HL Deb 22 April 1831 vol 3 cc1805-11

His Majesty went in state, this day, to prorogue the two Houses of Parliament.

Their Lordships began to assemble at two o'clock. The number of Peers in attendance was very great.

The Lord Chancellor, at twenty minutes before three o'clock, took his seat.

The Duke of Gordon

presented a Petition from the Royal Borough of Forres, against Reform.

The Lord Chancellor

immediately left the Woolsack, and withdrew from the House, for the purpose, it was presumed, of receiving his Majesty.

On the Motion of the Earl of Mans- field, the Earl of Shaftesbury was immediately called to the Chair.

On his taking the Chair,

Lord Wharncliffe

rose and said, he believed there was no doubt as to the purpose for which their Lordships—

The Duke of Richmond

rose to order, and said, that he should move that the Standing Order of the House be read, that noble Lords should be seated in their proper places [cries of "hear, hear!" and "order, order!"]; for he observed a noble Duke sitting next to one of the junior Barons. [The Duke of Wellington and Lord Lyndhurst were, it is supposed, alluded to.]

The Marquis of Londonderry

rose to order.

The Marquis of Clanricarde

also rose to order at the same time.

Lord Lyndhurst

also rose, but the noise in the House was so great, that it was almost impossible to ascertain what the noble Lord said. He was understood to object to the conduct of the Duke of Richmond. There was nothing in their Lordships' proceedings so disorderly as the conduct of the noble Duke, and the course he had adopted was uncalled for.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that if such language was made use of in that House, he should also move that the Standing Order be read, that no offensive language should be used by noble Lords in that House; [great confusion, amidst which the Marquis of Londonderry's voice was distinctly heard, calling out that he rose to order].

The Marquis of Londonderry

would be glad to know from the noble Duke opposite, what offensive language had been made use of by the noble Chief Baron?

The Marquis of Clanricarde

said, that the noble Duke under him had not said the noble Chief Baron had used offensive language. He said, that it would be proper to move the Standing Order that no such language be used.

The Marquis of Londonderry

observed, that if the noble Duke thought he was to be the only hero in this coup d'état, he would find himself very much mistaken, If the noble Duke wished to prevent their Lordships from speaking, or to deprive them of their rights, he would find himself mistaken. He pitied the man who could have recourse to such shifts [loud cries of "Order of the Day!" Lord Wharncliffe standing on the floor].

Something like silence having at length been obtained,

Lord Wharncliffe

said, he was in his situation as a Peer of that House, and he should take the liberty of demanding to be heard. He had given notice of a Motion which he would not then preface with any observations, but which he would, according to the notice, take leave to read, as he was most anxious that his Motion should be entered on their Lordships' Journals. The noble Lord accordingly read the following Motion, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, humbly to represent to his Majesty, that we, his Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, think ourselves bound in duty humbly to represent to his Majesty, that alarming reports of an intended Dissolution of Parliament have gone forth; that, dutifully acknowledging the wisdom of the Constitution in trusting to the Crown that just and legal prerogative, and fully confiding in his Majesty's royal wisdom and paternal care of his people, for the most beneficial exercise of it, we desire, with great humility, to represent to his Majesty, that it appears to us, that a Prorogation, or Dissolution of Parliament at the present juncture, and under the present excitement of the public mind, both in Great Britain and Ireland, is likely to be attended with great danger to his Majesty's Crown and dignity, and to every institution of the State, by preventing that calm and deliberate consideration of any question tending to the Reform of the Representation of the people, which the importance of that subject so especially requires."

The Lord Chancellor

at this moment entered the House, and immediately addressing it, said, with great emphasis— "I never yet heard that the Crown ought not to dissolve Parliament whenever it thought fit, particularly at a moment when the House of Commons had thought fit to take the extreme and unprecedented step of refusing the Supplies" [loud cries of "hear, hear!" and also, at the same time, cries of "the King, the King!" and altogether immense confusion. The Lord Chancellor immediately again left the House to receive his Majesty.]

The Marquis of Londonderry

called loudly again, and his calls were accompanied by those of others, for the Earl of Shaftesbury to take the Chair.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

resumed the Woolsack amidst cries of "order, order! chair, chair! Order of the Day, Order of the Day! shame, shame, shame! the King, the King!" It is impossible to describe the confusion, the noise, and impetuosity that prevailed from one end of the House to the other. The Peeresses present seemed alarmed. Some of the Peers were, as it appeared in the confusion, almost scuffling, and as if shaking their hands at each other in anger. At last,

