Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER V.

Resignation of the Speaker, and subsequent Proceedings.-Lord Sidmouth] circular Letter discussed in both Houses.

[blocks in formation]

Ir is with the sincerest concern and regret that I feel myself obliged to request that you will inform the House of Commons at their meeting this day, of my inability, from continued illness, to attend any longer upon their service.

After holding the high office to which I have been raised by that favour in five successive Parliaments, it is impossible that I should resign so honourable and distinguished a situation without feeling the deepest gratitude for the constant kindness with which they have been pleased to accept and assist my humble endeavours to discharge its various and arduous duties.

It was my earnest wish and hope to have continued longer in the service of the House, if such were their pleasure; but the interruption of public business which has been already occasioned by my state of health, and the apprehension of the same cause recurring, which might again expose the House to the like inconvenience, have made me deem it necessary that I should retire at this time, and have left me now

no further duty to perform than to return my heartfelt acknowledgments to the House for all the favours they have bestowed upon me, and to express my fervent wishes for the perpetual maintenance and preservation of its rights, its privileges, and its independence. I am, Sir,

always most truly your's,

CHARLES ABBOT.

Lord Castlereagh then proposed that the House should adjourn till Monday next, when it was probable they would receive a communication from the Prince Regent on the subject. - Adjourned.

On June 2, there being an unusually full attendance of members, Lord Castlereagh rose, and said that he was commanded by the Prince Regent to acquaint the House, that being anxious that no further delay should arise in the progress of public business, he was desirous that they should immediately proceed to the election of a new Speaker.

Sir J. Nicholl, addressing himself to the deputy clerk, then arose, and after paying a wellmerited compliment to the Speaker, he presented the Right Hon. Charles Manners Sutton to the choice of this House.

He was seconded by Mr. E. J. Littleton.

Mr. Dickinson then rose to recommend Mr. Charles Watkin Williams

Williams Wynn to the same post, in which he was seconded by Sir M. W. Ridley.

The two candidates having paid their proper respects to the House, each party proceeded to election, when Mr. Manners Sutton was chosen by 312 to 150. On the following day the approbation of the Prince Regent was signified to him by his Majesty's commissioners in the House of Lords.

On the same day, Lord Castlereagh presented the following message from the Prince Regent.

"The Prince Regent, acting in the name and in the behalf of his Majesty, thinks it right to inform the House of Commons, that having taken into his consideration the eminent and distinguished services of the Right Honourable Charles Abbot, during the long and eventful period in which he had filled the situation of Speaker of that House, has conferred upon him the dignity of a baron of the united kingdom by the title of Baron Colchester, of Colchester, in the county of Essex; and the Prince Regent recommends to the House of Commons to enable him to make such provision for Charles Lord Colchester, and for the heir male of his body who may next succeed to the title, as shall, under all the circumstances, be judged just and reasonable."

GEORGE, P. R. The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, that the message of the Prince Regent respecting a provision for Lord Colchester be taken into consideration on Thursday next.

Mr. Wynn expressed his astonishment at the mode of proceeding

adopted by the advisers of the crown on this occasion. No one could concur more willingly in a vote of thanks to Lord Colchester than himself; but why did the crown interfere to prevent the House from going further, and from originating any other reward which was due to his acknowledged merits? His services had been performed in that House; and from it, therefore, ought their recompence to proceed. It was not a matter of indifference that persons sitting in that chair should be accustomed to look to the crown for the reward of their exertions in it. Had the message been preceded by an address, every objection would have been precluded; but the services in question were of that nature which, for peculiar reasons, ought in the first instance to be fully recog nized and appreciated by the House.

Lord Castlereagh said, that the right hon. person having been raised to the dignity of the peerage, the purport of the message ought to be understood as inviting the House to make a provision in consequence of the title, and not of his services as Speaker.

Mr. Ponsonby was surprised at the noble lord's explanation, who might find from the very words of the message, that it was founded upon those services.

After several other observations, Mr. Wynn repeated his anxious wish that the motion should be withdrawn, and another substituted that would meet the wishes of every member in that House.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted the candour of the hon. member's

member's intimation. He apprehended that it might be the most satisfactory course that he should withdraw the motion he had already made, and give notice of his intention to move an address to the crown on this subject on Thursday next.

The motion was accordingly withdrawn.

On June 5th, Lord Castlereagh rose in the House, and after a handsome compliment to the late Speaker, he moved, "That the thanks of this House be expressed to the Right Hon. Charles Abbot, now Baron Colchester, for his eminent and distinguished services during the long and eventful period in which he discharged the duties of Speaker with a zeal and ability alike honourable to himself, and advantageous to the service of this House: that he be assured that the proofs he has uniformly given of attachment to his King and Country; the exemplary firmness with which he has maintained the dignity and privileges of this House; the ability, integrity, and unremitting attention to parliamentary business, which have marked the whole of his conduct; justly entitle him to the approbation, respect, and gratitude of this House."

This motion was agreed to, and the Speaker was directed to communicate the resolution to Lord Colchester.

Lord Castlereagh then moved, "That an humble address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to beseech his Royal Highness that he will be graciously pleased, acting in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, to confer some signal

mark of the royal favour upon Charles Lord Colchester, late Speaker of this House, for his great and eminent services performed to his country during the long and important period in which he has, with such distinguished ability and integrity, presided in the chair of this House and to assure his Royal Highness, that whatever expense his Royal Highness shall think proper to be incurred upon that account, this House will make good the same."

