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By George I’s accession St. Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster, where the Commons had met since the reign of Edward VI, had been converted into a panelled chamber, about 58 feet long, 32 wide, and 30 high, lit mainly by three arched windows behind the Speaker, and at night by a chandelier, supplemented by sconces attached to pillars supporting galleries on three sides of the House, from which Members often spoke. When in 1707 the number of Members was increased from 513 to 558 by the addition of 45 from Scotland, Sir Christopher Wren, the surveyor general of Works, enlarged the galleries to make room for a second row of seats. The only other accommodation possessed by the Commons consisted of the Speaker’s Chamber, which was the committee room; the Speaker’s withdrawing room; a ‘clerks closet’; and a lobby, as shown in the plan, reproduced opposite, by Wren’s short-lived successor, William Benson, dismissed in 1719 for groundlessly reporting to the Lords that a large part of the Palace of Westminster, including their own House, was in imminent danger of falling down.1
Notwithstanding Wren’s enlargement of the galleries the chamber was too small to accommodate all the Members comfortably. The parliamentary diarists, Sir Edward Knatchbull and the 1st Lord Egmont, were both forced to leave in the middle of important debates, Knatchbull ‘fainting’ and Egmont ‘disordered by the heat of the House’. When on 14 Mar. 1733 Walpole opened his excise proposals at a quarter to one, Egmont reports that ‘the House was crowded to an insupportable degree, which occasioned Mr. Gybbon to move that his Majesty might be addressed to build a new House, which was agreed to.’ On this occasion 469 Members voted, so that if, on the analogy of the great Dunkirk debate referred to below, 30 Members left the House before the division, 501, including the tellers, would have been present. Plans for a new House by William Kent were submitted to the Speaker in 1739, but were not carried out, presumably owing to the outbreak of the 1739-48 war, after which the need for increased accommodation disappeared, as the Opposition were so feeble that by 1751 ‘they could not conjure up a spirited division now on the most popular points’. Thirty years later ‘the difficulty of procuring a numerous attendance’ was such that important measures were often decided ‘in Houses not consisting of half the number of Members that ought to be present’.2 This may explain why it was not till both Houses were destroyed by fire in 1834 that the Commons acquired new quarters.
In the absence of separate division lobbies, divisions were taken by sending one side out of the House to be counted as they came back into it through the lobby door, which was closed till those who remained in their seats had been counted by the tellers. Any Member failing by inadvertence to go out before the doors of the House were closed was counted with those who remained in, like ‘old Sloper’, who during the debate on the Spanish convention in 1739 ‘was asleep till the House was begun to be told, and they would not let him go out after he was awake, so he voted against his inclinations’. Those who went out lost their seats even if they had secured them under the rule permitting a Member to keep a place for himself, though not for others, by leaving a book, glove or paper in it, provided that he had attended prayers. The principle applied by the Speaker for deciding which side should go out was ‘that those who give their votes for the preservation of the orders of the House should stay in; and those that give their votes otherwise, to the introducing of any new matter, or any alteration, should go out’. On this principle a body of case law had been built up, providing, for example, that on a motion to adjourn, ‘if this question is put before four o’clock the Ayes go forth, because four o’clock is ... the regular hour at which the House may adjourn; but if it is after four o’clock the Noes go forth’.3
The manoeuvres to which this procedure gave rise are illustrated by the proceedings on the first reading of the excise bill, 4 Apr. 1733. The Opposition opened by moving for the withdrawal of the bill which, being contrary to the orders of the day, obliged them to go out of the House for the ensuing division. By this, in the words of a ministerialist, Sir Thomas Robinson,
of course they lost their places, and they had no other choice but the galleries or the bottom of the House, so that their speakers would have met with difficulties to be heard in the debate that was intended.
On the defeat of the motion, the time being nearly five in the afternoon, the Opposition promptly moved to adjourn, which, Robinson continues,
we disagreeing to, it fell to our turns to be fairly jockeyed out of the very same places we had in the last division taken possession of, for we were obliged to go out of the House, this question being only calculated to gain this point.
As the debate lasted till past one in the morning, the Opposition had the best of this game of musical chairs.4
The inconvenience of such proceedings led to a tacit convention that the ministerial party should confine themselves to the side of the House on the right of the Speaker, where the front seats, known as ‘the ministerial bench’, were traditionally reserved for the Crown’s chief representatives, leaving the side on his left to those who had hitherto been known as ‘the anti-courtiers’ or ‘the minority’, but were beginning to be called ‘the Opposition’. From 1733 onwards reports of speeches show that Members, ministerial as well as opposition, were beginning to refer to their opponents as ‘the gentlemen over the way’. Mr. Foord, who first pointed out the implications of this expression, shows that by Walpole’s fall ‘the evidence is overwhelming that the Opposition consistently occupied, and were by custom conceded, the benches on the Speaker’s left’,5 with the exception of Pulteney, the leader of the Opposition, who, having qualified for the ministerial bench on becoming a privy councillor in 1716, continued to sit there even after he had been struck out of the Council, referring to his own supporters as ‘the gentlemen over the way’.
