addressed the House, announcing his intention of retiring from the Chair, as followeth (all the Members being uncovered):—
I ask leave to intervene for a few moments before the regular business of the day is proceeded with, in order that I may make an announcement to the House—an announcement which I should have wished to make before, but in making which at this moment I hope I am, to the best of my power, consulting the convenience of the House. Considerations of health, which I cannot overlook, have obliged me to come to a 1127 decision—a decision at which I have arrived, I hope I need not assure the House, after deep deliberation and with the utmost reluctance. ["Hear, hear!"] Elected to this Chair more than 11 years ago, and thrice re-elected, I have passed through many Sessions. I desire unreservedly to say that I have received from all sides of the House a consideration, and a forbearance which have greatly mitigated the sense of responsibility, and greatly alleviated the mere physical labour of sitting in this Chair. I have passed through many Sessions, some of storm and stress, some others of comparative, but only of comparative, repose. But in all that time I desire to acknowledge most earnestly, and from the bottom of my heart, the way in which hon. Members on both sides and on all sides of the House have treated me. If during that time I have given offence to any one Member, or more Members, or to any section of the House, I hope that an Act of Oblivion may be passed. [Cheers.] If I have ever deviated from that calm which should characterise the utterances of the occupant of this Chair, I hope every single Member of the House will believe me when I say that I have never been consciously actuated by any personal or political feeling—[Loud cheers]—and that, in all I have done and said, I have, at least according to my poor judgment, tried to consult the advantage and the permanent interests of this Assembly. [Cheers.] Speaking as your representative, and speaking on my own behalf, I desire to thank all officers of this House—all those who are in any way concerned with enabling this great legislative machine to go on smoothly from day to day—for the assistance which I have received from them. I desire, inasmuch as I am more immediately brought into contact with them, to thank the Clerk of this House and the two Gentlemen who sit with him at the Table. [Cheers.] The House knows their services; but no one knows better than he who is now taking his leave of the House, and who has so often taken advantage of their counsel and advice—no one, I say, can have a deeper consciousness than I of their unostentatious labours. [Cheers.] I have said that I have passed through many Sessions; I have witnessed many 1128 changes, I have witnessed changes in the procedure of this House, and I would venture to say that although Standing Orders and Rules of this House, when they are enacted and are in force, ought to be observed both in the spirit and in the letter, yet that neither Rules, nor Orders, nor Standing Orders of this House are of permanent and lasting obligation. They must change as circumstances change. One thing I venture to think is absolutely essential, and that is that we should pay regard to those honourable traditions, and to that great code of law, unwritten though it be, which is of imperative and stringent obligation, if that continuity of sentiment is to be maintained to which all institutions owe so much, to which this House has at all times attached so much value, and to the observance of which it owes so many inestimable advantages. [Cheers.] Finally, let me say a few parting words in conclusion; and I wish to speak, not with the brief remnant of authority which is still left to me with the sands of my official life rapidly running out, I would rather speak as a Member of 30 years' experience in this House who speaks to his brother Members and comrades, if I may dare to use the term. [Cheers.] I would fain hope that, by the co-operation of all its Members, this House may continue to be a pattern and a model to foreign nations, and to those great peoples who have left our shores and have carried our blood, our race, our language, our institutions, and our habits of thought to the uttermost parts of the earth. I would fain indulge in the belief and the hope, and as I speak with the traditions of this House and its glorious memories crowding on my mind, that hope and that belief become stronger and more emphasised, though with both hope and belief I would couple an earnest but an humble prayer that this House may have centuries of honour, of dignity, and of usefulness before it; and that it may continue to hold, not a prominent only, but a first and foremost position among the Legislative Assemblies of the world. [Loud cheers.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
Mr. Speaker, the House has heard with 1129 deep and painful emotion the announcement you have found it your duty to make. ["Hear, hear."] The sentiment to which that announcement gives rise in the heart of every man—I say it, I am sure, with truth—wherever in this House he sits, is one of profound regret at the immeasurable loss which we are destined to sustain and of heartfelt gratitude to you, Sir, for the memorable services which you have rendered to this House and to your country. [Cheers.] This is not the occasion on which we are to give adequate utterance to those feelings; but I am sure I shall have the cordial support of the House when I give notice that to-morrow I shall move:—That the thanks of this House he given to Mr. Speaker for his distinguished services in the Chair for more than 11 years; that he has be assured that this House fully appreciates the zeal and ability with which he has discharged the duties of his high office through a period of unusual labour, difficulty, and anxiety, and the judgment and firmness with which he has maintained its privileges and dignity; and that this House feels the strongest sense of his unremitting attention to the constantly increasing business of Parliament, and the uniform urbanity and kindness which have earned for him the respect and esteem of this House.When that Motion has been carried, as it will be, I am sure, nemine contradicente, I shall also move:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty that she will be most graciously pleased to confer some signal mark of Her Royal favour upon the Right Hon. Arthur Wellesley Peel, Speaker of this House, for his eminent services during the important period in which he has with such distinguished ability and dignity presided in the Chair of this House, and assuring Her Majesty that whatever expense Her Majesty shall think fit to be incurred upon that account this House will make good the same."[Cheers.]
It will to-morrow be my melancholy privilege to second the Resolution of which the right hon. Gentleman, has just given notice. I will, therefore, do nothing more on the present occasion than express the profound grief, on personal as well as public grounds, with which I have listened to the announcement which you, Sir, have made from the Chair.