Mr. Ponsonby said, that the House was already in one difficulty, and he was afraid that the wording of the address was calculated to produce another. The objection on a former day was that the crown should be the first proposer of the grant; and they were now told that the crown ought to determine the amount.

After some discussion upon this matter, the motion was agreed to

nem. con.

The Speaker, on the next day, reported Lord Colchester's answer to the resolution of the House of Commons.

Lord Castlereagh then laid before the House the answer of the Prince Regent to their address, which was to the following pur

pose:

"The Prince Regent has the justest sense of the long services and great merit of Charles Lord Colchester, late Speaker of the House of Commons: and in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty has already taken the same into his consideration. The Prince Regent is desirous, in compliance with the wishes of his Majesty's faithful Commons, to confer upon the said Lord Col

chester

chester some further signal mark of his favour; but as the same cannot be effectually granted and secured without the concurrence of Parliament, his Royal Highness recommends to the House of Commons the adoption of such measures as may be necessary for the accomplishment of this purpose."

On the 9th of June, the House having resolved itself into a committee to take into consideration the Prince Regent's answer to their address, the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered upon the subject of the provision which it was desirable to allow Lord Colchester. His proposal was, that Mr. Speaker Onslow having at the beginning of this reign retired from the chair with an allowance of 3000l. a year, the depreciation of the value of money since that time, and the extraordinary augmentation of duty which the Speaker had to perform, would render the addition of one thousand pounds not too liberal a vote. He accordingly moved a resolution to that effect.

This was regarded as an overpayment by several members; and Mr. Tierney humorously said, that "as to the anxiety that had been talked of, the Speaker felt less than any man in the House, or perhaps was the only man entirely without anxiety: he existed in a sort of middle atmosphere, to bend his head to one side or the other, and enjoy the fray."

Mr. Lambton moved that the words 3000l. a year be substituted for 4000l.; upon which the committee divided: For the amendment, 42; against it, 126. The original motion was then agreed to.

Mr, Sumner then moved for an

extension of the reversionary grant to the late Speaker, to two lives; which was negatived.

LORD SIDMOUTH'S LETTER.

Lord Sidmouth, on March 27, 1817, sent the following circular letter to his Majesty's lieutenants of counties throughout England and Wales.

My Lord,-As it is of the greatest importance to prevent, as far as possible, the circulation of blasphemous and seditious pamphlets and writings, of which for a considerable time past great numbers have been sold and distributed throughout the country ; I have thought it my duty to consult the law servants of the crown, whether an individual found selling, or in any way publishing such pamphlets or writings, might be brought immediately before a justice of the peace, under a warrant issued for the purpose, to answer for his conduct. The law officers having accordingly taken this matter into their consideration, have notified to me their opinion, that a justice of the peace may issue a warrant to apprehend a person, charged before him upon oath with the publication of libels of the nature in question, and compel him to give bail to answer the charge.

Under these circumstances, 1 beg leave to call your lordship's attention very particularly to this subject; and I have to request, that if your lordship should not propose to attend in person at the next general quarter sessions of the peace, to be holden in and for the county under your lordship's charge, you would make known to the chairman of such sessions the substance of this communica

tion, in order that he may recommend to the several magistrates to act thereupon, in all cases where any person shall be found offending against the law in the manner above-mentioned.

I beg leave to add, that persons vending pamphlets or other publications, in the manner alluded to, should be considered as coming under the provisions of the Hawkers and Pedlars' Act, and be dealt with accordingly, unless they show that they are furnished with a licence as required by the said act. I have the honour to be, &c. SIDMOUTH. To this circular letter was subjoined a copy of that of the two law officers, the attorney and solicitor-general, signed W. Garrow and S. Shepherd. The substance of it was, that a warrant may be issued to apprehend a party charged on oath for publishing a libel, either by the secretary of state, a judge, or a justice of the peace.

On May 12th the subject was brought before the House of Lords on a motion from Earl Grey. His lordship stated, as the principal topic which he had to discuss, the question whether any justice of the peace may be called upon, by any common informer, to decide at once what is or is not a libel, and upon his sole judgment and authority commit or hold to bail the person accused. The knowledge which he displayed on the subject was very considerable; but depending entirely upon the opinions given by different lawyers, and his comments upon them, it will not allow us to enter into particulars. After he had brought together a degree of cumulative proof which, he contended, was

scarcely to be found in any other instance, against the power assumed by justices of the peace of committing or holding to bail for a libel, his lordship took under his consideration the conduct of the secretary of state, in issuing his circular letter to the lords lieutenants of counties, for the direction of the magistrates in the administration of the law. He held that such a direction to the magistrates, not being a general exhortation to vigilance and care, but a specific instruction as to the way in which they are to construe the law, would have been, even if the law had been clear and undisputed, a high offence against the constitution. The character of this proceeding, therefore, he did not hesitate to call most unconstitutional; and he brought two striking instances to show the danger that might arise from it. In conclusion, Lord Grey moved, "That the case submitted to the law-officers of the crown, &c. be laid before this House."

Lord Ellenborough, after complimenting the noble earl for his very able and elaborate speech, which proved that he had considered this important question in all its bearings, said that he was by no means convinced from any of the authorities he had cited, that the law was different from what he had always considered it to be, namely, that justices of the peace can arrest and hold to bail in cases of libel. He then called to his support some of the gravest and most venerable authorities of the law which spoke expressly and explicitly on the subject; and affirmed that if, from the time of the revolution to the present day,

the

« AnteriorContinuar »