Another innovation was the practice of inviting ministerial Members to pre-session meetings, ostensibly for an advance hearing of the King’s Speech, a rudimentary government whip. Pairing, too, had started; in the Dunkirk debate, 27 Feb. 1730, which lasted till three in the morning, ‘the lateness of the night obliged about thirty Members to leave the House before the question was put, each taking away with him one of the contrary side’. In March 1744 a motion against pairing was rejected. So also two months later was a motion to enforce constant attendance by a call of the House within 14 days of the beginning of each session, defaulters without a valid excuse to be committed to the custody of the serjeant at arms. Thenceforth no further Members were committed for defaulting during this period, whereas 59 had been from 1715 to 1743.6
Since the Revolution, Parliament had met every year for five or six months, usually beginning in November or December, though Walpole for a time managed with four-month sessions, starting in the new year, because he found that ‘adjournments at Christmas tended more to cabals than all other occasions’. ‘Staying long in town’, Bishop Burnet wrote shortly before George I’s accession, ‘both wastes estates and corrupts the morals of Members’. Half a century later Speaker Onslow described Members as
ruining their estates in the luxury of all sorts of living in London, which is false grandeur for a country gentleman, and gives him no credit; and so most of their ancestors thought, even in times not very far back, who, with as great property and character, did not disdain to come up to parliament with few attendants, to live in lodgings, and eat at frugal ordinaries in company with one another. Their great tables were in the country and for the country.7
In point of fact only about one half of the House of Commons were country gentlemen in the accepted sense of independent Members not engaged in a profession or in trade. Most of the other half were either placemen, including army and naval officers, government contractors, and servants of the Prince of Wales, or practising lawyers and merchants, some of whom also held places.8
Nominally the House met at 9 a.m., to which it adjourned each day, but the hours actually kept are shown by the orders made at the beginning of each session to the constables of Middlesex and Westminster to keep the streets from Temple Bar to Westminster Hall clear of obstructions between certain hours for Members on their way to and from the House. In 1667 the hours prescribed were 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., these being ‘the usual time of the meeting and the rising of this House’; in 1710 they became 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; in 1717 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; from 1736 the prescribed hours were 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. On great occasions the House filled much earlier. Knatchbull records that on 1 Mar. 1723
the House was full by 8 o’clock in the morning and Speaker there at 9 to hear the report of the secret committee about the [Atterbury] plot, which Mr. Pulteney reported, and took up 6 hours reading.
For the last debate on the excise bill, 11 Apr. 1733, places were taken by 8 a.m., as they also were for that on the Spanish convention in 1739, when Edward Harley was 17 hours in the House. Normally, however, the House at this time was meeting for private business about noon, passing to the orders of the day not sooner than 2 p.m., because, in Onslow’s words, ‘by that hour gentlemen are all present in the House’. When Onslow was re-elected Speaker in 1741, he exhorted Members ‘for the better and quicker despatch of business to come down early in a morning’, making it ‘a point of honour to dedicate thatwhich is the best part of the day to the service of their country’. In 1744, with a view to enforcing earlier attendance, the House resolved to accept a recommendation by a select committee that no private business should be entered upon after 1 p.m. But the tendency to meet later persisted, for in 1759 Onslow confessed that the House was meeting at two o’clock.
I have done all in my power to prevent it [he wrote] and it has been one of the griefs and burdens of my life. It has innumerable inconveniences attending it. The Prince of Wales that now is [afterwards George III] has mentioned it to me several times with concern and did it again this very day [7 Oct. 1759] and it gives me hopes that by his means it may in time be corrected. I told him that in King William’s time, those of his ministers who had the care of the government business in the House of Commons were dismissed by him to be there at eleven o’clock [a.m.]. But it is not the fault of the present king [George II]; his hours are early. It is the bad practice of the higher offices, and the Members fall into it as suiting their late hours of pleasures, exercise, or other private avocations. The modern practice too of long adjournments at Christmas and Easter, and the almost constant late adjournments over Saturdays are a great delay of business, and of the sessions. This last was begun by Sir Robert Walpole [in 1732] for the sake of his hunting, and was then much complained of, but now everybody is for it.9
Onslow’s advocacy of earlier hours, shorter holidays, and Saturday sittings was actuated by a desire for shorter sessions, not by pressure of public business, which in his time, measured in terms of annual output of legislation, was less than a quarter of that under George III. Moreover in the eighteenth century most of the bills passed were private. The King’s Speech, which was mainly concerned with foreign affairs, did not contain a legislative programme and merely asked for a supply.
