HL Deb 27 September 1831 vol 7 cc646-62
The Marquis of Londonderry,

in rising to put the question of which he had given notice last night, to the Lord Chancellor, with regard to that noble Lord's absence from the House, said, that he could assure their Lordships, that nothing would have made him so presumptuous as to rise in that House for the purpose of making any observations on the Standing Orders of their Lordships, did he not feel that it was necessary to do so in consequence of what had fallen on a former evening from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He did suppose, on that occasion, that some noble and learned Peer more conversant with the Orders and the rules of that House than he was, would have stood up in his place, and have defended their Lordships against the imputations which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack then cast upon them. Their Lordships would recollect, that on that occasion the noble and learned Lord told them, that they were the most disorderly assembly that he had ever heard of—that several noble Lords were in the habit of getting up at once to speak—that other noble Lords would explain three or four times in the course of the same debate; and that, in fact, such was the disorder, and such was the neglect of the rules of the House, on the part of their Lordships, that it was frequently impossible that any business could be done. He, however, must assert, that since he had the honour of a seat in that House, he had never seen the noble and learned person who presided on the Woolsack rise to address their Lordships, or to state any circumstance, that an immediate deference and respect were not paid to him by all their Lordships. He would therefore say, that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack could at any time, owing to the deference which was properly shown to him, repress any improper or disorderly proceeding which might arise in that House. He felt that at all times, but at the present particular moment especially, it was incumbent on the noble and learned person who presided on the Woolsack, to take care that nothing should fall from him that might by any possibility be construed into a contumelious attack upon their Lordships. It was at all times the duty of that noble and learned Lord to uphold and maintain the dignity of that House, and if ever there was a time when it was the special and bounden duty of that noble and learned person to uphold the important privileges and the invalu- able rights of that House, the present was that time. It was with great regret, that on the occasion to which he had already alluded, he had heard the noble and learned Lord cast such imputations on the Members of that House, and nothing but the wish not to undergo the charge of presumption, prevented him from replying to the noble and learned Lord at the time. He felt it necessary, however, now to declare, that the first duty of that noble and learned person was, to attend to the service of that House. He moved yesterday, that the Standing Order, No. 3, should be read. It was not his intention now to argue the meaning or the object of that Standing Order, for they had been already sufficiently declared by the noble and learned individual who was one of the noble Lord's predecessors on the Woolsack. This, however, he would say, that if general custom, if immemorial usage, if constant habit should be taken as the best rule and guides for the conduct of a Lord Chancellor, he believed that it would be at once granted that the first duty of that high functionary was to attend to the service of that House. He would go further, and shew, that such was the opinion which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack himself entertained. He remembered, that when that noble and learned Lord was absent from that House some eight or ten days together, he felt it his duty to come down, and in his place in that House, to make an apology to their Lordships, and to state the reasons why he had been so absent. Nothing was said by their Lordships then, and it might be that they thought that the noble and learned Lord was perfectly right in being so long absent from that House. The fact, however, shewed that the noble and learned Lord himself thought that his first duty was to attend to the service of that House. The circumstance that had more especially induced him (the Marquis of Londonderry) to call their Lordships' attention to this matter was the absence of the noble and learned Lord from the House last night. A motion, of which he (the Marquis of Londonderry) had given notice, with regard to a portion of our foreign policy, stood for last night, and, but for the absence of the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government—an absence occasioned by a lamented calamity in the noble Lord's family—that motion might have been brought forward. If such had been the case, he should have had to regret much the absence of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, because that noble Lord had put himself forward as the champion of Government in all questions brought forward in that House, and had