The Earl of Mansfield

obtained a hearing, and said, that he never, in the whole course of his life, had witnessed such a scene, and he trusted he never should see the like again. He had heard with astonishment, from the noble and learned Lord, lately on the Woolsack, that it was incumbent on the King to dissolve Parliament when the House of Commons had taken the extreme and unprecedented step of refusing supplies. He desired to use no intemperate expression; but as far as God had given him, perhaps, an imperfect share of understanding, he felt that the King and the country were now about to be placed in a most awful predicament, such as they never had been in before. He would not accuse his Majesty's Ministers with anything like a want of charity, but he did accuse them of weakness, and of conspiring together against the safety of the State, and of making the Sovereign the instrument of his own destruction ["hear, hear!" and great confusion.] Upon the question of Reform he had not stated his opinion, because the Bill had not been before that House, and because he could not trust himself to speak upon it. He thought, too, that the probability was, that the Bill never would come there—that it must, as in fact it had done, close the last of those inglorious aberrations—those untried theories—those untenable speculations in which the Ministers had indulged, who had been merely distinguished for incapacity such as was never observed before. The dissolution of Parliament was one of the measures suggested by a faction in a disturbed country. It was the result of the councils of those who had advised the King to adopt a plan of Reform, such as they themselves had never before thought of, and such as they had never hoped to carry even when they presented it to Parliament, presenting it merely to show that they redeemed their pledge, and applying, at the same time, with men- dicant timidity to their antagonists to suggest a better plan. It was not, in fact, a dissolution of Parliament they now meant, but it was what they themselves candidly confessed they wished to have —namely, a reformed House of Parliament. And why did they want a reformed House of Parliament? To gratify, they said, the people. But what did the petitions of the people pray for? They prayed, indeed, for a Reform of Parliament, but they prayed for that for which they expected it would give them. Their desire, in the first instance, was, to have a reduction of taxes, which they knew could not take place without a previous reduction of the National Debt; next the reduction of sinecures, next the reduction of salaries, and next the appropriation of that species of property, which has hitherto been called Church property, to an entirely different purpose. First of all, too, they wanted that every householder in the kingdom, paying scot and lot, should have a vote, and that that vote should be by Ballot, which they, in their reformed view considered right. Now, he was ready as a Peer to give his advice to the King, and if he were censured for having interested views, he could not complain, because much more worthy persons than himself had been similarly misrepresented. He had thought it his duty to state to his Majesty, and his Majesty had been most graciously pleased to hear him, that if he should be unfortunately advised to assist the progress of the measure of Reform that had been introduced into the House of Commons, that should he give it his assent, even in a considerably amended shape, though he could not predict either the manner or the gradations of the attack, yet that he (Lord Mansfield) was certain an attack would immediately afterwards be made upon the credit of the country—upon the National Debt—upon the privileges and upon the existence of that House, and, at last, upon the privileges of the Crown itself— those privileges which the Crown did not hold for its own benefit but for the happiness and interests of the people, with which it was closely and intimately connected. He had a pleasure in repeating this at a time when popular clamour was at its height, and if in his warmth he had expressed anything that was personally offensive to any individual, he disclaimed ——[Here cries of "The King, — the King," were heard, and a loud voice sounding out—"God save the King." At that instant the large doors were thrown open on the right hand side of the Throne, and his Majesty, accompanied by his attendants, entered the House. His Majesty mounted the Throne with a firm step, seated himself, and immediately bowed to those on the right and left, saying he begged their Lordships to be seated.]

The House of Commons was summoned to attend at the Bar, and soon appeared, preceded by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. The Speaker of the House of Commons was accompanied by about 100 Members, who rushed in very tumultuously.

The Speaker

addressed his Majesty in the following words:—

"May it please your Majesty, we your Majesty's faithful Commons approach your Majesty with profound respect;—and, Sire, in no period of our history, have the Commons House of Parliament more faithfully responded to the real feelings and interests of your Majesty's loyal, dutiful, and affectionate people; while it has been their earnest desire to support the dignity and honour of the Crown, upon which depend the greatness, the happiness, and the prosperity of this country."

The Royal Assent was given to the Civil List Bill—Indemnity Bill—Colonial Trade Bill — Post-Office Sale Bill—and several private Bills. His Majesty then read the following most gracious Speech in a firm, distinct, and audible manner:

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,

"I have come to meet you for the purpose of proroguing this Parliament, with a view to its immediate dissolution.

"I have been induced to resort to this measure for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of my People, in the way in which it can be most constitutionally and authentically expressed, on the expediency of making such changes in the Representation as circumstances may appear to require, and which, founded upon the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, may tend at once to uphold the just rights and prerogatives of the Crown, and to give security to the liberties of the People.

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

"I thank you for the provision you have made for the maintenance of the honour and dignity of the Crown, and I offer you my special acknowledgments for the arrangements you have made for the state and comfort of my Royal Consort; I have also to thank you for the Supplies which you have furnished for the Public Service; I have observed with satisfaction your endeavours to introduce a strict Economy into every branch of that Service; and I trust that the early attention of a new Parliament, which I shall forthwith direct to be called, will be applied to the prosecution of that important object.

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,

"I am happy to inform you, that the friendly intercourse which subsists between Myself and Foreign Powers, affords the best hopes of the continuance of Peace, to the preservation of which my most anxious endeavours will be constantly directed.

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,

"In resolving to recur to the sense of My People, in the present circumstances of the Country, I have been influenced only by a paternal anxiety for the contentment and happiness of my Subjects, to promote which, I rely with confidence on your continued and zealous assistance."

The Lord Chancellor

immediately said; —My Lords, and Gentlemen; it is his Majesty's Royal will and pleasure, that this Parliament be prorogued to Tuesday, the 10th of May next, to be then and there holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued till Tuesday, the 10th of May next. His Majesty then retired. The Commons returned to their own House, and the Peers separated.