As the cost of the civil administration was met from the King’s civil list, provided by standing taxes voted for the sovereign’s life at the beginning of each reign, while the interest and sinking fund of the national debt were likewise covered by standing taxes appropriated to them, supply resolved itself into providing for the defence services. No supply was voted without an estimate, except that for the number of seamen, which was moved before the navy estimates were laid before the House. ‘Why the method of granting this part of the supply should be different from all others’, a contemporary authority on procedure writes, ‘I can assign no reason, except it be that the marine is and ever has been a favourite service in this country.’10 The navy vote was usually unopposed, a division on it in 1735 being described as ‘the first division that was ever in Parliament upon the number of seamen demanded by the Court since we were a nation’, unlike the army estimates, which were almost invariably opposed. The ordinary peacetime defence expenditure under Walpole varied from £2-3,500,000, met from the malt tax, producing £750,000, the land tax, varying from one to four shillings in the pound, each shilling producing £500,000, and the surplus of the sinking fund, representing the amount by which the yield of the taxes appropriated to the discharge of the national debt exceeded the interest actually payable on it after its conversion from a six to a four per cent basis. Strictly this surplus, amounting at George II’s accession to £1,133,000 a year, should have been applied to debt redemption. But as the alternative was a higher land tax, and as the last thing debtholders desired was to be paid off, there was no effective criticism of this way of balancing the ‘budget’, a term then denoting a bag, first used in its modern sense during the excise bill controversy in a pamphlet entitled The Budget Opened, comparing Walpole to a charlatan opening his ‘budget’ or bag of quack remedies.11
The procedure for passing the supply and other bills is described in an anonymous treatise called The Liverpool Tractate because it was found in the papers of the Earls of Liverpool. Internal evidence shows it to have been written in 1762, almost certainly by Jeremiah Dyson, a great authority on procedure, who that year resigned his post of clerk of the House of Commons to become a Member. Except where otherwise indicated, the following account of eighteenth-century legislative procedure is based on this treatise.
There were six preliminary stages to the grant of supply: the King’s Speech asking for a supply; the Address promising a supply; a motion to consider the Speech; a motion to grant a supply; the consideration of the motion in a committee of the whole House; a report by the committee recommending a supply in general terms, whereupon the army and navy estimates were ordered to be considered by a committee of the whole House. When a sum had been voted it was referred to a committee of the whole House to consider ways and means of raising the supply. On the reports of the committee of ways and means the supply bills were drafted by select committees, usually consisting of the chairman of the committees of supply and ways and means, the chancellor of the Exchequer, the lords and secretaries of the Treasury, and the law officers. The chairman of the committees of supply and ways and means, who met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, was a government nominee, with a salary of £500 a year from secret service funds.12
When a supply bill had been prepared the procedure for passing it was the same as that for other public bills. This involved motions ordering that the bill should be brought in; that it should be brought to the table; for the first reading; for the second reading at some future time; for the second reading now; for the bill to be committed to a committee of the whole House; for reading the report of the committee at some future time; for reading it now; for engrossing the bill; for the third reading; for passing the bill; for agreeing to the title; for sending it to the Lords. No attempt was made to exploit the opportunities for obstruction presented by this procedure. In 1738 Pulteney, complaining that the Government were attempting to deny him facilities for debating an opposition bill, appealed to the House ‘if it has not been many times in my power to have dropped in, even on a land tax bill, with half a dozen of my friends, and to have thrown it out. But, Sir, I have always disdained these arts.’13 1,493 public Acts were passed from the accession of George I to 1754 but only 770 of them were introduced as public bills, consisting (a) of 597 government bills introduced by a minister or the equivalent, 290 of which were annual supply and mutiny bills, and (b) of 173 non-government public bills, introduced by private Members. The remaining 723 were introduced as private bills.
The procedure for passing a private bill differed from that for passing a public one in that a private bill had to be brought in not by motion but by petition under an order of the House in 1685, made a standing order in 1699. Petitions had to be presented by a Member, except those from the city of London which were presented by the city sheriffs. There were three stages in presenting a petition, at each of which a question was put to the House by the Speaker, namely whether it should be brought from the bar to the table, whether it should be read, and whether it should be referred to a committee, unless it was for a bill not involving a tax, in which case a bill might be ordered immediately. If a petition affected the interests of the Crown or public money the consent of the King should be signified when the petition was presented. The time for receiving petitions for private bills was always limited at the beginning of each session by a resolution stating that after a certain date no more would be received. Thus Knatchbull notes, 28 Feb. 1729, that ‘this day being the last for petitions for any private bill this session, there were many presented’.
Petitions were referred to select committees unless they were too important, such as any affecting the trade of the whole country, in which case they were referred to a committee of the whole House. The method of choosing a select committee is described by Dyson:
The question for commitment being agreed to, the Speaker says ‘name your committee’, the regular way of doing which is for every Member to stand up again in his place and name two committees [i.e. committee men]. When a sufficient number of committees are named, the Speaker orders the clerk to read the names, which being done he adds to them the Members for what counties, places, or professions he thinks fit,
such as the Members for the counties concerned in a turnpike bill; all the Members of the seaports for bills relating to harbours, lighthouses, etc.; all the merchants of the House for a bill affecting trade; or ‘all the gentlemen of the long robe’ for a legal matter. It was also open to any Member to make such additions. In the order constituting an important committee the words ‘and all that come are to have voices’ were sometimes inserted after the list of Members named, meaning that any Member of the House might attend and vote, thus converting it in effect into a committee of the whole House, except that eight of the named or group members had to be present to form a quorum. On the day when Knatchbull records that many petitions for bills were presented, six committees were nominated with an average membership of nearly 40, apart from groups of Members for places and professions added.
