hon. friend, Mr. Manners Sutton, as the person whom I intend to propose to the House, I shall not be departing from this course. He was educated to the bar, and practised for some time with considerable promise; but not so long as to have acquired habits, which are sometimes (perhaps justly) thought to be unfavourable to an enlightened, and extended view of constitutional and parliamentary laws, and of general policy. He has since filled an office peculiarly well adapted to prepare his habits, and his mind for the Chair of this House. An office requiring much industrious investigation of written documents, the weighing of evidence, and the forming of an opinion with judicial impartiality and precision. The highly satisfactory manner in which he has executed the office of judge-advocate-general is not wholly unknown to the House. We have occasionally had opportunities of witnessing with reference to military offences, and trials, the soundness of his judgment, as well as the candour and fairness with which that judgment has been formed. He has sat a considerable time in parliament, and although he has not usually taken a leading part upon matters of order, and the course of our proceedings, yet I have reason to believe, that he has not been an inattentive observer of those subjects; that the law of parliament, and the rights, privileges, and usages of this House, have been particular objects of his private study.

To advert to other qualities more obvious to common observation is hardly necessary, and might be improper; but if integrity of character, dignity of mind, suavity of temper, conciliatory manners, promptness of apprehension, clearness of expression, and impartiality of decision, be requisite to fill the Chair, I will venture to appeal to the observation of the members of this House, whether those requisites will be sought for in vain, in my right hon. friend.

It is unnecessary to disguise from the House, that a rumour prevails, or rather an understanding exists, that another gentleman is to be proposed to fill the Chair. For that gentleman I also entertain high esteem and respect. The House, I hope, will have done me the justice to observe, that I have carefully abstained from the odious task of making any comparison, or offering a single observation that could possibly be tortured into such an intention. We have doubtless amongst us more than one person competent to fill this high situation, arduous and important as its duties are. Each individual stands recommended to his friends by his own merits. The only difficulty which the House will have in its choice, I trust, will be "inter bonos optimum discernere." Without therefore wishing in the slightest degree to detract from the merits of any other gentleman who may be proposed, I have only to repeat with the greatest truth, and sincerity, that I can most conscientiously recommend to the adoption of the House the motion with which I shall now conclude,—I move, "That the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton do take the Chair of this House."

Mr. E. J. Littleton

rose and said:

Mr. Dyson;—In rising to second the motion of the Tight hon. gentleman, I must express what I sincerely feel—my inability to offer any thing to the House which can add force to his statement; and I can assure you, that no consideration would have induced me to undertake the task of following him, unless I had been encouraged to attempt it by a sincere and cordial agreement in the propriety of his recommendation. I feel, however, one motive of personal satisfaction in addressing the House on this occasion. I rejoice in the opportunity of adding my humble testimony to the merits of the Speaker, whose loss we are unanimous in lamenting. He has retired much too soon for the public good, and the advantage of this House, of which he has maintained the privileges and exalted the character; not, indeed, too soon for his own reputation; and I ardently hope he has not remained in his station too long for his own health, injured by the strict performance of its constant and arduous duties; or too long for the future exertion of his abilities in the civil service of the country. It is a custom founded in justice and good Feeling, which, at the election of a new Speaker, prescribes our commemoration of the good qualities of his predecessor. But in the present instance it possesses the more obvious advantage of utility; for I will venture to assert, that by a diligent and successful imitation of the industry, the firmness, and the temper of Mr. Abbot, every future Speaker of this House will be secure of receiving their good opinion and support.

In describing the qualities requisite for his successor, I have only to refer to his example. Let the House recollect the period during which he has filled the chair, with equal honour to himself and to this House—a period which will be most con- spicuous in the history of our country. The contests of party have never been more animated or more violent, yet his character for impartiality, the most essential requisite of his station, has not been sullied by the breath of suspicion. During the same period, the House has witnessed within these walls, on many trying occasions, the exertion of talents, to which it is not easy to discover a parallel in any former epoch of our history? yet they had always found our representative superior to the difficulties of the times; and in every emergency, when our character or our privileges have been at stake, his conduct has fully justified our confidence; and we have felt ourselves elevated in the public opinion, by his firmness, his dignity, and his integrity

This period has also been made illustrious by the exploits of naval and military success, which in every part of the globe have raised the name of England to an eminence of unexampled glory; and it is in this House, it is in the free suffrages, and gratuitous applause of their fellow citizens, that our victorious officers have received the best recompence of their bravery; and learnt to engraft on the love of military fame and distinction, respect and affection for the constitution of the country. I will appeal to them—and many are present to answer my appeal—whether they have not felt the value of this reward enhanced beyond measure by the manner in which it has always been bestowed; and whether the eloquence, the feelings and the discriminating praise, of the late Speaker, did not confer additional brilliancy on their services, exalting them in their own estimation, and animating them to renewed exertions in the cause of England and of Europe.