particularly interested himself in the foreign affairs of this country. He was therefore greatly surprised to find that the noble and learned Lord did not attend in his place yesterday evening, aware as he was, that such a Motion was to come on. But though that Motion was postponed, their Lordships had been occupied with a measure which was of the greatest importance to the property of the country. With regard to that measure two noble and learned Lords, Members of that House, differed from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and it would have therefore been a matter of satisfaction to their Lordships, who were anxious to discharge their duty, if that noble and learned Lord had been in his place to give his opinion on the subject. When noble Lords were anxious to do their duty—when they came down regularly day after day to that House to do their duty, and to protect the country—was it too much to expect that the noble and learned Lord should attend in his place in that House to discharge the important duty which devolved upon him? The noble and learned Lord was endowed with large emoluments for the duty which he performed, and he should bear in mind, that the first, the most important duty which he had to perform, was to attend regularly in that House. The noble Lord's excuse was, that he was prevented from attending regularly in that House, in consequence of his being obliged to attend to the business of the Court of Chancery; and it had been made a subject of boast, that the noble and learned Lord had got through a greater mass of business in that Court than those noble and learned Lords who had been his predecessors. If the noble and learned Lord conceived that any degree of eulogium attached to him for having done so, he would say, on the part of his noble and learned friend near him, that if his noble and learned friend, when he held the Great Seal, had deserted the service of that House, and had given up the whole of his time to the Court of Chancery, he would probably have done quite as much, and got through quite as much, as the noble and, learned Lord on the Woolsack. He should be the last person to deny the noble and learned Lord's ability, or to attempt to depreciate the power of his talents. He would be always ready to bear testimony to the noble and learned Lord's great powers, though those powers had been frequently exerted against himself in that House. That circumstance, however, should never prevent him from doing justice to the abilities of the noble and learned Lord: he had always frankly and honestly acknowledged them. But let him tell the noble and learned Lord, that he had not been the first or the only person that had employed his days assiduously in the service of the country, when called by the King to fill the highest offices in the State. They knew that Ministers of the Crown had, before this time, fallen a sacrifice to their zealous and unwearied exertions in the public service. It could not be forgotten that such men as Canning, Castlereagh, and others, had fallen a sacrifice to their intense application to the public business of the country. He would not have the noble and learned Lord imagine, that he alone could plume himself on that point, though great merit certainly was due to the noble and learned Lord's exertions. The noble Lord, however, should not have deserted the service which was paramountly due from him to that House. His predecessors had not neglected their duty towards that House, and if the noble and learned Lord thought that he was justified in giving greater attention to his duties in the Court of Chancery for the public good, and the good of the suitors there, he begged to inform the noble Lord, that his duty towards that House should take precedence of all others. He would not deny, that the patent under which the Earl of Shaftesbury acted as their chairman enabled him to preside, in the absence of the Lord Chancellor, on the Woolsack; and there could be no objection to his doing so occasionally, provided that a due and fitting excuse were made for the absence of the Lord Chancellor, and that such a communication was made to the House, as in deference to it should be made to it, to account for that absence. He would, however, repeat, that the service which the Lord Chancellor had to discharge in that House was of a most important nature, and that it should on no account be neglected by him. He hoped that the noble and learned Lord would be able to give a satisfactory explanation as to the cause of his absence from the House last night. The very first day of their Lordships' meeting in the present session, when many noble Lords came down to be sworn, and when the noble Lord should have been in his place, the noble Lord was not there. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord had not arrived from the country at that time. These frequent instances, however, of the noble and learned Lord's absence from his duty in that House, had induced him to bring the subject under their Lordships' notice. In doing so, he exercised that right which belonged to any individual peer of that House, and his object was, to have the usual course of proceedings in that House strictly observed and adhered to. He did not imagine that their Lordships would find any difficulty, if there should be a necessity for it, in coming to a resolution that that House always required the presence of the Lord Chancellor. The presence of the noble and learned Lord was necessary to preserve order in that House; and for himself he would say, that upon all occasions when that noble and learned person declared his opinion on a point of order, he should be most ready to bow to his decision.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that if he did not feel that there never was a charge brought against any human being who might happen to be placed in any public office, which was more entirely without foundation than that which had been preferred by the noble Marquis against him, if he did not feel, he repeated, that such was the fact, he should have experienced considerable distress in having been the occasion of a discussion that occupied so much of their Lordships' valuable time, and he should have been still more distressed, if he had done any thing that would bear the outward semblance or appearance of his having been wanting in that respect which he owed to their Lordships, or in that diligence which was indispensably required for the discharge of the important duties which devolved upon him. He felt confident, however, that when he stated a few circumstances which he was about to detail to their Lordships, their Lordships would see that there had not been any want of due respect and deference on his part, or any want of a due sense of his important duties toward that House. As to the point of diligence, he entertained no anxiety whatever on that ground. The charge against him was, that he had constantly neglected his important duties in that House—that he had absented himself from that House without any proper excuse, and that he had left their Lordships, without the benefit of the presence of the person who filled the chair of that House, to give them his advice and counsel in all matters that came before them, and to preserve due order and regularity in the course of their proceedings. He took no merit to himself other than for an ardent and diligent desire to discharge the duties of his office. He must disclaim the many compliments which the noble Marquis had been pleased to bestow upon him, for he felt himself totally undeserving of them. To the superior merits of the learned and distinguished individuals who had preceded him in the office which he now held, he was always ready, as he ought to be, to give way; but there was one point on which he would not yield even to them: he would not yield to any one, and he would not be exceeded by any one that ever preceded him in that office, in a constant and perpetual desire always earnestly and thoroughly to discharge the important duties which appertained to it. Party was, to be sure, a good thing, but it was not so when it so far blinded a noble Lord as to make him bring forward a charge against him, as if he had been, as Keeper of the Great Seal, idle and negligent, and as if he had not attended to the due discharge of the duties of his office. That such a charge should have been preferred against him was indeed a most extraordinary thing, and it only showed how much further the spirit of party carried men than he, reasoning à priori, supposed was possible. Judging from the manner in which the charge was received by that side of the House from which the noble Lord spoke, he supposed he was to assume, that in bringing forward this charge, the noble Lord only spoke for the noble Lords on the Opposition benches [no, no.] He was to assume, then, that the noble Marquis, in bringing forward this charge, merely spoke for himself, and with the noble Marquis alone, therefore, he had to do on this occasion. He would not complain that there had been any thing discourteous in the manner in which the noble Marquis had introduced this matter. There was no discourtesy whatever in the manner in which the noble Marquis had brought it forward. The noble Marquis was perfectly justified in calling him to account, if he supposed that he had been in fault; but he was sure, that before he sat down, he should satisfy their Lordships, and he should be much disappointed if he did not succeed in satisfying the noble Marquis himself, that there was no foundation whatever for the charge which the noble Marquis had thought fit to prefer against him. It would appear from the remarks which had fallen from the noble Marquis, as if he (the Lord Chancellor), with a view to get rid of the arrear of business which was before him, had entirely neglected the service which he owed to that House, and had given all his time and attention to the Court of Chancery. Now, he was the last person in the world to detract from the merits of the exalted and illustrious individuals, Members of that House, who had preceded him in the office which he now held. It was only a few days ago that he had expressed his sense of the great and superior merits which those noble and learned Lords had displayed while the