When a committee had been named, the Speaker put the question whether they should meet that afternoon at five o’clock in the Speaker’s Chamber. Strictly not less than five of the committee should have met at that time, or as soon as the House was up, to fix a date for hearing the petition, but in practice the Member presenting it saved himself the trouble by arranging with the clerk concerned for a meeting on a certain date at 8 a.m., i.e. an hour before that to which the House adjourned each day, ‘for no committee can be supposed to sit or do any act while the House is sitting, as it is presumed the presence of every Member is necessary to the House’. Committees were forbidden to sit after they had been notified by the serjeant at arms that the House was going to prayers, but this rule was not strictly observed.
Committees were empowered to elect their chairman, ‘an office’, Dyson writes, ‘gentlemen don’t seem very ambitious of, for I never knew a contest for it except in the committee of elections’. A letter of 15 Mar. 1753 from John Willes, Member for Banbury, to Wilkes, shows why there was no competition for it:
I am involved in a very troublesome affair. I have the management of a turnpike bill in which the borough of Banbury is very nearly concerned and I shall not get it through the House in less than a fortnight, and am [also] to oppose a bill for an enclosure; these two silly things keep me in hot water and prevent my going out of town.14
The chair was usually filled by the Member presenting the petition, but an exception occurred in 1729, when a petition from merchants complaining of Spanish depredations, presented by John Barnard, an opposition Member for the city of London, was referred not to a select committee, chaired by Barnard, but to a committee of the whole House, chaired by Thomas Winnington, a ministerialist.
On going in to the committee some cried out for Barnard to take the chair and others Winnington, and Winnington being first moved and seconded, a debate began, that Barnard, having brought in the petition on which this enquiry was grounded, he ought to be in the chair, as the usual compliment to anybody that first moved a thing in the House ... and at last the question was put and carried that Winnington should take the chair by a division of 252 against 133.
The object of this became clear when, after the merchants had given their evidence, John Hedges, a ministerial supporter, and Barnard ‘stood up both to speak, and Winnington, the chairman, pointed to Hedges, and some of the House averred Barnard stood up first; and it begat a debate of two hours’, ending in a motion that Barnard should speak,
the first time ever such a question was put in a committee, and is now a rule laid down that, if the committee cannot agree who first was to speak, it must be determined by a question, for in a committee the previous question cannot be put. So it was carried against Barnard’s speaking by a division of 145 and 180. As soon as ever the question was over, most of the minority went out of the House,
leaving Hedges to carry an innocuous motion. What would have happened if Barnard had been chairman is shown by another merchants’ petition against Spanish depredations in 1738, which was again referred to a committee of the whole House, this time with Micajah Perry, like Barnard an opposition Member for London, in the chair, ‘in compliment to the merchants, but it was too great a compliment’, for when one of the Court got up to speak ‘Perry would not see [him] ... but called on Mr. Pulteney’, who moved a series of resolutions asserting British rights in such specific terms as would have left the Government with no room for manoeuvre in negotiations with Spain on the subject. ‘This disconcerted the court side and instead of the intended speakers obliged Sir Robert to speak to retrieve the point and get it into their own hands.’ Both these petitions started agitations which in 1729 nearly and in 1738 actually led to war with Spain.15
The ‘material difference between a committee of the whole House and a select committee’, Dyson writes, was
that the latter cannot report an opinion on any matter unless they are authorised to do it by the order of their appointment, and the former never reports anything else but opinion, for they never state evidence nor facts but resolutions only.
The orders appointing select committees were in one of the following forms: (1) to ‘examine the matter of the petition and report the same as it shall appear to them to the House’; (2) as in (1) but with the insertion of ‘with their opinion thereupon’ after ‘report the same’; (3) to ‘examine and state to the House the matter of fact contained in the said petition’. Under the first order a committee had to confine their report to the evidence given, no matter how ‘absurd or contradictory’ it might be, ‘but not to give any opinion thereon, for the House has reserved that judgment for themselves’. Under the second order they were empowered to express an opinion in the form of resolutions, which were usually adopted by the House. The third order empowered them to give a digest of the evidence, but this, though ‘the most rational method’, was seldom if ever used in contested matters, as ‘it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to please both parties’. Select committees were usually empowered to send for persons, papers and records. Sometimes they were authorized to examine witnesses on oath, administered by a justice of the peace for Westminster. The parties concerned were usually represented by a solicitor, whom it was advisable to consult on the drafting of a petition.
A special type of select committee, usually consisting of 21 Members, chosen by ballot, was sometimes set up to inquire into matters of great importance. The way in which such ballots were conducted is shown by the following account of the ballot on a committee of 21, moved for by the Opposition, to inquire into the frauds in the customs by which Walpole had justified his excise bill.
It appearing by the list prepared by Mr. Pulteney and Sir William Wyndham, and which they sent about to everyone they thought would join them, that something more was intended by this enquiry than barely to detect frauds in the customs, seeing not one friend of the Administration was in that list, but all the twenty-one men the most determined enemies to Sir Robert Walpole ... the Administration took an alarm, and thought it necessary to summon a meeting of the Government’s friends at the Cockpit the next night to agree to a list prepared by Sir Robert Walpole, and which consisted of twenty-one members, most of them placemen, the rest being five in number, independent friends of the Government ... On the report of the ballot it appeared that Sir Robert Walpole’s list had carried it to a man by a majority of 85 ... This proved a terrible mortification to the malcontents who perceived so great a majority for the ministry, although by a ballot they imagined numbers would have sided with them since they could do it without discovering themselves.
