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vated position, and, independent of posi- height, and the magnitude of the west-win-
Some idea may be formed by these extracts of the immense research which has been bestowed upon this work, and the mass of materials collected and digested. It is quite a mine of information, and we hope shortly to return to it.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1857.
The present parliament has not been barren of great events. It has solemnly put its seal to the great principle of freedom of exchange. It has conducted a war, and concluded a peace. It has witnessed a development of individuality, and a manifestation of personal independence in the rank and file of party, which will probably characterize our political contests for many years to come. It has proclaimed to successive Prime Ministers that they who hold the reins of power in this country must expect defeat upon many unimportant, and on some great questions; and it has superadded to the ordinary perplexities and anxieties of the First Minister, the difficult duty of deciding how many hostile rotes are inevitable in the present temper and constitution of parties, and which of them ought to be resented by a resignation. Further, the present parliament has seen the growth of a strong religious affinity between two sections of politicians, who have merged the most obstinate party differences and sectarian prejudices in a course of action which has caused great embarrassment to the leaders of parties. This quasi-religious party, with Mr. Spooner and Mr. George Hadfield for its chiefs, may not promise us a new political combination, but is not without its moral. It is beside our present purpose to inquire whether the anti-Maynooth agitation asserts a great principle which will one day be incorporated in our legislation; or whether, on the contrary, it is a mischievous polemical manifestation disavowed by every statesman, and calculated to perpetuate feelings of religious animosity. But it illustrates the independence of party ties, and the vindication of individual freedom of action, which have distinguished the present parliament. Nor has this tendency to segregation been confined to Dissenters and the party of Exeterhall. Men who have served in the same cabinet have differed from each other almost as often as from the party sitting on the opposite side of the Speaker's chair. Upon more than one class of subjects, if you wanted to know how Mr. Henley voted, you had only to watch the lobby into which Sir John Pakington walked, and solve the problem by the “ rule of contraries.” If a coolness existed between Mr. Beresford and Mr. D’Israeli, the taunt of disunion could not come with a very good grace from the ministerial benches. The opposition to Mr. Lowe's Local Dues Bill, if it commenced with Sir F. Thesiger, was enforced by the ex
<-Whig Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir F. T. Baring, and one of the great government defeats of the session was sustained upon Lord Elcho's motion relative to the site of the National Gallery. The bickerings between one of the lawofficers of the Crown and the Lord-Chancellor were not very studiously conceded ; and twenty years hence, upon the publication of the life and correspondence of some deceased statesman, we may discover that considerable difference of opinion prevailed in Lord Palmerston's cabinet upon the Appellate Jurisdiction Billl and the subject of Life Peerages.
It would be easy to multiply these instances. The process of disintegration, which commenced at the repeal of the Corn-laws, is going on with new intensity. Whether the Ilouse of Commons, like the far-famed Koh-i-noor, will be improved in brilliancy by increasing the number of its facets, may be doubted. But it is clear that constituencies tolerate, and indeed expect, a higher conscientiousness on the part of their representatives. When party feeling ran high, and Whigs and Tories were
nearly balanced in numbers, electors were impatient of angularities and eccentricities, and would rather see their member vote wrong with his leader, than right with the other side. With the change have come a more lofty self-respect and greater independence of judgment among the mass of members, with some attendant inconveniences, in a more largely developed self-consciousness, and a desire to explain and defend their several differences and idiosyncracies, which consumes valuable time. While the leaders have suffered some eclipse, the nebule of our parliamentary system have become more distinctly visible, and stars of the smallest magnitude have shone with unwonted brilliancy. If, as some pretend, party ties cannot be so lightly worn without bringing legislation to a dead lock, and hampering the action of the executive, the practical good sense of our countrymen will not fail to apply a remedy for evils so grave. But the tendency of this independence of action is to invest the personnel of parliament with an increased interest, which we hope to turn to impartial profit in our Parliamentary Portrait Gallery. The moment is not inopportune. The present will probably be the last session of the present parliament, and if the House of Commons is to sit for its daguerréotype, the artist cannot be too prompt with his lens and nitrates.
