HC Deb 30 July 1832 vol 14 cc931-40
The Speaker

addressed the House in nearly the following terms:—As the state of the public business indicates, at the present moment, the near approach of the close of the Session, and as I know not how close on the termination of this Session there may be a dissolution of Parliament, I hope the House will not deem me unreasonable in requesting to be allowed to present myself to their notice before my seat in this Chair shall be brought to a final conclusion. I have had the honour and the pride to be elected to fill this Chair in six successive Parliaments. I have at all times been impressed with the conviction, that the first and most important duties of the Speaker, were to maintain the strictest watchfulness over his own conduct, and to keep alive the watchfulness of this House in the maintenance of all their rights, privileges, and independence; to facilitate, as far as was within his power, the regular course of all public business; and to conduct himself to the House at large, and to every individual Member of it, with the strictest impartiality. I can most conscientiously, and I hope it will not be attributed to me that I speak arrogantly, when I boldly say that I have served this office with the strictest impartiality. I have not the temerity to place myself in contrast or comparison with any of my predecessors; but among the various duties that have been, by circumstances, imposed upon me, always laborious, often difficult and delicate, I have been cheered and upheld by the best encouragement and support—by the constant co-operation, the confidence, and the approbation of the House. I therefore hope that in my conduct in this Chair I have not been wholly inefficient; for, however various have been the changes during these successive Parliaments in the returns of Members of this House, I at least have seen no change in the kindness, the consideration, and the assistance, that all the Members have willingly afforded me; that kindness has been uniform and unvaried. I ought, after this announcement, no longer to trespass on your time; but, conscious as I am, and as every man must be, of the great variety of imperfections under which I labour, there is one to which I particularly wish to refer, and if at any time through infirmity of temper, or pressure of indisposition, there has been any inattentiveness or hastiness on my part, it must be attributed to these causes; incivility, I hope, there has never been. To any Member of this House to whom I may have appeared inattentive or hasty, I beg to express my most sincere and hearty regret. It is not, I hope, consistent with the general turn of my nature. I know it is inconsistent with the discharge of my duty. Before I go, the House, I hope, will pardon me for taking this opportunity of saying, that in my endeavours to discharge my duty, I am conscious that I must have committed many faults. The House, I am persuaded, will pardon them; and suffer me to say in one sentence, which proceeds from the fulness of my heart, that I owe them a debt of gratitude which it is impossible to describe, which any power of language, at least any that I possess, must inadequately express, but of which the deep and lasting recollection neither time nor circumstances can ever efface. [The right hon. Gentleman, who spoke throughout with very observable emotion, sat down amidst the loud and continued cheering of the House.]

Lord Althorp

said, what I have just heard from you, Sir, I have heard with deep regret, because it announces to us the loss of your most valuable services; and I am sure I speak the sentiments of every Gentleman in this House, in saying, that in every respect those services have been most valuable to this House and the country. I have had the honour of a seat in this House during the whole of the period that you have sat in that Chair, I was present at the period of your election, and I hope I may be permitted to say that, although on that occasion I did not agree with the majority, yet, that subsequent experience proved to me, that which I am happy now to have the opportunity of stating publicly, as I have often before stated it in private, that the House could not at that period have selected any individual better qualified than yourself to sustain your high station. That station is one of great difficulty; you have to maintain the order of this House; but your peculiar felicity in the discharge of that difficult duty has been to exhibit the greatest urbanity of manner, the greatest kindness towards every Member of this House; and I am sure that every Member will agree with me in saying, that by the exhibition of those qualities you have greatly facilitated the discharge of your duty, and have entitled yourself to the gratitude of us all. You have, during the course of the period you have sat in that Chair, been called on for a degree of exertion which I believe has never before been required from any Speaker. Although others have sat as Speakers for a longer period, no one has had such laborious duties to perform, and I am perfectly confident that no one ever performed those duties in a manner more satisfactory. I have personally felt the great kindness which you have always been ready to show. You have assisted us when we have been in difficulties. Instead of standing strictly upon forms, you have gone out of your way to assist us in the conduct of business, and I am perfectly satisfied, from long experience in this House, that you have facilitated the despatch of public business with the greatest credit to yourself, with advantage to the public, and in such a manner that we are never likely to see exceeded, if we see it equalled. The feeling of regret which I have expressed is, I assure you, Sir, the sincere feeling of my heart. I am most sorry that we should lose the advantage of your services. I should have been most happy that you should have taken the Chair in the new Parliament; for your experience would have conduced greatly to the advantage of the public. We cannot, however, call on you to make greater sacrifices than you have already made; and the only thing we can do is, to regret the loss of your services, and to hope that your place may be supplied by one who will endeavour to follow your example. I now address myself to the House: I am confident that there will be no dissentient voice on the Motion which I am about to submit to the House. The feelings of every one must lead him to wish that we should pass a Vote of Thanks to the Speaker; and it will therefore not be necessary that I should urge any arguments in favour of my Motion. I shall conclude by moving, "That the thanks of this House be given to the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton, Speaker of this House, for his eminent services in the six Parliaments, during which he has discharged the duties of Speaker with a zeal and ability alike honourable to himself and conducive to the progress of public business; that he be assured that this House feel the strongest sense of the advantage which it has derived from his attachment to the interests of his country, from his unwearied assiduity during a period of unexampled labour in this House, from the steadiness and firmness with which he has on all occasions maintained the dignity and privileges of the Commons House of Parliament, from the attention which he has paid to the order of our proceedings, and from the urbanity and kindness which he has uniformly displayed in the discharge of his high and important duties."