Commenting on this affair, Hervey writes that the ministry should never have agreed to the opposition motion.
What the court party ought to have insisted on was that this committee should be a committee of the whole House—they ought to have stuck to that and not at this juncture to have trusted the determination of so important an affair to the dark juggle of a ballot.16
Except for the secret committee set up in 1715 to inquire into the late peace negotiations, other ballots of this kind were unfavourable to the Government.
When a committee had completed the examination of the witnesses on a petition, the clerk drafted the report, unless the matter was important enough for this task to be carried out by the chairman himself. Having given notice to the Speaker, the chairman took the report to the bar of the House, with the title of the bill, if one was to be brought in. This involved three motions: for the report to be read; for a bill to be ordered; and that certain Members should prepare it and bring it in. The subsequent procedure was the same as for public bills except that private bills had to be printed and delivered to Members before the first reading, unless they were for naturalization, change of name, or bills empowering local authorities in Scotland to lay duties on beer during a limited period for specified local public works; that three days had to elapse between each reading; and that a week’s notice of a committee meeting on the bill had to be posted in the lobby. None of these rules applied to public bills, the passing of which was therefore simpler than that of private ones, especially as it did not involve the preliminary stages necessary for bills introduced by petition. Another difference was that in committee the preamble of a private bill was taken first, whereas that of a public bill was postponed till after the clauses had been dealt with. Finally, fees were payable on private but not on public bills to the officers of the House, from the Speaker downwards, who were entitled to withdraw a bill on the second reading until the fees on it were paid.
Private bills fell into three classes, only one of which would now be regarded as private legislation. This consisted of personal bills for the benefit of individuals, relating to naturalization, change of name, divorce, estates, wills, and enclosures. On becoming law these bills were classed as private Acts, to which the royal assent was signified in the form of ‘soil fait comme il est désiré’. From 1715 to 1754 there were 1,286 private Acts.
The second class of private bills consisted of those for the benefit of a particular locality, chiefly relating to roads, bridges, inland waterways, harbours, gaols, workhouses, churches, and other public works, involving a toll or tax. All these bills contained a clause declaring them to be public Acts, received the royal assent in the form of ‘le Roy le veult’, and appear in the statute book as public Acts, till 1798, when they were classed as local and personal Acts. 612 of the public Acts passed during this period were local Acts, most of them for turnpike roads.
The third class of private bills, which also became public Acts, usually without a clause declaring them to be such, consisted of bills which ‘appeared to be of general utility, although immediately and in the first instance calculated for the benefit of a particular person or body of people’. Examples of these hybrid bills, as they would now be called, are given in a list, compiled by Hatsell, clerk of the House 1768-97, of bills introduced over a period on which fees had been paid as private bills:
|1731-2 ||for encouraging the trade of the sugar colonies; for regulating pilots; for recovery of debts in the plantations; to prevent the exportation of hats out of the plantations; to secure the trade of the East Indies; to encourage the growth of coffee in the plantations.|
|1732-3||for the free importation and exportation of diamonds; to secure the trade of the sugar colonies.|
|1733-4||for encouraging the engraving of historical prints etc.|
|1734-5||for vesting printed copies of books in the authors or purchasers etc.|
|1735-6||for recovery of ecclesiastical dues from Quakers; for relief of shipwrecked mariners; for continuing the additional duties on stamped vellum etc.; for building Westminster bridge.|
|1737-8||for encouraging the consumption of raw silk and mohair yarn; to prevent frauds in gold and silver wares; for regulating the cheese trade; for collecting at Genoa money for relief of shipwrecked mariners; to regulate the importation of Smyrna raisins.|
|1738-9||to obviate doubts relating to tanned leather; to prevent frauds in gold and silver wares; for liberty to carry sugars from the colonies to foreign parts in British ships.|
|1740-1||for opening a trade to and from Persia through Russia; relating to insurance on ships.|
|1741-2||to prevent counterfeiting of gold and silver lace; for laying an additional duty on foreign cambrics imported.|
|1743-4||for making provision for the widows and children of the clergy of the church of Scotland; to prevent brewers’ servants stealing barrels.|
|1744-5||a grant of public money and further powers to the commissioners for Westminster bridge; for allowing additional duties on the exportation of British and Irish linen.|
|1745-6||for regulating pawnbrokers; for securing the duties on foreign-made sail cloth.|
|1746-7||for support of maimed seamen; to empower distillers to retail spirits.17|
111 of the public Acts passed during the period of this survey were hybrid bills. Of the 2,779 Acts passed from the accession of George I to 1754, 2,009 were introduced on petitions as private bills.
