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ing in his house for the steamer to take office has been the shortest of them all. us home.
It is probable that no man now lives Four days after we came down the who sat in Parliament under the speakPungwe, some “ boys ” going along in ership of Mr. Abbot, which came to a a boat some miles above the town, saw close in 1817 ; while even Mr. Glada liou half sunk in the soft mud at the stone had only been three years in the edge of the river, so they rowed up to House when Sir Henry Manners Suthim, and as he could not extricate him- ton vacated the chair to be raised to self they beat him to death with their the peerage as Viscouut Canterbury. oars, and brought him down to Beira. If, therefore, the comparison is to be Is it not provoking to think that if we confined to a period for which the evihad come down four days later we dence of living witnesses who had should have seen hin? As it is, I adequate opportunities of observation have spent tive months in the country is available, Mr. Peel's record can only without seeing cither lion, crocodile, be compared to any purpose with those or hippopotamus. What has been the of the last three speakers who preceded use of coming to Africa !
him in the chair, Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, Mr. Denison, and Mr. Brand. And, undoubtedly, unless the eulogies to
which we have referred are excessive, From The Fortnightly Review, we should have to conclude that his MR. PEEL AND HIS PREDECESSORS.
name will go down to posterity along, The late speaker of the House of let us say, with that of Onslow, when Commons has retired from the chair those of the three speakers who beamid a perfect chorus of congratula- came respectively Lord Eversley, Lord tions in Parliament and the press on Ossington, aud Lord Hampden are lost the exceptional success with which he in the shadowy company of Addinghas discharged the difficult duties and tons, Abbots, and Abercrombies. maintained the high dignity of his Of course, it may be so. Posterity office. It would be alike unjust and will judge of speakers as it has judged, ungracious to suggest that these enthu- judges, and will judge of poets; aud siastic eulogies are undeserved. No contemporary opinion in the one case, competent critic of Mr. Peel's conduct as in the other, can only make guesses in the chair could, for a moment, think at its verdict. Still I cannot but think of denying that he has been an able that one may guess with a good deal of and authoritative speaker ; or even, plausibility that not posterity merely, though this is a point on which only a but the public of ten or twenty years very prolonged experience indeed could hence, will decline to approve the entitle any one to speak with confi- elevation of the excellent and most dence, that his merits surpass those efficient speaker whose retirement we displayed by the majority of his prede- are all regretting to the position of excessors in that office in the course of traordinary pre-eminence which is the present century. Of these he has claimed for him. And if anybody rehad seven ; but iuasmuch as two of tains the balance of his judgment in them, Sir John Mitford and Mr. Aber- those days (which, to some of us in cromby, only occupied the chair for a hours of despondency, seems doubtful year and four years respectively, we upou present appearauces), it will be may say that the number of his com- perceived, by that retrospective critic petitors is practically reduced to five. at any rate, that while Mr. Peel's conThe comparison, therefore, would lie duct of Parliamentary proceedings, from between Mr. Peel and Speakers Abbot, 1884 to 1895, can be clearly made out Manners Sutton, Shaw-Lefevre, Den- from contemporary records, to have ison, and Brand ; and it is to be noted, been able and successful, the extravathough the fact of course has more gant eulogies showered upon him at his than one significance, that his term of l retirement were merely the utterances of that spirit of “sensational” exag- I than usual departs fronı it, it is for the geration which can neither praise nor pleasure of launching some picturesque blame anything with any sense of phrase which has been suggested rather measure, and which nowadays so largely by his own artistic instincts than by its pervades our periodical literature, and special appropriateness to the object. makes itself so constantly felt, not only Thus it was of Mr. Denison, certainly in our public speaking, but even in the not a speaker exceptionally remarkable commonplaces of social converse. for the commanding quality of his au