The ample and forcible manner in which the right hon. gentleman has stated the claims of Mr. Manners Sutton to fill the chair, has left no excuse for my detaining the House by a repetition of the statement. There is a stronger reason that restrains me from dwelling on the subject at so much length as I am desirous of doing. To the right hon. gentleman it may be said, "Presenti tibi matures largimur honores." His presence must check the effusion even of just and merited panegyric. To the integrity of his character or the reputation of his abilities, acquired within the walls of this House, it would be superfluous to add my feeble testimony; and in the able manner in which he has filled a high and arduous station in the law, conciliating the regard of those who have dissented from his public opinions, the House possesses the best assurance and pledge, that he will display in presiding over their deliberations, that union of firmness and temper, by which alone the order and dignity of their proceedings can be preserved.

Mr. Dickinson

said, he was desirous of occupying but a very short space of the attention of the House, while he recommended another hon. gentleman to the office of Speaker. He would propose for their choice, Mr. Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, a gentleman whose talents and qualifications peculiarly fitted him for the chair, and whose merits no one could deny. He would follow the example so properly set him by the honourable gentleman op-site, and would not enter into the comparative merits of the two hon. members. He proposed Mr. Wynn, not for any demerit in Mr. Manners Sutton, but from the peculiar merits of his hon. friend. In what had been said in praise of the former he cordially joined; but if that eulogium was deserved by him, in what respect was his honourable friend inferior or less deserving? Nay, he would even go farther, and say, that in some respects his claim was superior, as being founded in the experience of talents as displayed in the debates of the House, and his acknowledged acquaintance with its forms and history. In the knowledge of the orders of parliament, and in questions of division, that were particularly important from the state of partics, his hon. friend had displayed peculiar aptitude for the Chair. It was not many days ago that he had set the House right on a question of this kind, when even the late Speaker, eminently qualified as he was for all parts of his duty, had acted on his suggestion, and bowed to his superior knowledge. It was this intimate acquaintance with the forms and precedents of parliament, and tin's promptitude in applying them to regulate its proceedings, that constituted the best qualification for the Chair; and for those qualities his hon. friend was eminently distinguished. This praise did not depend upon report—it did not spring from the partiality of friends—the House had been a witness of the fact. His hon. friend might say, like a great ancient to another assembly, and in another competition:—"Nec memoranda vobis mea facta, Pelasgi, esse reor; vidistis enim." We lived in times of great diffi- culty, when the dangers of the country were probably greater than at any former period: we lived likewise in times when parties ran high—when they were numerous and subdivided. The safety of the country depended on the wisdom and deliberations of that House, and the dignity and impartiality with which its proceedings were conducted. What, then, could be of greater importance than to place in the Chair a man whose superior knowledge might be relied on in cases of difficulty, and to whose ascendancy in this respect all parties would bow? It was not unworthy of attention, too, in times when popular elections were so much talked of, that he was so acceptable out of doors as to be sent into the House by a large and respectable county without opposition.—In addition to this, he would recommend his hon. friend from long and intimate habits of friendship. It might be asked, what this had to do with his qualifications to the Chair? He would answer that it had much. The qualifications for such a high and distinguished situation must be laid in private worth, integrity, and honour, as well as in public talents and parliamentary service; and he was enabled, from the intimacy to which he alluded, to say of his hon. friend, that, in every sense of the term, and in the broadest acceptation in which it could be used, he was a high-bred English gentleman. [Hear, hear! from all parts of the House.] Both private and public character were necessary for a Speaker; without personal dignity, some of the duties imposed upon him could not be performed. How could he assert the privileges of the Commons in his intercourse with the other House? How could he demand freedom of speech from the Crown, and lay claim to respect in all cases where the House required the maintenance of its dignity, without personal respectability? Knowing that his. hon. friend possessed this, and every other qualification for the Chair, he would conclude by proposing Mr. Charles Watkin Williams Wynn to be their Speaker; and was confident that if he met with the choice of the House, he would retire from; the high office with that unanimous praise which had been bestowed upon his predecessor [Hear, hear!].