duties of that office were confided to their care, and he would now add, that if they had left him an arrear of cases, they had left him also the means of getting rid of them, by leaving him a body of wisdom and learning in decisions which fixed upon an imperishable basis the law of the Court of Chancery, and left him little to do but to act upon the principles which they had laid down and established. He was ready to acknowledge that obligation to the eminent individuals who had held the Great Seal before him. From the manner in which the noble Marquis had spoken of his attempts to get through the arrears of the Court of Chancery, a stranger would be led to imagine, that he had made a boast of the matter, though the idea had never once crossed his mind, nor had a word to that effect escaped his lips. The noble Marquis said, that he had been enabled to do what he had done, by giving the hours which were due to that House to the suitors in the Court of Chancery. Now the fact was, that the Chancery suitors had benefitted at the expense of their Lordships to the amount only of six or eight hours at the utmost. He remembered that he was absent from that House during one whole week, including Wednesday and Saturday, but he was not absent on that occasion without notice. He came down to the House and told their Lordships of his intention; he asked leave, in fact, to be absent for that week, and he stated his reasons for asking it. Amongst those reasons he mentioned that he was anxious to go through all the business which remained in the Court of Chancery, before he proceeded to sit and hear appeals in that House. He recollected that on that occasion, the noble and learned Earl on the bench below him, stated it as his opinion that the first and paramount duty of the individual who held the Great Seal was to attend in the House of Lords. That noble Earl certainly said so then, and it would probably be recollected by their Lordships, that he did not differ from the opinion of the noble and learned Earl. He recollected, however, that that noble Earl had given another opinion to a learned predecessor of his in his present office. He heard with his own ears the noble Earl give that opinion, and on looking since into the reports of the Debate on that occasion, he found his recollection of what the noble Earl then said fully confirmed and established. The noble Earl on that occasion said, that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack should always bear this in mind, and should never let it escape from it, that his constant and his principal duty was to sit in the Court of Chancery. It might be supposed that these were irreconcileable propositions, but they were not so, for as the one did not mean that the Lord Chancellor, in the right performance of his duty, should give up the Court of Chancery for the House of Lords, neither did the other mean that the Keeper of the Great Seal should desert the House of Lords for the purpose of attending solely to his duties in the Court of Chancery. Therefore, while he assented to the noble and learned Earl's first proposition, that the paramount duty of the Chancellor was to attend to the service of that House, he also fully agreed with him in the opinion which he had expressed, that the Lord Chancellor should never forget that his principal duty was to sit in the Court of Chancery. In the absence of the Lord Chancellor, other noble Lords could officiate as Deputy Speakers of that House; but the Court of Chancery must be shut up if the Lord Chancellor did not sit there. The office which the Lord Chancellor held there combined two distinct species of duties, and he was sure that his noble and learned friend who had expressed the opinions to which he had referred, would not deny that the paramount duty of the Lord Chancellor was to attend to the Court of Chancery as often as that House would allow him. It was true that for six or eight days he (the Lord Chancellor) had been absent from that House, attending to his duties in the Court of Chancery. But he had given notice, as he had said already, of that absence, and there was nothing of importance for the consideration of their Lordships that week. He remembered that throughout that week the House did not sit any evening beyond an hour or an hour and a-half, and that it was always up between six and seven o'clock. It was true that on each of those days he could have adjourned the Court of Chancery at a quarter before five o'clock—have come down to that House and have resumed his sitting in Chancery after the House rose. It was true that he could have done that, at the inconvenience of postponing his dinner till twelve or one o'clock in the morning. He had, in fact, done so on several occasions, but, though he was not possessed of a very weak constitution, he soon found that there would be a very quick termination to his labours if he continued such a practice. By remaining absent, however, from the House for the six or eight days he had already mentioned, he had been enabled to get entirely through the arrears in the Court of Chancery. He had sat without intermission in that Court from the 22nd of