Other causes, too, have no doubt thority, that Mr. Disraeli observed in contributed to the same result, and, characteristic fashion, that even the indeed, one such case, and a most " rustle of his robes as he rose to influential one, obtrudes itself upon rebuke a breach of order was sufficient notice. I refer, of course, to the fact to awe an offender into submission. that so large a proportion of the mem- In the language, in short, of the leader bers of the present Parliament, and so of the House, and of the leader of vigorously vocal a body of writers for the Opposition for the time being, the newspaper press, have had so short each retiring speaker in turn has spean experience of the House of Com- cially distinguished himself in the dismons, and are really so ignorant, if I play of the qualities demanded by may say so without offence, of even the his office. An Amurath of promptitraditions of past Parliamentary gener- tude, firmness, impartiality, and urban ations on this subject. The history of ity, invariably succeeds an Anjurath the speakership begins for many of of readiness, decision, fairwindedness, them when Mr. Brand was about mid- and conciliatory manners. It is oply way in his career; not a few of them right that it should be so; it could were in long clothes, some of them un- not be otherwise without infringing born, when Mr. Brand's immediate the proper and, indeed, indispensable predecessor was called to the chair. It conventions of public life. Nor, of is difficult for them to realize that the course, do I suggest that even the resolution of thanks moved by Sir Wil- youngest journalist or member of Parliam Harcourt on the 9th of April is liament is theoretically unaware of the substantially. “ common form ; " that conventionality of all such ceremonial speaker after speaker has been assured proceedings. It is easy, however, to that the House “fully appreciates the understand that this fact does not, and zeal and ability with which he has dis- cannot, come home to him as it comes charged his duties,” and entertains the home to those who have been themstrongest sense not only “ of the Arm- selves eye-witnesses of three of these ness and dignity with which he has ceremonies, and retain a vivid recollecmaintained its privileges,” but also of tion of the account given them by (what many an ardent youth has doubt-eye-witnesses of a fourth. less regarded as a special compliment Some, to be sure, among the high to Mr. Peel) the “urbanity and kind- qualities ascribed on these occasions to ness which have uniformly marked his speakers may be predicated of all of conduct in the chair, and which have them with substantial truth, and in subsecured for him the esteem and grati- stantially equal amount. No speaker, tude of every member of the House." of modern times at any rate, has ever Even if they do realize that this reso- been accused, or perhaps, save in a few lution is common form in Parliamen- irritated minds, and then only for a few tary procedure, they are assuredly not irritated moments, even suspected, of likely to have assimilated the fact that partiality. Nor have any of them ever the tributes paid to a retiring speaker failed of a desire to maintain the dig. from the two front benches, are them- nity of the office ; a weakness of human
selves in a large measure the common nature co-operates with its strength to i form of Parliamentary rhetoric, and secure that. Zeal, industry, vigilance,
that when an orator of more originality and so forth they have none of them
ever wanted. The attribution of these dignified ; if not, he is admired the merits might well be stereotyped, and more for being dignified without it. historical accuracy would not be vio- Mr. Peel in the chair filled the eye of lated by assuming that every speaker the visitor to the House of Commons, is, as a matter of fact, equally worthy as Mr. Irving on the stage fills the eye of it. But, of course, the qualities of the playgoer at the Lyceum. No which go to make one speaker superior one certainly could have said that of to another are the intellectual qualities Mr. Brand ; yet surely even the young. of acuteness, readiness, and mastery est of members and journalists must be of Parliamentary law ; the moral quali- able to remember the time when the ties of courage, firmness, and self-"extraordinary natural dignity" which restraint; and last, but not least, that carried off Mr. Braud's insufficient indispensable "authority,” which is inches, was the theme of general adprobably much more closely connected miration. It is hardly just to the with physical than with either moral or memory of the late Lord Hampden intellectual characteristics, but which thus completely to iguore the signal no doubt possesses affinities with all success with which he overcame physthree. It was to this last-mentioned ical drawbacks hardly less marked than gift that Mr. Peel was no doubt most the counter advantages of his suclargely indebted. He unquestionably cessor. inspired more awe, in his later years of Dignity, however, though it may office at any rate, than some, at any assist“ authority,” is not identical with rate, of his predecessors. Peculiarities it. In moments of excitement the of physique bad, of course, not a little appeal to the eye goes for nothing. It share in the production of this effect. is the voice, its words, their tone and His tall stature, his stately bearing, his accent these and the associations resonant and powerful voice, in its which they awaken, and the knowledge stronger tones, so admirably expressive of what they portend, which recall the of indignant displeasure, all in their rebellious to their senses ; and the several