Sir M. W. Ridley

seconded the motion. He would riot enter into any consideration of the merits of Mr. Manners Sutton, but would press the peculiar fitness of his hon. and learned friend, Mr. Wynn, to fill the chair. In times like the present, it was necessary to place in the presidency of the House a person whose knowledge of parliamentary forms was universally acknowledged, and whose firmness, impartiality, and temper, would confer dignity on its proceedings, and preserve regularity in its discussions. He called upon all the members of the House to discharge from their minds, as he had himself done, all political prejudices and party partialities. He supported his hon. friend, from no political feeling whatever. He had lately differed with him on a very important question—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act; but claiming for himself a conscientious regard to the dictates of his own mind, and the decisions of his own judgment, he could not refuse the same privilege to others; and, therefore, believing that his hon. friend had shown as much integrity in the vote which he had given as that to which he himself had come, he did not allow this political difference for a moment to interrupt their mutual confidence, or to reduce the respect he entertained for his character. Neither did he now support his hon. friend from a regard to the intimacy that subsisted between them, though he could say, from a long acquaintance with him, began at school, and extending through their subsequent life in various situations, that he had found him as estimable in private intercourse, and as much beloved by his private friends, as he was serviceable to the public, and honourable in his public capacity: but this Union of private and public virtue, joined to his great knowledge of parliamentary history and proceedings, peculiarly fitted him for the Chair; and he was convinced that the House would, by his election, suffer as little as possible from the lamented loss of their late Speaker.

Mr. Manners Sutton

rose and said:

Mr. Dyson;—I must in the first place be permitted to express the gratitude and pride I feel at what has been said of me both by my right hon. and learned friend, who has proposed my name to the consideration of the House, and by the hon. gentleman who has seconded that nomination,—but when I make these heartfelt acknowledgments to them, I must at the same time state my consciousness, that much, very much of what has fallen from them I owe rather to their favour and partiality than to any deserts or merits of my own.

Sir, it would be absurd,—it would be worse than absurd,—it would be the height of insincerity, to pretend to deny that the Chair of this House, the proudest station any of its members can occupy, is the first object of my ambition,—but when I avow that it is my object I must honestly confess my pretensions to it are not what I wish they were. Sir, I am no very young member of this House—I am well aware of the many difficulties that surround that situation—I am well aware of the various qualifications necessary to enable any man adequately to fill it, and in many of which I know myself inferior to the hon. gentleman who has also been proposed to the consideration of the louse—and I am no less aware of the very formidable difficulty that at this moment presents itself, of being the immediate successor of the noble lord, who, to the great loss and unfeigned regret of this House, has been compelled, by personal indisposition, to retire from its service.

When I contemplate these difficulties, I am conscious there is no man who ought to feel them more heavily than myself—All, then, that I can say is, that if it should be the pleasure of the House to place me in that high situation, they shall find me devoted to their service; there shall be no exertion wanting on my part to discharge the duties zealously, anxiously, with the utmost assiduity, and the strictest fidelity,—the best return I can make,—the best return the House can receive, for their favour and confidence.

If, Sir, the choice of the House shall fall on any one else, I can most honestly assert, that I am not so blinded either by self interest, or self confidence, or the feelings of ambition, as to hesitate for a moment in believing that the House may, and I doubt, not would, select some other member better qualified than myself.

Sir, I shall trouble you no further than to add, that I submit myself entirely to the pleasure of the House [Loud cries of Hear, hear!].

Mr. C. W. W. Wynn

rose and said:

Mr. Dyson;—The partiality and friendship which my two honourable friends have so long entertained for me, have led them to express themselves concerning me in a manner which adds not a little to the difficulty which such a proposition as that which they have submitted to the House must naturally place me in. In fact, it is hardly possible for me to declare the gratitude which I feel to them without convincing the House (if further proof were necessary), how much their kindness has overrated any merit of mine, and how little worthy I am of the honour which they propose to confer upon me.

In all which has been said of the great importance to the honour of this House, and to the interests of the kingdom at large, that the distinguished situation now vacant should be ably and adequately filled, I most fully concur, and I must add, that the weight of responsibility must be materially increased to the person whom it may be the pleasure of the House to place in the chair, by the recollection of the unusual ability with which its duties have been discharged during the last fifteen years by our late excellent Speaker.

To have been considered by such men as my two hon. friends capable of supporting that office, and to have received the flattering testimony of the two other gentlemen who have alluded to me from the other side of the House, is in itself an honour upon which I shall always reflect with pride and satisfaction, and what has passed this day will supply me with a recollection which will overpay any exertions of my parliamentary life.