Sir Charles Barry's æsthetic tastes must be greatly shocked when he enters the present House of Commons, and remembers the elegant, lofty, and well-proportioned hall which he originally designed and built for the representatives of the people, and contrasts it with the patched, shrunken, odd-looking chamber in which the Commons now meet, with its panelled roof of wood and glass, not exactly resembling either an inverted barge, or the cabin of a ship, but partaking as little of the architectural edifice which a Palladio or a Wren would have planned for upwards of six hundred gentlemen to meet and debate in. Sir Charles Barry's first chamber was a model of lightness, grace, and solidity ; its acoustic capabilities were condemned, perhaps too hastily. For several years previously the House had assembled in a small chamber built of wood, and with such properties of resonance that members had slid into a conversational tone, and debate not unfrequently resembled talk and chat, rather than oratory. When they found themselves translated into a spacious and nobly-proportioned hall, worthy of their numbers and dignity, they expected that the old slip-shod style of uiterance would be as audible in the new House as in the temporary wooden building they had just left. One speaker attempted to retain an elegant lisp, or a mincing utterance; another continued to finish his sentences in the hissing whisper which had been considered so effective in the little room over the way. The result was a chorus of complaint against the architect. The new hall would have been a splendid arena for the great Lord Chatham, or the younger Pitt, or Fox, or Brougham in his best days; or, indeed, for any debater who spoke in a manly, oratorical tone. But modern debaters could not rise to the greatness of the architect's conception of a hall of oratory; and so the stone roof was removed, and the building botched, and tinkered, and dwarfed into its present shape and dimensions. Everything had to be sacrificed to make the walls vocal and resonant. How much of the credit of the present edifice is due to commissioners of works and parliamentary committees of taste, and how much to the architect, the public have not been informed. But the object to be attained has unquestionably been realized. In every part of the house, a speaker with a moderately good voice may be heard in every other part, if his articulation and utterance are not viciously defective.
We will imagine that the first night of the session of 1857 has arrived. The speech from the throne has been delivered in the afternoon, and those hon. members who were not present in the House of Lords have read it in the evening papers. The clock, in the peers' gallery, opposite the Speaker's chair, points to half-past four; and both the ministerial and opposition benches are crowded. A hum of conversation is heard; members are discussing the ministerial programme of the session, so far as it may be ga. thered from the Queen's speech, or gossipping about the hunting season, or the woodcocks they have shot, or their new town-house, or the débutantes at the first drawing-room of the season. Two members on the right of the Speaker's chair are alone silent, anxious, and abstracted; and these are precisely the most conspicuous individuals in the assembly : for if they happen to be officers of the regular army, the yeomanry, or the militia, they wear a military uniform ; and if not, they are attired in the scarlet and silver of a deputy-lieutenant. These are the mover and seconder of the address, who rehearsed their speeches to perfection this morning, and who are now and then seen stealing a look at a well-used manuscript. When they find themselves on their legs, and see everyone staring portentously at them, it will be well if they remember all the statistics so kindly prepared for them by the Board of Trade, and those neatly turned sentences in praise of Lord Palmerston, which they framed with so much care, and which have received the patronizing commendation of the member of the cabinet to whom they have been confidentially shewn. The buzz of conversation is for a few minutes interrupted by Mr. Hayter, the Patronage-Secretary to the Treasury, and chief whipper-in to the Government, who rises to move the new writs,—this year larger in number than usual, in consequence of the vacancies and retirements which have occurred during the recess. By this time the front Treasury-bench is so full of heads of departments, law-officers of the Crown, and parliamentary secretaries, that a great deal of inconvenient crowding and squeezing goes on in order to accommodate the last cabinet minister who arrives. But one seat in this bench is carefully preserved for a minister who has not yet made his appearance ; it is the seat opposite to the green box at the end of the table, and if the minister on one side of the vacant seat is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on the other the Secretary of State for the Home Department, you may be sure that the personage expected is the Prime Minister. To this seat all eyes are