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Prorogation of Parliament, 22 April 1831

Taken from

Peel's speeches

[308] The Speaker having taken the Chair in his full robes of office, and the House being crowded with members, Sir R. Vyvyan rose to address the House on the subject of the Reform Bill, and on the approaching dissolution of Parliament. After a time, calls to "Order," and much noisy confusion took place. After a long and [309] turbulent interruption the hon. baronet recommenced, and proceeded for some time; but, just towards the conclusion of one of his sentences, the report of the first gun, says the reporter, which announced the arrival of his Majesty, resounded through the House. It drowned the conclusion of the hon. baronet's sentence ; and the cheers, laughter, and cries of "order! " which followed the succeeding discharges completely prevented our hearing the purport of the hon. baronet's observation. When the discharges of artillery were almost concluded, the hon. baronet sat down, and

Sir R. Peel, Lord Althorp, and Sir Francis Burdett rose at the same instant. The scene which followed was most extraordinary, Sir R. Peel was received with loud shouts, groans, laughter, and cries of "bar " from the ministerial benches, responded to by cries of "order!" and "chair" from those of the opposition. All the endeavours of his friends, aided on his part by most vehement action and gesticulation, having failed to obtain a hearing or to induce Sir F. Burdett and Lord Althorp, who on their part were not wanting in equal supplicating gestures, to obtain a hearing,

The Speaker rose, and after a long interval of confusion, and repeated cries of "shame" succeeded in obtaining a hearing. The right hon. gentleman, evidently labouring under great emotion, said this was the precise situation in which he believed they were placed :—Sir R. Peel caught his eye at the conclusion of the speech of the hon. baronet, the member for Cornwall [Sir Richard Vyvyan]. Sir Francis Burdett rose at the same time; and on there being a call raised for a preference being given to Sir Francis, the noble lord rose, and moved, as he had a right to do, that Sir Francis Burdett be now heard. The question he had now to put was, that Sir Francis Burdett be heard, and on that question the right hon. gentleman (Sir R. Peel) had as undoubted a right to speak, as any other which could come before the House [cheers].

Sir R. Peel rose, with this decision in his favour, to address the House; but he was received with groans, shouts, laughter, and cries of "bar!" from the ministerial side of the House.

The Speaker, amid loud cries of "shame," again succeeded in obtaining a hearing. He observed, that when hon. members appealed to him, and called on him to lay down the rules of order, he thought they should do him the favour to rest satisfied with his decision as to the question before the House, and the question to be spoken to.

Sir R. Peel after some slight interruption, was then suffered to proceed. He said that the rules under which that House had acted for centuries were not, it would appear, to be the rules of a reformed parliament. The House had that day seen an example of a defiance of all regular authority, even from the place which was occupied by the ministers of the Crown. He did not complain of the dissolution of that House: he complained merely of the manner in which it was done. He did not, however, share the desponding feelings of his hon. friend the member for Cornwall. He had better hopes for England. He did not advise his countrymen to sit with their hands before them, patiently expecting the confiscation of their funded property. He had a proper confidence in the good sense, and intelligence, and just appreciation of character of the people of England ; and he was satisfied, that if they united religiously in a just cause, and unite he knew they would, that there were no fears of a successful issue to that struggle into which they were about to enter. [Loud cheers and groans, and cries of "bar!" and "order"] He would ask, was it decent thus to attempt to produce confusion, under the pretence of calling to order? If this were a foretaste of what was to take place hereafter, he might indeed, call on them to beware of a reformed parliament. He would tell them what they were about to establish by a reformed parliament. If they carried that bill which the ministers had proposed to them, they would introduce the very worst and vilest species of despotism — the despotism of demagogues. They would introduce the despotism of journalism — that despotism which had brought neighbouring countries, once happy and flourishing, to the very brink of ruin and despair. But, when he looked to Ireland; when he saw the state of society in the western counties of that kingdom; when he was told that rebellion had almost hoisted its standard; and when it was known that landed proprietors, well affected to the state, were left without the slightest protection to their property, and were compelled to move [310] their families into the towns, for the protection of their lives and properties from the marauders, who, in open day, threatened them with pillage and destruction — he confessed he could not call up words to express his astonishment and regret at the course adopted by the government. Instead of corning to parliament to ask for new powers and new laws, to vindicate the outraged authority of the government, the king's ministers, at such a crisis, and under such a state of society in Ireland, had come to a resolution to dissolve the Parliament, in order that they might protect themselves from that loss of power with which they were threatened. If the Crown were to be so easily influenced — if its independence were so far extinguished — it ceased to be an object of interest to enter into its service. He perceived, indeed, that the power of the Crown had already ceased. Ministers had, however, adopted this course to protect their places; and they held them with the established character, in the eyes of the country, of having, during the time they had been in office, exhibited more incapacity — more unfitness for the conduct of public business than was ever shown by any ministry which had attempted to hold power in England. They had been in office for some months, and not a single measure had emanated from them from the day they took office till that moment, for the benefit of the country. They had pursued the course adopted by all governments called liberal. They had tossed on the table of that House some bills — a Game Bill and an Emigration Bill — and after having established, with respect to them and other measures, what they called liberal principles, they abandoned them to their fate. What, then, was to be—