November. He had done so without intermission from that period, and, with the exception of the short absence already stated, he had also attended to his duties in that House. The noble Marquis appeared to imagine, that on the first day of the Session, when the ceremony of swearing their Lordships commenced, that his (the Lord Chancellor's) absence on that occasion was caused by his being in the country. He could assure him that he was at that moment sitting in the Court of Chancery, and he was sure that he should stand excused with their Lordships for not leaving an important and expensive cause which he was then hearing, and coming over to that House at twelve o'clock on that day, for the purpose of hearing their Lordships sworn—a ceremony that could quite as well be performed in his absence. With the exception of the week at Easter, there had been no intermission in his sittings in the Court of Chancery. He, in fact, gave up one week at Easter, which he might have otherwise spent in the country, to the Court of Chancery, for the purpose of disposing of fifteen heavy appeals. He sat on Good Friday, and on Easter Monday, when almost all other persons were resting from their labours and enjoying the vacation. He was the first Chancellor that ever sat on that day, and he was the first Chancellor that had ever sat on Easter Saturday and Easter Monday, since the institution of the office. He claimed no merit for all this, he sought no praise for doing so, and it was only mere justice to himself that compelled him to state the fact. In performing his duty in the Court of Chancery, he had uniformly acted upon the maxim—"Take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves." Acting up to that maxim, he had made it his constant practice to take his seat in the Court as the clock was striking ten, and he continued to sit there until eleven or twelve o'clock at night. He attended to every thing that was said there—he endeavoured to get acquainted with the case before him as quickly as he could—to shorten as much as possible the discussions with regard to it; and, in fact, to go through it with as much rapidity as he could. That was the way in which he endeavoured to despatch the business of his Court. He had never had the idea, however, nor had he ever said a word that could, by any possibility, be construed into the idea, of setting himself above, or even on a level with, his learned predecessors, except in diligence, and in that quality he would not be surpassed by any of them. The noble Marquis said, that noble Lords came down each day to that House to do their duty, and that it was hard if the Lord Chancellor would not also attend there to discharge his duty. It was quite true, that the noble Marquis, and other noble Lords, after the relaxation of the day, came down there to discharge their duty in the evening—they came down to hear the nightingale in the evening—but it should be recollected that he (the Lord Chancellor) had been up hearing the raven in the morning. He was sitting every day from ten o'clock till five in that House hearing appeals, and it was not therefore to be expected, seeing that he had no breathing time at all, that he should come to the evening song quite as fresh as other Members of that House, who came down to it from less laborious occupations. It should not be forgotten, too, that after the public business of the House was over, he resumed the hearing of appeals up to nine o'clock at night. Such had been the course of his proceedings, and whatever the noble Marquis might think of it, this he knew, that the Bar did not complain of it. On one day he had sat in that House from ten in the morning until nine at night, and had disposed of three cases after the public business of their Lordships for that day had been concluded. He mentioned that circumstance to show that he was as anxious to attend to his services in that House as to the Court of Chancery. He had now the great satisfaction of being enabled to inform their Lordships, that, so far from neglecting that House for the Court of Chancery, he had got rid of the appeals in the House of Lords. He had got rid of all but one or two. There were three cases which had been entered since the 14th of June—that was to say, since the beginning of the present Session. He had got rid of the whole of the arrears; and there were now only two cases (not counting the three he had mentioned)—only two substantial cases—remaining to be heard out of all those which had been fully entered for hearing in their Lordships' House on the first day of this present Session of this present Parliament. He could not say, therefore, that there were any arrears at all at present. He meant to go through the remaining Scotch appeals which had been set down for hearing since the commencement of the Session. They amounted to fourteen, and after he had disposed of them, for which he feared he should have abundant time, he would then proceed to the English and Irish appeals, which were less numerous. He did not like to take them at present, as it would be necessary to consult the Judges with regard to them; and as it would not be convenient