occasionally directed. Sometimes it happens that an independent member passing up the floor of the house, and wishing to say five words to Sir C. Lewis, or Sir G. Grey, will drop into the vacant place. An ironical cry of“ hear, hear,” (although there is nothing to hear,) and much laughter, invariably greet the luckless representative, whom the house affects to consider the “ coming man,” and to treat as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister. The seat is then speedily vacated ;—but it is filled again while you look round. Lord Palmerston has entered the house from the lobby behind the Speaker's chair. These quiet and unobtrusive exits and entrances seem to be to the taste of the Premier. If he wished to lay himself out for a cheer now and then, he would only have to walk up the floor of the house from the door opposite to the Speaker, on such an occasion as the present, or the day after a great speech, or a triumphant division, or a successful negotiation. One of his colleagues, in a whisper, tells him if anything has occurred; and some hon. member on the opposite benches instantly starts up to ask some question about foreign policy, with the usual prefatory observation : “Seeing the noble lord, the First Minister of the Crown in his
place, I wish to know,” &c. Lord Palmerston promptly rises. He makes the House of Lords a present both of the Secretary and Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs,—by which means he retains without dispute, in his own hands, the right to reply to all questions upon the foreign policy of the government. His answer is short :-“ The papers are not quite ready, but every exertion shall be made to lay them upon the table at the earliest possible moment;" or, “Her Majesty's government have not received any official information upon the subject to which the hon. gentleman refers ;" or, “ The hon. gentleman will see that while negotiations are going on, it would not be for the benefit of the public service to enter upon question mooted by him.” The tone of a minister's answer, of course, depends a good deal upon the motives of the interrogator. If the member intends to make political capital out of the answer, or the question conveys a rebuke, it is considered fair to flout him and put him off. Lord Palmerston is a master in this style of reply. The notion that a member can get anything out of him that he does not wish him to know, probably never enters into anybody's calculation. The chances are that the Premier will say something so curt, vague, and unsatisfactory, as to raise a laugh at the expense of his opponent.
Now begins that quick file-firing of question and answer, which makes the half-hour from half-past four to five the most exciting period of the sitting. Members are expected to enter questions upon the votes, so that the minister to whom they are addressed may have a day's notice of the inquiry, and be prepared with an answer. But considerable latitude is given to members when important items of news appear in the public press. Sometimes a ministerial announcement is necessary to calm the public mind, and then the government are glad of an opportunity of replying to a question without previous notice. It must not be supposed that all the querists are snubbed. Many of the questions and answers are indeed matters of previous arrangement. If an independent member, who usually supports the administration, has taken an interest in any particular subject, and has identified himself with it, he receives a friendly intimation from some subordinate member of the government that the Prime Minister has come to such a decision, or has such or such an announcement to make, and that if he chooses to ask the question, some member of the government will make the statement in reply. The member's “vested interest" in the question is thus recognised, and his name goes to the country and to his constituents upon the skirts of the ministerial declaration. The rapidity with which one question follows another strikes a stranger with astonishment. Before the querist has sat down, the minister has risen to reply ; and before the echoes of his voice have died away, another member starts up with another interpellation. If the Home Secretary is the minister addressed, a tall, intelligent, gentlemanly man rises, who replies with excessive volubility, and a voice as hoarse as that of a raven, but who is a dexterous administrator, and the representative of the Premier in his absence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is perhaps the next minister interpellated. He rises leisurely, addresses the House leisurely, and leisurely resumes his seat. At first it was the fashion to sneer at Sir C. Lewis, but no one has grown more rapidly in the good opinion of the House. His manner is most courteous, and it may safely be predicted of him that he will never make an enemy. The hesitation and embarrassment with which he at first addressed the Speaker, did not ill become the successor to Mr. Gladstone in the difficult and delicate post of minister of finance. Every day Sir C. Lewis gains some