Mr. Goulburn

said, he trusted he might be permitted to have the honour of seconding this Motion. He (Mr. Goulburn), like the noble Lord, had been one of those who was present at the right hon. Gentleman's election, and, like him, he could bear the strongest testimony to the unvarying propriety of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in the Chair. He stood, in one respect, in a peculiar situation towards the right hon. Gentleman. He had the benefit of his early acquaintance, and on the occasion of his being elected Chairman of that House, he was convinced that, in supporting his nomination, those advantages would arise from it that had been enumerated by the noble Lord. He could well remember, that although there had been two candidates for the office, there was not, he believed, one dissentient voice as to the qualification of the individual elected, however there might have been, with some, a preference of one candidate to the other. At that time none expressed a doubt as to the propriety of the choice made by the House, except the right hon. Gentleman himself. There was no task more difficult than to state particular grounds of approbation where all had proved so satisfactory. He should not, therefore, enter into a detail of the manner in which the duties of the Chair had been discharged. All must be aware of that urbanity which had been uniformly displayed towards every Member of the House, and by which their dignity had teen maintained on occasions of the most trying nature. He had not the least doubt that hereafter, when any individual reviewed the last fifteen years of the proceedings of Parliament—if he looked upon them as an impartial historian—he doubted not that he would record them as forming a period of our history, when the rights of the House of Commons were best upheld with the least pretensions. The right hon. Gentleman was not only entitled to official consideration, but every Member of that House was bound to him by the ties of affection. He would not detain the House further than by adding the expression of his regret—a regret which must be common to all who heard him—that the period had now arrived when they must of necessity be deprived of services so valuable. He must be permitted to say, that whether it pleased the right hon. Gentleman to retire into the walks of private life, or to continue to take an interest, or a part, in the great concerns of the nation, whichever of these alternatives he might adopt, that House and the country would retain a grateful recollection of his services, which throughout the empire, had awakened one concurrent voice of approbation.

Mr. Littleton

I cannot let this subject pass without bearing my testimony to the preeminent services which you. Sir, have rendered to the House and to the country by your superintendence of the parliamentary business. The 800, or, perhaps, the 1,000 Gentlemen who have formed the House during the fifteen years you have filled that Chair, will bear testimony to the qualities by which you have never failed to adorn the station you have occupied. I should feel extremely sorry if I allowed this opportunity to pass without observing upon one point, with which, in my capacity of a county Member, I am, perhaps, more conversant than many other Members who have seats in the House. I allude, Sir, to the constant and vigilant attendance which you have so beneficially given to the purification of the proceedings which relate to private bills, as well as to your excessive kindness and urbanity towards all Members who have been under the necessity of seeking your advice on such occasions. I feel, and I am sure very many who now hear me must also feel, that we have often trespassed too largely upon those moments when you had retired from the arduous duties of that Chair, and when you had every claim to remain undisturbed and uninterrupted in the relaxation essential to your health. I cannot, however, resist my sense of duty in reciting this one essential fact, that, in the first Session of Parliament in which you filled that Chair, one bill in five was found in some respect, to be informal, and contrary to the Standing Orders of the House; whilst, in this last Session, owing, Sir, to the proceedings which you have established, the proportion has been only one defective bill in seventeen. The public have gained greatly by these arrangements, as well as by your general vigilance. It would be in bad taste, and, perhaps, unpleasant to you, Sir, were I to think it necessary to detail elaborately the value of your services—services which have spoken for themselves so eloquently, and with such powerful results. Although I will abstain from this, I yet could not, without injustice to my own feelings, and a violation of what I consider my public duty, but advert to these facts, especially in relation to my having seconded the Motion that you should take the Chair in the year 1817. I am sure, Sir, that in the observations which I have made I have only spoken the sentiments of the class of Members to which I belong.

Sir Francis Burdett

I should not feel satisfied with myself, Sir, if I were to sit still without stating the result of my experience of your conduct in that Chair. In one point only do I differ from the noble Lord who has made this Motion. Like him, I am satisfied that the House could not have elected any one better qualified to fill your high office than yourself; but, unlike him, I thought so at the time of your election; and I had the good fortune—not being swayed, as I hope I never was nor ever shall be under such circumstances by feelings of a political cast—I did then, and I say now with pride that I did it—I did myself the honour of voting for your appointment to the Chair. I repeat, that I am proud and honoured by having given that vote. Your ability all are ready to acknowledge; but if there is any one thing which more than another gives a greater dignity to your office it is not merely your ability or your independence, but under every circumstance of difficulty, your gentlemanly deportment. I will not say, that the persons who come after you will not be able to equal you in this merit; but this I will say, with the utmost confidence, that it is quite impossible any person should ever be your superior. And this will be, in my opinion, the great difficulty we shall feel in finding a fit successor. The labours you have undergone are such as were never surpassed, and, I believe, never equalled by any former Speaker; and, excepting one day, on one melancholy occasion, you have never been absent from the discharge of your duty. Most heartily and cordially do I agree with the Motion of the noble Lord.