to call for the opinion of those learned persons during the vacation, he should let those appeals stand over. So much then for his neglect of the judicial business of that House. The noble Marquis had complained of his absence from the House last evening. He sat in that House from Saturday morning till the evening of that day, and he disposed of an important case at that sitting. And here he should state, that for the last ten days he had been affected by a serious illness. Yet, if he had been well, what better could he have done? If the noble Marquis had been present in the House any time during the last week, while he (the Lord Chancellor) was hearing appeals, he would have seen, that he had been obliged to take a quantity of medicine. He suffered extremely from an inveterate cough, which was at all times distressing enough, and especially to persons arrived at his period of life. He found that all the draughts which he took did him no good, and the consequence was, that he had it in his mind to go for a few days into the country, in order to prepare himself for the discussions and labours of the approaching week: and he would have gone to the north for the recovery of his health, but for the kind and delicate invitation which he had received from a quarter to which he might not more particularly allude, and which enabled him to spend two days in the country for that purpose. He took advantage of that kind offer, and though he had previously suffered from incessant coughing for hours together, he could assure the noble Marquis that he was now perfectly recovered, and that, in fact, he had never been better in his life than he was at this moment. He would resume his sittings to-morrow at ten o'clock, and would go on during the week. He would do the same next week, notwithstanding the Reform debate. He would be down every morning to hear appeals, though that debate might be very long and very wearisome. The noble Marquis complained of his having been absent last night when an important motion was to come on relative to our foreign policy. The fact was, that being aware on Saturday of the calamity which had occurred in the family of his noble friend at the head of the Government, he knew that his noble friend would not attend last night, and he felt equally certain that the noble Marquis would, in consequence of his noble friend's absence, put off his motion, as in fact he had done. He therefore took advantage of two entire days in the country, and he hoped that that was a satisfactory explanation as to his absence last night. He wished to have it distinctly understood, that his absence was not on account of illness; but he had been induced to state the fact to their Lordships from the respect he bore that House. It did not appear to him, on referring to the Standing Order, that any Chancellor was imperatively expected to be in attendance there. According to the wording of the Order, the Keeper of the Great Seal was to attend in "ordinary," —a form of expression which certainly, according to his power of interpreting the vernacular language, seemed in itself to contemplate the occurrence of absence. When it did happen that the Chancellor was not present, the House might then proceed to choose a Deputy Speaker, provided such an officer had not been appointed by the Crown. But there were the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench and another noble friend of his, who were authorized to fill that office. The House had been already indebted to the Lord Chief Justice for hearing causes in Spring. When the sittings of that noble and learned Lord's own Court had terminated, and the pressure of business was over, he preferred remaining in town to assist in the operations of another Court, to retiring to the country for recreation. His noble friend was unlike the generality of men, who were disposed to regard pleasure as their business; with him business was pleasure. He thought he should be able to show to their Lordships, that the absence of a Lord Chancellor, and the appointment of a Deputy Speaker by the House, was not an unprecedented circumstance. On turning over the pages of their Lordships' Journals, he found that, in 1797, the House was informed of the Lord Chancellor's absence, and not only of his absence, but of that of the Deputy Speakers also. The House then (no reason being given for the absence of these officers) proceeded to choose a Speaker; and on whom did the choice fall? Not upon a law Lord, but upon no other than the Duke of Portland, and the business on hand was not of trifling moment—it was nothing less than the prorogation of Parliament. From these facts which he had taken leave to lay before their Lordships, he trusted it would appear that his conduct was not utterly without excuse. He begged their Lordships' pardon if, by any act of his, he had occasioned inconvenience to the House, but he had been impressed by the conviction, that he best testified his duty to that House, for whose honour and privileges he entertained the most inviolate and profound respect, by bestowing his best, his most conscientious attention on the business of his office.