degrees contributed to it. The late speaker undoubtedly possessed an “ natural dignity" which his most ar- abundant measure of the potent iudent admirers attributed to him in such fluence which these things confer. unbounded measure, was doubtless to But so also did Speaker Brand. I no inconsiderable extent a personal should certainly say that his control attribute ; yet not quite to the extent over the House was little less complete supposed. As a matter of fact no than that of Mr. Peel in his later years speaker within living memory, and of office, and much more assured than probably none within reach of living was that of the latter at the commencetradition, has ever been wanting in ment of his term. And, judging from dignity. It would be a wonder if any my still lively recollections of the rehad. The position is a great one ; far port of men who sat in Parliaments of too august, indeed, not to react upon the 'forties and 'fifties, they were and influence the bearing of its occu- neither of them regarded with such pant. Historic traditions, immemorial profound reverence as was paid during and splendid, surround the chair with seventeen years of office to Mr. Shawan aura of majesty which at one and Lefevre. The fame, indeed, of this the same time inspires the speaker and great speaker, and in particular his illudes the spectator. The former reputation for intellectual ability and would be truly a poor creature if his profound acquaintance with Parliademeanor did not borrow some dignity mentary law and precedent long surfrom his office ; the latter would be a vived his retirement, and may even be dull dog indeed if he did not lend it said to have more or less overshadstill more from his own imagination. owed the blameless, if undistinguished, If a speaker has what is called a good record of his immediate successor in presence he is naturally described as the chair. There is, therefore, a dis
tinct note, if not of proved exaggera- la moderator of the debates, and a tion, at any rate of most hazardous guardian of the privileges – and manprediction in the language of those ners - of the House of Commons. panegyrists who undertake to assure us Enough will have been done for my that Mr. Peel's speakership will, a gen- purpose if I suggest certain eration hence, take rank in our political for demurring to that excessive exaltaannals as the speakership of the cen- tion of the late speaker's merits and tury.” When the historian is left, as achievements which imports something he then will be, with no materials to more than a bare claim on his behalf to work upon save traditional evidences be credited with ability superior to that of the contemporary and posthumous of his predecessor, and implies, unless repute in which each successive it be the merest insincerity of adulaspeaker was held, he will be at any tion, that he was a sort of heaven-sent rate no less likely — perhaps more redeemer of the House of Commons likely, considering the greater fickle- from the state of indiscipline and disness of the popular memory in these organization into which, under that days — to assign that position to Mr. predecessor, it had been allowed to Shaw-Lefevre than to Mr. Peel. lapse. This may not be meant, and
It will be said, however, and with perhaps is not meavt, by most of Mr. perfect truth, that the conditions of a Peel's unmeasured eulogists, but it is true comparison between the records an almost inevitable inference from the of these two eminent persons do not very excess of their panegyrics, and it exist. To have been a strong and is, of course, whether an intentional or authoritative speaker during any period not, a gross injustice to the late Loru between 1867 and the present day has Hampden. required far greater strength of char- How little this could have been anacter and force of personality than to ticipated eleven years ago, the House have earned that fame at any time be- of Commons has been recently and tween the first Reform Act and the for one party, perhaps - somewhat inintroduction of household suffrage. opportuuely reminded. But Sir HerThis, let it be again admitted, is un-bert Maxwell's reminiscences of the deniably true, and one may further events of 1884 — of the inconsolable limit the first-mentioned of these regrets expressed for the loss of Sir periods by dating it from 1875, the Henry Brand, and the despondent epoch of Mr. Parnell's first appearance presages inspired by the Parliamentary in Parliament, and the invention of the obscurity of his successor -- really lent Irish “ policy of exasperation.” Prac-themselves to more than one moral. ticaily, therefore, the comparison, to Sir William Harcourt used them effecbe in any degree profitable or instructively enough to prove - if such a tive, must be confined to twenty years proposition required proof - that a and to two competitors. Mr. Peel's member of Parliament previously little conduct of business in the House of known to his colleagues may admirably Commons between 1884 and 1895 must replace a speaker supposed to be irrebe compared with Mr. Brand's conduct placeable. They are, however, at least of it between 1872 and 1884.