The only qualification which I could flatter myself I possessed to justify such an honour, would be an anxious zeal for the maintenance of those privileges which the constitution has attached to this House—privileges which our forefathers have handed down to us, and which we are bound to preserve, not for the sake of ourselves, but for that of our constituents, of all the Commons of England. In the support of these privileges, I am convinced that the interests of the Crown and the liberties of the people are equally concerned. To contribute to their defence, from whatever quarter they have been attacked, has therefore been among my first objects in this House, and in this course I shall persist while I have the honour to remain a member.

I shall with pleasure give my support to the proposal of placing my right hon. friend in the chair, since the talent and assiduity with which he has discharged the important office which he has held for several years, afford the fairest promise that the same industry will be applied to the business of this House. In this I am the more confirmed by the knowledge which I have acquired of his private virtues from the habits of our former intimacy. I know the amenity and suavity of his manners, which temper the firmness and integrity of his character, and which will enable him to preside over us with credit to himself and advantage to the nation [Loud cries of Hear, hear! from both sides of the House].

Sir Charles Burrell

said, that there could exist but one opinion respecting the merits and talents of the worthy and amiable individual, who with so much credit to himself, and honour to the House, had filled for fifteen years the arduous and difficult office of Speaker. For the right hon. gentleman who was nominated to the chair e had the warmest esteem and regard. Yet he was bound to say, that the vote he should this evening give, would be in favour of his hon. friend (Mr. Wynn), because, from early habits of friendship, and the most intimate knowledge, he was persuaded there was not an individual better qualified to preside in that House. In private life he was distinguished by the greatest beneficence and attention to the wants of individuals. His manners were equally amiable, and surely that House required not to be told of the diligence and attention he had uniformly exhibited in every department of public duty. He had attentively considered the merits of his hon. friend, and he was convinced there was no man better qualified to fill the chair, and that no man could or would discharge its duties more impartially. On these grounds he should certainly give his vote in favour of his hon. friend.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

was persuaded that no man could be better qualified than his hon. friend (Mr. Wynn), to fill the chair, and it was impossible for him to forget the zeal which that worthy individual had shown since he had been a member of the House. He was actuated by no personal feelings, but he should certainly feel it is indispensable duty to give his vote in favour of the appointment of his hon. friend.

Mr. Wilberforce

said, that the office of Speaker required qualifications of the highest order, and that the various occasions on which questions of property came before him, and were in a great measure dependent on his judgment and integrity, made it essential that his character should be of that eminent class, that the individuals interested, and the country at large, should rest satisfied with his decisions. He felt the question now before the House to be one of some difficulty. It was impossible for any man not to acknowledge the high ability and private worth of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Manners Sut- ton); and, indeed, his manner that day was sufficient to give a high opinion both of his understanding and his heart. At the same time it was impossible not to have observed the zeal and knowledge displayed by the hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Wynn) on all questions of order and privilege. It was impossible for any man in that House not to allow that his ability and learning, and the peculiar success with which on many, occasions both had been applied, justly qualified him for that high situation to which his friends proposed to raise him. The office of Speaker was one that, from its peculiar line of service, required peculiar studies: much reading, much knowledge of the law, and of historical customs, was necessary. There was something very laborious and even distasteful to many minds in this species of application, and it was therefore requisite that some compensation should be given to one who had evidently paid so much attention to these subjects [Hear, hear!]. It was important also, that the hon. and learned gentleman had shown that he could, on questions of great moment, break though the trammels of party, as he had done on a late interesting occasion, when he had boldly and manfully avowed, that even the liberties of the people might sometimes be best secured by partial restraint. Such impartiality peculiarly fitted him for a situation for which independence of mind was one of the most essential qualifications. Under these impressions, while he felt the highest esteem for the character of his right hon. friend opposite, he must, though with some pain, give his assent to the nomination of the hon. and learned gentleman [Cries of Hear, hear!].

The House divided on the question, "that the right hon. Manners Sutton do take the Chair of this House." The Tellers were appointed by the Deputy Clerk, viz:—

For the Ayes, Mr. Littleton 312
For the Noes, sir M. W. Ridley 150
So it was resolved in the affirmative. Mr. Manners Sutton was then, in the usual form, conducted to the Chair, by the mover and the seconder. On taking the Chair, he expressed in a very feeling and eloquent manner, his deep sense of the high honour which the House had been kind enough to confer on him. He lamented the inadequacy of his talents to succeed so enlightened and admirable a character as their late Speaker; but trusted the House would give him credit for his anxiety, zeal, and attention to every duty he should be called upon to perform. He hoped no individual could be more zealous than he was to discharge his duties to the House and the public; and he implored their candour, should he in any respect he found deficient. [Here the feelings of the right hon. gentleman prevented his proceeding further.]