Sir George Murray

I most cordially concur with the Motion of the noble Lord, and beg to take this opportunity of expressing my conviction of the excellent manner in which the business of this House has been conducted while under your management. I regret most deeply that the business of the new Parliament is not to commence under your guidance. We are about to try a great experiment; and I hope every one will give me credit for sincerity when I say that I am most anxious that that experiment should be successful. I am anxious that the House should enter on that experiment with every possible advantage, and there is no advantage more important than that the Chair of this House should be filled by a Speaker possessing extensive knowledge of the laws and usages of Parliament, and be qualified by those endowments which have so eminently distinguished you, and especially by that gentlemanly deportment to which the hon. Baronet has alluded.

Lord John Russell

I cannot let this opportunity pass without saying, that I fully agree with all that has been said as to the assistance that the House and the public have derived from the admirable performance of your duty. If there was any difference of opinion as to what candidate should be elected at the time when you were first appointed to the Chair, there never since has been any but one unanimous feeling that in re-electing you they have best secured the performance of the duties of Speaker and the preservation of the privileges of this House. You have been pleased to say that, in the discharge of your duties, you have received the assistance of this House; if so, then am I sure that that assistance has been willingly and universally rendered, on account of that gentlemanly deportment which made every man feel that, in transgressing against the orders of this House, he not only violated a public duty, but would have something to reproach himself with as a private man, in resisting those orders, when enforced on his attention in such a conciliatory manner. Other men may be found with the same knowledge of the laws and usages of Parliament, but it will be difficult enough in practice to find the same urbanity and kindness of demeanour which have so attached us all to you. You have declined a comparison with your predecessors. On that subject, therefore, I will say nothing. But I will say of those who succeed you, that if they wish to join authority to conciliation and a knowledge of the laws of Parliament, which I believe are the best that could be formed for the government of a deliberative assembly—if they wish to learn the art that shall make the execution of their duties pleasant and easy, I hope they will look upon you; and that those who were with you when you presided in this House will try to make up the loss we are about to sustain, by endeavouring as much as possible to imitate your conduct.

Sir Charles Wetherell

I must be allowed to express my concurrence with what has already been said on the subject of this Motion. That you deserve the expressions of approbation you have received is manifest from this, that the sentiments expressed on both sides of the House are similar in terms, and in spirit are the same. The hon. Baronet opposite has felicitously observed on that gentlemanly deportment which has distinguished you in presiding over the first assembly of freemen in Europe—and I may add, the first assembly of Gentlemen in Europe. In that you have but fulfilled what we might expect from you. As the Speaker of this House is the first Commoner, so ought he to be the first Gentleman in the country. You have exhibited the real perfection of a Magistrate; for your decisions, even when against any individual, have been given in such a manner, that that individual himself has been satisfied with that decision. I have felt the greatest gratification in hearing the expression of the sentiments of others; but that gratification has not been unmixed with sensations of pain at your retirement.

Motion carried unanimously.

The Speaker

It is with the utmost gratitude and respect, that I thank the House, for the vote which they have just agreed to; and I can assure the House, with the utmost sincerity, that long as I have been in public life, and frequently as it has been my duty to address myself to this House, I never, on any occasion, felt so incompetent to give utterance to my feelings as at present. After the honour which the House have been pleased to confer on me, it would be hypocrisy in me to disclaim all merit whatever. My merit has been, an anxious and steady desire to persevere in the discharge of my duty; and from the House have emanated the power, the force, and strength, that have enabled me to carry that wish into effect. I have now to acknowledge that most distinguished honour which a public man can receive—the public approbation of my services given by those who have had the best opportunity of knowing how those services have been performed. I do acknowledge that honour with the most heartfelt gratitude.

Lord Althorp

then moved—"That the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Speaker for what he has now said to the House, and that the same be printed in the votes of this day, and entered on the Journals of this House."

Agreed to unanimously.

Lord Althorp

I now rise for a purpose in which I am sure every Gentleman who hears me will concur with me. We have expressed the sense we entertain of the manner in which you have performed your duty; but it becomes our duty to carry the expression of our opinion further—it becomes us to carry to our Sovereign our sense of the mode in which you have performed your duty, and humbly to crave him to enable us to show our approbation of your conduct, and to offer you some permanent expression of it. I move—"That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to confer some signal mark of his Royal Favour upon the right hon. Charles Manners Sutton for his eminent services in the six Parliaments, during which he has discharged the duties of Speaker of this House with a zeal and ability alike honourable to himself, and conducive to the progress of public business, to commence and take effect immediately upon his ceasing to hold the office of Speaker of this House; and to assure his Majesty, that this House will make good whatever expense his Majesty may think proper to be incurred on that account."

Motion unanimously agreed to.