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down to the present hour. But though thus veiled like many of the mysteries of that marvellous and unique creation, the English Constitution, the rights of the Speaker are in themselves real and tangible, and they command the constant respect, the unhesitating deference, of all who have inherited or acquired the true Parliamentary spirit. We have, it is true, lived to see that which had been unknown before, since 1802, an attack upon the conduct of the Speaker in the House of Commons. But even those who thus impeached his action in a particular matter, were careful to profess a reverential regard not only for his personal character, but for his official dignity and authority. If they had taken any other course, the defeat which they actually sustained would have been even more crushing than it was; for the House of Commons guards the office and functions


of the Speaker as the very apple of its eye ; and the one Parliamentary sin for which no forgiveness can be found, the last and greatest of all possible offences against the House, is an open and contumacious defiance of the authority of the Chair.

The reason for this unsleeping watchfulness over the Speaker's prerogative is to be found in the fact that this high official, unlike the Presidents of Legislative Assemblies abroad, is accepted upon his appointment as being not merely the Chairman, but the representative and the personal embodiment of the dignity and authority of the House of Commons. Within the House, it is true, he presides over debates, regulates the conduct of affairs, and maintains order ; but it is hardly this side of his office, important though it is, which elevates him to so high a place in the regard of his fellow-Members. Such duties as these are also discharged by the Chairman of Committees ; yet men feel little of the reverence for him which they entertain for the Speaker. That which gives to the holder of the latter office a kind of sanctity in the eyes of his colleagues, which to the uninitiated may possibly seem to bé exaggerated and even ridiculous, is the fact that it is in his dealings with the Monarch, the House of Lords, and the nation, and not in his duties within the House, that he is the 'Speaker' of the august and venerable assemblage over which he presides. It is left to him, and not to the statesmen of the Treasury Bench, or the most eloquent of unattached orators, to be the spokesman of Parliament on the most solemn occasions.

He stands between it and the Crown on one

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side, and the nation on the other,—he is the champion of its rights, the defender of its liberties, the one man in whose person and office are summed up the traditions, pre

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cedents, and prerogatives of more than five hundred years of Parliamentary government. It is when we look at him in this light that we see the real difference between the Speaker of the House of Commons and a M. Schneider or M. Gambetta presiding over a French Imperialist or Republican Chamber. The personality of the French President is not lost in the greatness of the office he fills, as is the case with our English Speaker. It depends upon himself whether, in the Presidential chair, he shall not take almost as active a share in the debates, and exercise almost as powerful an influence over the Members, as he did before his election. No such opportunity is offered to the English Speaker. He takes no part in the debates ; he forgets that he was ever a party politician ; and he even gives the casting vote he holds as Chairman in accordance with all manner of rules and precedents, rather

than in obedience to his own personal sympathies. Yet the very fact that he thus ceases to enjoy the rights of the ordinary Member, and becomes almost the slave of the dignity to which he has been elected, only adds to the greatness of his position and of the authority which he wields. Just as there is only one House of Commons in the world, though nearly every civilised country has some institution intended as an imitation of it, so there is only one Speaker, to whom the most dignified or powerful of foreign Chairmen bears but a faint and faraway resemblance.

The days have probably passed away for ever when it was necessary for the Speaker to assert the rights and privileges of the House of Commons against the encroachments of the Crown or the House of Lords. The Representative Chamber has gradually concentrated in itself the predominant autho

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