« AnteriorContinuar »
speaker had not concluded. It was, I suppose, an involuntary echo of the sentiment expressed; but few, I think, would be prepared to say, it was very suitable.
In the House of Commons I have heard long-continued and most deafening cheers, when every voice appeared to
join, with all its powers. In such cases of universal and · powerful sympathy, uttered in such a manner, the effect
is very thrilling and intoxicating. It is the voice of acclamation, “like the sound of many waters." I question whether there is another assembly in the world where this expression is given so powerfully as in the British House of Commons. And I hardly need say, after the example quoted above, from the scene enacted on that occasion, that they are no less accomplished in doing discordances, and administering most 'ungracious incivilities on each other, when they happen to be in the humour of it.
When the Lord Chancellor enters the House of Lords to open the sitting, he is preceded by the bearer of the seals and mace, who lays them down when his lordship has arrived at the woolsack, and the chaplain reads prayers. In the same manner the mace (“that bawble," as Cromwell called it, when he entered that chamber with his troops, and said, “ Take away that bawble,”) is borne before the Speaker of the Commons, and laid upon the table, as the signal for the chaplain to commence his duty. Like the two houses of the American Congress, the British Parliament, for the most part, contrive to dispense with the prayers, and come in afterward.
“The woolsack ?”—is the moderator's seat. The Lord Chancellor is ex officio president of the House of Lords. His seat, I presume, was originally a sack of wool ; and, for aught I know, it inay be so now. An American may have some idea of it, by having his attention directed to a bag of cotton. It is not so large, but very like it; and is laid across the room in front of the throne, being covered with scarlet cloth, like the other furniture of the room. As moderator of the house the Lord Chancellor occupies this place; in his judicial capacity he sits in a chair. Among the many representations of Lord Chancellor Brougham exposed in the picture-shops, was a cheap one, exhibiting him in this chair, leaning forward, with his spectacles in one hand, and saying very characteristically to a counsellor, whose argument might often be cut short to the profit of all concerned, “Yes, I see, sir-I see—it comes to this.”
By general consent in both houses, the ministers and their supporters occupy the side of the house on the right of the speaker, and the opposition on his left. Of course, when there is a change of government, by the ascendency of the opposition to power, the two great parties change sides—the party out, being by the change constituted the opposition, go over to the left of the speaker, and the party intrusted with the government, to the right. The ministers take the front seat, which for this reason is called the “ Treasury Bench.”
“ The Right Reverend Bench” does not change with the change of ministry; but always remains on the speaker's right-over his shoulder, behind the treasury bench. Why it remains stationary there in the ups and downs of parties, I do not know—unless, being “ministers of peace,” they are supposed to be of no party. Until the Reform government was created, they had generally been ranked politically on the side of the ministry, and of course were in the right, in two senses at least: first, being on the speaker's right; and next, in their own society. In a reformed Parliament, assuming that they think with the opposition on political questions, as they generally do-they are, notwithstanding, and however paradoxical it may seem, both on the right and wrong side, in the view of Reformers.
When a boy at school, I used often to recite that favourite speech of Chatham-with me a favourite-in which, pleading the cause of the North American colonists against the employment of the Indians in the war, he turns and says, “I appeal to that Right Reverend Bench-those holy ministers of our religion;" and I imagined they had some exalted place by themselves. When I first entered the House of Lords in session, I looked for “ that Right Reverend Bench." There could be no mistake; and yet it was not exalted, as I had imagined, but down upon the same level with all the rest. The white robes and sacerdotal lawn are an indubitable mark to the stranger of the place of the lords bishops. Other members, except the Lord Chancellor and the clerks, appear in their usual every day and out-of-door garb, and sit with their hats on or off, as they please. With this exception in regard to hats, if it must be reckoned one, the dig. nity of the House of Lords, so far as I am a witness, or am otherwise acquainted, is well sustained. This cannot always be said of the House of Commons.