[The right hon. baronet was here interrupted by loud and vehement cries of "bar!"] He continued standing and speaking, when

The usher of the Black Rod appeared at the bar of the House, and said, "I am commanded by his Majesty to command the immediate attendance of this hon. House in the House of Lords, to hear his Majesty's royal assent to several bills; and also his Majesty's speech for the prorogation of Parliament."

The Speaker accompanied by several members, left the House in obedience to the summons, and after a short absence returned to the House, and intimated to the members, that having been summoned to attend his Majesty in the other House, his Majesty was pleased to pronounce from the Throne a gracious speech, declaring the present parliament prorogued, with a view to an immediate dissolution.

The Speaker called the members round the table at which he took his seat, and read the royal speech to them as follows:—

"My Lords, and Gentlemen, — I have come to meet you for the purpose of proroguing this Parliament, with a view to its immediate dissolution.

"I have been induced to resort to this measure for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of my people, in the way in which it can be most constitutionally and authentically expressed, on the expediency of making such changes in the representation as circumstances may appear to require, and which, founded upon the acknowledged principles of the constitution, may tend at once to uphold the just rights and prerogatives of the Crown, and to give security to the liberties of the people.

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons, — I thank you for the provision you have made for the maintenance of the honour and dignity of the Crown, and I offer you my special acknowledgments for the arrangements you have made for the state and comfort of my royal Consort. I have also to thank you for the supplies which you have furnished for the public service: I have observed with satisfaction your endeavours to introduce a strict economy into every branch of that service; and I trust that the early attention of a new parliament, which I shall forthwith direct to be called, will be applied to the prosecution of that important object.

"My Lords, and Gentlemen, — I am happy to inform you, that the friendly intercourse which subsists between myself and Foreign Powers, affords the best hopes of the continuance of peace, to the preservation of which my most anxious endeavours will be constantly directed.

"My Lords, and Gentlemen,—In resolving to recur to the sense of my people, in the present circumstances of the country, I have been influenced only by a [311] paternal anxiety for the contentment and happiness of my subjects, to promote which, I rely with confidence on your continued and zealous assistance."

The Lord Chancellor immediately said :— My Lords, and Gentlemen; it is his Majesty's royal will and pleasure, that this Parliament be prorogued to Tuesday, the 10th of May next, to be then and there holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued till Tuesday, the 10th of May next. His Majesty then retired. The Commons returned to their own House, and the Peers separated.

After the return of the members to the House of Commons, all who could approach the Speaker, amid the confusion, shook hands with the right hon. gentleman, with the utmost kindness and cordiality.


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