The non-party and non-governmental character of most of the legislation of the period is illustrated by a bill which was introduced in 1731 as a result of some 50 petitions from the woollen industry, headed by one from Bristol, attributing its depressed condition to the smuggling of Irish wool to France, where it was made into cloth, which competed successfully with English woollen goods. The petitions were referred to a select committee, to which ‘all that come are to have voices’, chaired by John Scrope, not as secretary of the Treasury but as Member for Bristol, whose petition he had presented. After an inquiry lasting nearly three months, the committee presented a report, the chief feature of which was a recommendation that the best way of stopping the smuggling of Irish wool to foreign countries would be to give Ireland an alternative outlet for it by taking off the heavy duty on the importation of Irish yarn into Great Britain. This recommendation led to a debate, in which Walpole supported taking off the duty, but Henry Pelham, his chief lieutenant, opposed it, the other speakers being similarly divided on non-party lines. When a bill giving effect to the committee’s recommendations passed the House by 127 to 84, the tellers for it were Samuel Sandys, a leading opposition Member, and Lord Malpas, Walpole’s son-in-law, those against it being Pelham and Edward Wortley, an opposition Whig. The Lords agreed to the bill till they came to the Irish clause, which they rejected by 38 to 35, deferring further consideration of it for a week, when Parliament would be prorogued, as ‘a more decent way to dispose of it’ than rejecting it. Subsequently Walpole’s brother Horace, who had been in charge of the bill in the Commons, told Egmont
that he was really for the bill, but was not willing to oppose the Lords who appeared against it, who were all the principal friends of the Government; that he could have carried it through if he would, and a bishop had been with him to desire instruction which way he should vote on it, to whom he replied he wished the Lords would pass it, but would not insist on it, since so many of his friends opposed it so strongly.
It was not till 1739 that the duty was taken off.18
During the same session Egmont reports that merchants trading to Barbados, ‘distrusting their success at the council board, and unwilling to wait the petition expected from New England which will oppose their desires, intend ... to petition the House very speedily’. Their petition, complaining that the North American colonies were illegally carrying on a trade with foreign sugar colonies, from which they were obtaining supplies of sugar, rum, molasses, and other goods instead of buying them from the British sugar colonies, was referred to a committee similar to the woollen committee, chaired by Sir John Rushout, a leading member of the Opposition. On the committee’s report, Rushout, his nephew, Samuel Sandys, also in opposition, and Henry Bromley, a ministerialist whose fortune was derived from Barbados, were authorized to introduce a bill ‘for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty’s sugar colonies in America’. A bill prohibiting the importation of foreign sugar into Great Britain, Ireland, and all the British dominions passed the Commons but failed to secure a second reading in the Lords before the session ended. After it had passed its committee stage in the Commons Egmont wrote:
I could not but reflect on the shame we justly deserve, that a matter of this nature should be so ill attended; a bill passed a committee of the whole House that related to the welfare of all the British dominions, and had not fifty Members present.19
Re-introduced next year only to meet the same fate, it was passed in 1733 in the form of a bill imposing prohibitive duties on the importation of foreign sugar etc. into the North American colonies, to whose revolt it contributed when an attempt to enforce it was made in the next reign. Though in its final form it was technically a money bill, it is included in Hatsell’s list of bills on which fees had been paid as private bills.
Another way of illustrating the character of contemporary legislation is to analyse the Acts passed in the session of 1730, when reports of proceedings in committee, which are not recorded in the journal of the House of Commons, are provided by Knatchbull, who died on 3 Apr., as well as by Egmont, only a fragment of whose pre-1730 diary survives. In this session 37 public Acts were passed, the average output of such Acts per session for the whole period. Five of these were supply Acts, introduced by the chairman of the supply and ways and means committees, providing for the malt tax, for the land tax at two shillings, for the repeal of the salt tax, for the extension of the East India Company’s charter, in return for a payment of £200,000 by the Company, whose interest was to be reduced from five to four per cent, and for raising £550,000 by exchequer bills at three per cent on the security of the saving of £32,000 a year effected by the reduction of the East India Company’s interest. The only other government Acts were one for settling disputes in the court of Chancery as to the powers of the master of the rolls, introduced by the attorney-general; the annual Mutiny Act, introduced by the secretary at war; and an Act, aimed at preventing the Emperor from raising a loan in the city of London, prohibiting loans to foreign powers without a government licence, introduced by the chancellor of the Exchequer.
Of the eight government Acts, that for the extension of the East India Company’s charter went through with merely a token division on it by the Opposition, the matter having already been decided by the rejection of a petition, backed by the Opposition, for the transference of the Company’s monopoly to a rival corporation. The repeal of the salt tax arose from a recommendation in the King’s Speech that the House should consider whether the state of the sinking fund justified giving relief to the poor by taking off some of the more grievous taxes appropriated to it. The taxes considered for taking off were those on soap, candles, and salt, Walpole favouring that on candles, as it would leave the sinking fund with almost exactly a million for debt redemption, but the debate ran so ‘violently for taking off the salt’ that ‘seeing he could not stem it’ he declared that he would vote for it. The bill prohibiting loans to foreign powers was opposed by the discontented Whigs as injurious to trade. On its third reading, Egmont reports,
when the question was put for passing, Captain Vernon and others who cried ‘No’, observing the House to be thin and the ministry not there, suddenly got up and called for a division. It was a surprise and not a fair procedure, though strictly parliamentary. However, the ‘Ayes’ who went out were eighty-four, and the ‘Noes’ who stayed in but sixty-six, so we carried it.