The composition, or elements of the two Houses of Parliament, are as follows:
There are five classes of peers in Great Britain: 1. Peers of England; 2. Peers of Scotland ; 3. Peers of Ireland ; 4. Peers of the United Kingdom ; and, 5. Peers of the Episco, pal Bench. All Peers of England are entitled to seats in the House of Lords; so also those of the United Kingdom, though their locality be Irish or Scotch. Every peerage, it should be remarked, has a locality, though the possessor of the dignity may belong to another part of the empire. There is a sort of double peerage—that is, Peers of England sometimes hold an equal or superior rank in the peerages of Scotland
and Ireland. If superior, courtesy addresses them by the higher dignity, but they hold their seats in the House of Lords as Peers of England, or under title of the inferior rank. The peerages of Ireland and Scotland are entitled to a place in the House of Lords only by representation, which is limited-for Ireland to twenty-eight ; for Scotland to sixteen. The representatives of the Irish peerages are chosen for life; those of the Scotch for the duration of the Parliament. The two archbishops and the twenty-four bishops of England are peers in right of certain ancient baronies which they are supposed to hold under the king. The Bishop of Sodor and Man has no seat in Parliament. One of the archbishops and three of the bishops of the Irish Protestant Church sit in the House of Lords in annual rotation. The rights of peers by creation do not descend to their posterity, unless so specified in the patent : this belongs only to the ancient peerages.
The composition of the House of Lords, at the beginning of 1834, stood thus :
Princes of the blood royal (all dukes) .
. . . . .
4 . 21
. . 19 . . 110
. 18 . . 180
. 16 . 28
The number of lay lords may be increased by creation at the will of the king.
The number of the House of Commons is the same under the Reform Act as before, viz. 658; but the constituency has been very essentially extended. Before the passage of the Reform Bill, this branch of the legislature was constituted as follows:
For 40 Counties in England . . . 80 knights 25 Cities . . . .
50 citizens 167 Boroughs .
. 334 burgesses 5 do. one each
5 do. 2 Universities, Oxford and Cambridge 4 do. 8 Cinque Ports . .
12 knights 12 Boroughs in Wales . . . . 12 burgesses 12 Counties in Scotland . i
12 Counties in Wales
Total, The House of Commons, under the Reform Act, is constituted as follows :
Of the House of Commons, as it stood at the beginning of 1834, the members were of the following classes :
The radical change in the principles of the elective franchise, and the consequent extension of the constituency to comprehend the middle classes of the community, and leaving them free to choose whom they will from whatever rank in society, brought into the reformed House of Commons, to a great extent, very different elements from those which composed it under the old regime. It is more democratic. Notwithstanding, however, such is the influence of the aristocracy of the country, that 186 of the members of the House of Commons in 1834, that is, in the last Parliament, were immediately connected with the peers. The component parts of the House of Commons are liable to frequent change from death, promotion, and the various fluctuations of society with which they are connected; and the places vacated are filled by new elections.
The House of Lords opens as a court of appeals in the
morning, at such hour as the Lord Chancellor appoints, and the business is done principally by him. Five o'clock in the afternoon is the usual hour of assembling for legislative business, and they adjourn at such time of night as may be convenient. When interesting and important debates occur, they are apt to sit late—sometimes till morning.
The House of Commons used formerly to meet at four P. M., and be prepared for business and for the admission of strangers at five; but in 1833 they established a new regulation, to meet and do the lighter business of the house from twelve to three; to assemble again at five, and adjourn as might be convenient. They more frequently sit late than the House of Lords—the average hour of adjournment is perhaps not far from twelve o'clock; often at one and two; sometimes they debate all night. There are eating and coffee rooms connected with the house in adjoining apartments, to which members and strangers can retire at any time for refreshments; and as appears by the extract from a London paper, page 127, there is a smoking-room too. It may seem to a stranger in the gallery of the House of Commons, when debate is dull, and no important vote immediately pending, that the members are nearly all absent; but the moment a clever speaker is up, or a vote of importance is about to be called for, a rush is made from the various adjacent apartments, and in five minutes the house is full.
THE MONARCHY AND ARISTOCRACY.
The principal and controlling elements of English society-A European Monarchist and an American Republican-British Law above the King -History of the British Monarchy-Its social influence in connexion with the Court-Courts corrupt They corrupt Society-Expense of the British Monarchy-List of the Royal Family-The Aristocracy.
I AM satisfied, that the state of society in Great Britain cannot be understood by foreigners, without the process of analysis and coinposition. It is very obvious that the monarchy stands first in the list of the principal elements. I was going to say, that every Briton is a monarchist; but I remember, that a Scotchman once told me in London, with a very significant and positive air,“ Sir, we are republicans in Scotland.” I suppose, however, that he meant to say, The reformers of Scotland are republicans ; alias, radicals. If we might judge from the developments of a dinner given to Lord Durham at Glasgow, in 1834, they would seem to be a confirmation of the latter proposition, if not of the former; and many think there is no great distance between