The Earl of Eldon

said, it was necessary that the Speaker or his deputy should attend, in order to protect the prerogative of the Crown, but still the House, if both were absent had the power to ap- point a Speaker, and this showed that there might be times at which the Chancellor might be absent, and also that his Deputy might be occasionally absent, and there might sometimes be good reason for their being both absent. But the rule had been, that when the Lord Chancellor was absent, one of the most eminent Judges at the head of the Courts in Westminster Hall should be appointed Speaker. Lord Shaftesbury was a very good Speaker, and that noble Earl knew how highly he respected him. But considering what important questions of law might arise in the course of the discussions in that House, and what an immense amount of property might be involved in them, it was of the highest importance that the Lord Chancellor, or some other eminent Judge at the head of some of the Courts at Westminster, should sit as Judge. As for himself, he had not been able to get rid of the arrear of appeals in that House; but then he never recollected the House sitting until the month of October, and this year the Session had commenced in June, or at the beginning of July. He had used all the exertions in his power to bring up the arrear of appeals that the forms of the House at that time allowed him. And then, after all that had been said about the delays in the Court of Chancery, he was not the person who ought to be blamed for them. In consequence of the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor, he had been withdrawn from the Court of Chancery for three days in the week, in order to attend that House, and it was impossible to dispose of as much business in three days as in six. The rule as to this House was, that the Speaker might be absent if he had a good and sufficient excuse for not attending; but in the times of his predecessors, the invariable usage was, that the Speaker was never absent without stating to the Deputy Speaker that he was to be absent, and the reason for that absence. Last night there was a most important Bill—the Pluralities' Bill—before the House, to which a noble and learned friend of his (Lord Wynford), not now present, had stated unanswerable objections, to which no reply had been given; and it was of the highest importance that the Lord Chancellor should have been present on that occasion, for if he had confessed that the objections were unanswerable the Bill might not have pass- ed. He thought, that after the explanation which they had heard from the noble and learned Lord, they ought to put an end to the present conversation; but he should certainly not let the next Session pass away without submitting to their Lordships a motion the better to provide against the inconvenience complained of.

Lord Holland

would trespass a moment on the attention of the House, although he felt that there was no question before it, for it was impossible to entertain any doubt respecting the conduct of the noble and learned Lord, who was the admiration of the country, and who, in particular, was entitled to the gratitude of their Lordships. How could that noble and learned Lord's duties be better done than in furthering the ends of justice in the kingdom? Was he not more usefully occupied in devoting the evening hour to the prayers of anxious suitors, than in occupying a place on the Woolsack, when their Lordships were considering matters of no pressing or especial importance at their Table? There was no question before the House, for the noble Earl had concluded his speech without a motion, whereby they might know the Contents from the Not-contents; yet he would crave leave to trace the history of the Standing Order referred to on the occasion. That Order was framed under extraordinary circumstances, and he much doubted whether it ought to be on their Journals at all. It was framed in the year 1660; and he was far from being certain that the House, previous to that date, acknowledged the Lord Keeper's right to take his seat as their Speaker. The right of nominating a Speaker had been contested by that House with the Crown; and the Standing Order was a compromise between them. He would refer to the documents of the period for the purpose of setting the matter clearly before their Lordships. [The noble Lord then proceeded to read from the Journals of the House the report of the 6th of June, 1660, on the question of the right of the Peers to choose their Speaker.] From those historical records it was clear, that the Standing Order did not make it obligatory on the Chancellor to attend in that House. The Keeper of the Great Seal, according to the Constitution, was no more the legal adviser of their Lordships than any other Peer of Parliament, and he would oppose the reception of such an opinion. It went to throw the judicature of the House into the hands of an individual, and not the collective body. The case of a Chancellor had been cited, who, it was alleged, was censured for absence, although his excuse was attendance on the King. This was the case of the Earl of Macclesfield, but the authority quoted was not that of the House, but the language of a protest—a protest emanating from a violent faction in times remarkable for the bitterness of party spirit. He confessed that this quotation from a protest had tickled his vanity no little, for he had been a great protester in his day—greater than the noble and learned Lord, and had every respect for the symbols of conscientious opposition. This act, of the noble and learned Lord, by which he placed the language of dissentients above the authority of the House, had not only tickled his vanity—had not only surprised him extremely—but he had been induced to hail it as an auspicious omen of their future and more momentous proceedings. But the attempts of a faction had failed against the Earl of Macclesfield; and with respect to the conduct of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he would contend, that, neither according to the spirit of the Constitution, nor the provisions of the order of the House, could any blame be attached to it.

The Marquis of Londonderry

did not mean to impugn the talent of the noble and learned Lord, nor to question the propriety of the mode in which he spent his time; but he still was of opinion that the Order on their Lordships' Journals should either be enforced or expunged. He felt that he was but discharging his duty as a Member of that House, in establishing the point, whether it was imperative on the noble and learned Lord to be in attendance or not.