Four non-controversial Acts were introduced as public bills on motions by opposition Members: for preventing the packing of juries; for amending a debtor’s relief Act passed in the previous session as a result of the activities of the gaols committee, under which ten thousand debtors had been released; for giving the court of session of Scotland power to adjourn; and for continuing expiring laws, an annual measure, prepared by a select committee, whose chairman, in this case Thomas Bramston, a Tory, introduced the resulting bill.
Twenty-five of the public Acts were introduced as private bills on petitions. Five were hybrid Acts, for regulating the coal and brick-making trades, for reviving an Act against exactions by Thames lock-keepers, for allowing New York to import salt from Europe, and for allowing South Carolina rice to be sent direct to Spain and Portugal without first touching at Great Britain. The first three were introduced by Members representing the constituencies from which the petitions on which they were founded had emanated. The New York Act was introduced by one of the London Members, Micajah Perry, who frequently presented colonial petitions. The South Carolina Act, founded on a petition from merchants trading to Spain and Portugal, was introduced by Peter Burrell, himself a leading Portugal merchant. Though Walpole has been given credit for this Act, he in fact regarded it with disfavour, for when asked by Egmont next year to support a bill extending the same concession to unenumerated goods sent from the West Indian colonies to Ireland, he objected, observing
that last year rice was suffered to go from the colonies to foreign parts without touching in England, and now the unenumerated goods are desired to be put on the same foot, that he was always against repealing old laws, made for the benefit of trade, and breaking into the Navigation Act.
Twenty were local Acts, ten for turnpike roads, four for churches and parishes, two for inland navigation, and one each for the Skerries lighthouse, regulating Norwich elections and Bristol brokers, and building a workhouse at Worcester. On the last, introduced by Samuel Sandys, one of the Members for Worcester, Egmont reports that when this bill was being committed, Thomas Winnington, a ministerial supporter, who in 1741 was returned for Worcester with Sandys,
moved for an instruction for a clause that no attorney should be a governor of it, which Sir Joseph Jekyll opposed as being a reflection on an honourable profession. Mr. Winnington replied it was no more reflection than to exclude them from being overseers of the land tax, which is constantly done, because if they were let into the management of people’s property they would be sure to set them together by the ears. We divided on it; the ‘Ayes’ who went out were ninety-two, the ‘Noes’ who stayed in were one hundred and eleven. So we lost it.
Egmont himself attended his own parish minister’s bill ‘for settling a maintenance for him in his church of Stratford, Bow’.20
Twenty-one private Acts were passed, twelve for estates, six for enclosures, and three for naturalization. Forty-three divisions are recorded, in only two of which more than 400 Members voted, 417 on the Hessians, 4 Feb., and 419 on Dunkirk, 27 Feb. In all but six of the remaining 41 less than 300 voted. The last division exceeding 300 was on 10 Mar. when an opposition motion for addressing the King to assert his right to St. Lucia by representations at the French court was defeated by 234 to 122. Next day the Tories were reported to be ‘hastening out of town, and very angry that they were brought up under a notion that very great matters were to appear against the ministry, which have ended in molehills’.21 The House did not rise till 15 May, two months later.
During this same session of 1730 a point of procedure arose on a petition from Bristol, presented by one of its Members, for taking off the duty on soap and candles. Knatchbull reports, 27 Jan., that ‘there was some debate about receiving of it, which at last [it] was, on the Chair declaring it was customary to receive petitions against duties that were laid and found grievous, though not against duties whilst they were laying.’ The petition having been received, it was
moved to refer it to committee of ways and means, but the Chair said no, let it lie on the table, for that committee was not yet in being. It was objected that ... this was irregular, for at this rate we should be pestered every day with petitions against all the duties that were appropriated, for they were all grievous in some respect or other, and if they were to be taken away and nothing substituted in their stead, it would affect people’s property and injure public credit; therefore it was hoped the gentleman would withdraw it [the petition], but he would not, and so there was a division for it lying on the table, but carried against it by 117 against 94; then a motion for rejecting it carried for it by 148 to 69.
The rule that no petition would be received against a bill imposing a tax for the current service of the year, that is a supply or money bill, was made to prevent the House from being swamped by petitions, as it had been in 1697, when a bill imposing a ten per cent ad valorem duty on woollen goods ‘brought such a cloud of petitions from all parts of the kingdom ... that it was thought advisable not even to present the bill’. In 1733 the city of London presented a petition to be heard by counsel against the excise bill
to delay the bill, and bring petitions against it from all parts of the kingdom, for that had been the consequence if this of London had been heard by counsel, and every petition praying the same, we must have sat all the summer.
In view of the privileged position of the city, their petition, instead of being rejected outright, was read and ordered to lie on the table, ‘as a decenter way of disregarding it’.22
Petitions against bills were heard at the bar of the House, committees having no power to reject a bill. They might be presented at any other stage, but the fairest time was on the second reading, to save the petitioners from paying fees should the bill be thrown out. Petitions for amending a bill were referred to the committee on it, unless they were for altering the route of a road, in which case a committee was nominated to consider them, the resulting report being referred to the committee on the bill. It was unusual for counsel to be heard on petitions, except those on elections.