Lord Castlereagh

said, that after the very proper choice which the House had just made, it would ill become him to detain them much longer. He congratulated the House and the right hon. gentleman, and trusted that he would long be spared to discharge the duties of that office, to which he had been so honourably raised; and he expressed the firmest confidence, that he should receive the warmest support of the House. Entertaining these views, he felt it unnecessary to add more than merely to express his heartfelt wishes for the success of the right hon. gentleman, and should conclude by moving that the House do now adjourn.—Agreed to.

List of the Minority.
Abercrombie, hon. J. Dundas, Charles
Abercrombie, Robt. Dundas, hon. L.
Aubrey, sir John. Davenport, Davies
Acland, sir Thos. Dickinson, Wm.
Althorp, viscount Duncannon, visc.
Atherley, A. Douglas, hon. F. S.
Barnett, J. Dashwood, sir H. W.
Baillie, J. E. Elliot, right hon. W.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Ebrington, visc.
Birch, J. Frankland, R.
Blackburne, J. Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M.
Browne, D. Fremantle, Wm.
Brand, hon. T. Fazakerley, N.
Barham, F. Fitzroy, lord John
Burroughs, sir W. Fellowes, hon. N.
Burrell, hon. P. Fitzgerald, lord W.
Burrell, sir C. Foley, hon. A.
Burrell, Walter Grenville rt. hon. T.
Byng, George Grenfell, Pascoe
Broderick, Wm. Grosvenor, T.
Brougham, H. Guise, sir Wm.
Calcraft, J. Gaskell, Benj.
Calvert, N. Hamilton, lord A.
Caulfield, H. Howard, M. H.
Campbell, hon. J. Hanbury, Wm.
Campbell, lord J. E. Howard, hon. W.
Campbell, gen. D. Hornby, Edw.
Cavendish, lord G. Hughes, W. L.
Cavendish, hon. C. Hill, lord A.
Cavendish, C. C. Howorth, H.
Cotes, J. Jones, J.
Coke, T. W. King, sir J. D.
Curwen, J. C. Kirkwall, visct.
Carter, John Knox, J.
Cocks, hon. J. S. Lamb, hon. W.
Cocks, J. Lefevre, Shaw
Lewis, Frankland Pollington, visct.
Lloyd, J. M. Proby, hon. G.
Lyttelton, hon. W. Protheroe, Edw.
Lyster, R. Pym, Francis
Latouche, Robt. Powell, W. E.
Latouche, R. jun. Raine, Jonathan
Leigh, J. H. Russell, lord Wm.
Markham, admiral Russell, lord G. W.
Martin, J. Romilly, sir S.
Marsh, C. Russell, Greenhill.
Martin, H. Ramsden, J.
Mathew, Montague Riddell, sir J. B.
Milton, Visc. Rowley, sir W.
Moore, P. Savile, A.
Mostyn, sir T. Sharp, R.
Moreland, S. B. Smith, W.
Marjoribanks, sir J. Smith, S.
Morpeth, visc. Smith, J.
Monck, sir Charles Sutton, C. M.
Madocks, W. A. Shelley, sir J.
Macdonald, James Scudamore, C.
Mackintosh, sir J. Symonds, T. P.
Neville, hon. R. Spencer, lord R.
Newport, sir J. Tavistock, marquis, of
North, D. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Northey, W. Tremayne, J. H.
Nugent, lord Townsend, lord C.
Ossulston, viscount Tudway, Clement
Orde, Wm. Teed, John
Onslow, Mr. Serjeant Vyse, W. H.
Owen, sir J. Vaughan, sir R. W.
Osbaldeston, W. Warre, J. A.
Panell, sir H. Williams, O.
Pelharn, hon. G, Williams, sir R.
Piggott, sir A. Wrottesley, H.
Philips, Geo. Wynn, sir W. W.
Ponsonby, rt. hon. G. Wharton, R
Ponsonby, hon. F. Wilberforce W.
Phillimore, Dr. Webb, Edw.
Palmer, col. TELLER.
Plummer, W. Ridley, sir M. W.
Preston, R.