equally material as showing that there To attempt to pursue such a com- is a natural tendency to consider every parison in any detail, and to assign good speaker irreplaceable until he is quantitative values to the qualities pos- actually replaced. And as a matter of sessed respectively by each of the two historical fact, the doubts of Mr. Peel's speakers in question, would, apart from ability to replace Sir Henry Brand its invidiousness, be signally absurd. were not by any means immediately It would be impossible to prove, and I dispelled. Those who have watched am not in the least concerned to maiu- professionally, so to speak, his highly tain, that Mr. Peel's predecessor was honorable and successful career in the either his superior or even his equal as chair, from its commencement to its
close, are well aware that that success | encounters with the troublesome, a was all the more honorable to him be- distinct tendency to irritability placed cause it was only gradually achieved. him at a disadvantage ; it was by deAbout one-fourth - no excessive pro- grees only that he acquired a selfportion, it may readily be admitted command which, in his later career, of his official life was spent in acquir- was never endangered except on one ing or perfecting those powers which occasion, strangely enough, perhaps, had to be displayed in their maturity by the insolence of a member too notobefore his complete fitness for his office rious for the brutality of his manners could be regarded as demonstrated, and to be capable, one would have thought, his reputation as established. Through- of disturbing it. out another period, equal perhaps to So, too, with Mr. Peel's “rapidity" about a half of his whole term, that and “decision " in dealing with points reputation went on steadily increasing ; of order and practice. These also were and during the last two or three years acquired, not original, qualities, or, at of his occupancy of the chair, his fame any rate, they were qualities which has, in the phrase of Thucydides, were far from conspicuous in his earlier
won its way to the mythical.” That rulings, and for the former of which he Mr. Peel is, and was from the first, the was to the last less remarkable than ideal and heaven-born speaker is a his predecessor. And though his prolegend of the present Parliament which nouncements were doubtless generally one could almost watch in the making. sound, they were not invariably con
As a matter of fact the fortunes of vincing — one of the latest of them his official career were, in the first in- indeed, as to the right of a member to stance, and for some considerable time, evade the tellers, though he has rerendered doubtful by the very cause mained in the House after the doors which has now unhappily cut it short have been locked for a division, being at the acme of its success. For more certainly opposed to a Parliamentary than one session it seemed gravely un- rule enforced within the last thirty certain whether his health was suffi- years against a near relative of my ciently robust or, at any rate, sufficiently own, whom I well remember to have equable to bear the strain ; and it was been publicly and solemnly repriduring the same period, perhaps as a manded by Mr. Speaker Denison for consequence of the same cause, that this very irregularity. Mr. Peel had to combat, and did at But no doubt Mr. Peel's highest title last completely overcomie, certain hin- to fame is founded mainly upon the drances to efficiency which he at first two grounds of the commanding and, encountered. The eulogies which have indeed, awe-inspiring authority which, been recently pronounced on the late after the first two or three sessions of speaker's imperturbable placidity of his speakership, he exercised over the temper were singularly maladroit. He House of Commons, and of the admi. is, in fact, to be congratulated on their rably judicial union of firmness and inaccuracy. For, indeed, to be known moderation with which he wielded the to possess a quick and warm temper is, large and novel discretionary power, when once he has acquired control of over the privileges of debate and in it, a distinct source of strength to any other matters, which was entrusted to one charged with authority over the him by the new rules. Nor would I, proceedings of a public assembly. His for a moment, be understood to quesself-restraint invites respect, while the tion the weight and magnitude of these knowledge that it has its limits inspires two claims. As to the facts on which prudence. Mr. Peel's temper was not, they are founded, it would be even and is not, placid in the sense of slow more absurd than ungracious to dispute to move ; and though it became at last, them. Mr. Peel's controlling power it was not at first, by any means im- over the House of Commons was patent perturbable in the chair. In his earlier leven to the least experienced eye, and
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