Petitions against election returns were left with the clerk till 1722, after which they were presented in the usual manner. Having been read, they might be ordered to be heard at the bar of the House on a stated date, thus being assured of a hearing, but the great majority were referred to the committee of privileges and elections for a report with their opinion on them. A standing body, appointed at the beginning of each session, to meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the Speaker’s Chamber at five in the afternoon, the committee consisted of a large number of Members nominated by the House, but since 1672 the orders constituting it had invariably provided that ‘all that come are to have voices’, so that though technically a select committee it was in effect a committee of the whole House. At the opening of the session of 1722 Archibald Hutcheson, a Tory Member, moved that
the committee of elections should be in a select number instead of all that come to have voices, seconded by Jefferies as the old constitution in Queen Elizabeth’s time and King James the 1st. But in King Charles the 1st’s time [actually Charles II’s], the practice broke in of having everybody come and vote, and then they garbled the House by a majority, and fomented divisions and discontents ... but nobody came into it and so the motion was dropped.23
Except in 1741, when Walpole’s candidate was defeated, the chairman was a government nominee, who saw to it that most opposition petitions were shelved.
Owing to the large number of petitions received after general elections—in 1715 their reading alone took the best part of five days—less than thirty per cent of those referred to the committee were heard. The following table gives the figures of petitions received and heard at the bar or by the committee after each of the six general elections of this period:
| ||Returns petitioned against ||committee ||Heard at bar ||Not heard|
Election petitions were used by the ministerial party to increase the majority which they had gained at the polls, a process described by Walpole as ‘weeding the House’.24 This was done by giving priority to petitions from government supporters, as far as possible deciding them in favour of the petitioners, and closing the elections committee before any opposition petitions had been heard. Petitions not heard in one session could be renewed in the next, usually to meet the same fate if they were against a ministerial Member. As an opposition Member remarked, after a petition had been closured in this way for the third time in successive sessions, ‘it was a great hardship on gentlemen, session after session to bring up their witnesses, and be debarred from making out their right to sit in the House.’25 No doubt this accounts for the fall in the number of petitions from a peak of 99 in 1722 to 17 in 1747.
The way in which election petitions were treated is described by Hervey, a ministerial supporter, referring to those received after the general election of 1727:
I believe the manifest injustice and glaring violation of all truth in the decisions of this Parliament surpass even the most flagrant and infamous instances of any of their predecessors. They voted in one case 40 [actually 48] more than 90; in another they cut off the votes of about seven towns and some thousand voters who had not only been determined to have voices by former committees of elections but had had their right of voting confirmed to them by ... the authority of the whole legislature.26
The power of the House to convert a minority of votes at an election into a majority by altering the local franchise was considerably curtailed by a provision in the Bribery Act of 1729 declaring the last determination of a right of election by the House of Commons to be final. Nevertheless election petitions continued to be decided on party lines. When after the general election of 1741 the Opposition gained the upper hand in the Commons they used it to decide all election petitions in their own favour, thus forcing Walpole to resign. After some 30 years of presiding over election petitions at the bar of the House, Onslow’s considered opinion was that they were ‘the great disgrace of Parliaments’.27
Of the other function of the committee of privileges and elections, Lord Mahon writes:
Throughout the reign of George II the privileges of the House of Commons flourished in the rankest luxuriance. On one occasion it was voted a breach of privilege to have ‘killed a great number of rabbits’ from the warren of Lord Galway, a Member. Another time, the fish of Mr. Jolliffe were honoured with a like august protection. The same never-failing shield of privilege was thrown before the trees of Mr. Hungerford, the coals of Mr. Ward, and the lead of Sir Robert Grosvenor. The persons of one Member’s porter and another Member’s footman were held to be as sacred and inviolable as the persons of the Members themselves.28
So were the persons and property of Members’ tenants.29
The most valuable privilege was that of immunity from arrest and legal proceedings in civil cases while Parliament was sitting. For arrest this immunity extended to 40 days before and after the session, but property was not protected during the recess. Thus in January 1732 Egmont noted that Charles Caesar’s and Sir George Oxenden’s town and country houses had been seized, with their contents, for debt, only their owners’ Membership of Parliament protecting them from gaol.30 Another Member, Edward Wortley, found it cheaper to keep his son out of gaol by bringing him into Parliament than by paying his debts.
Forging Members’ franks on letters was a frequent source of cases of breach of privilege. The privilege of franking their own letters was used by merchants and bankers in the House to secure free postage for their business correspondence. Later in the century a post office inquiry estimated that this was worth £1,300 a year to each of 31 bankers in the House ‘which of itself is sufficient inducement for any banker to get into Parliament’.31
In one matter the House failed to enforce its privileges. Despite repeated resolutions that it was ‘a breach of privilege of this House for any person to presume to give in written or printed newspapers any account ... of the debates and proceedings of this House or any committee thereof’ the monthly magazines published reports of debates during the recess, to which the resolution was supposed not to apply. At first the reports consisted of little more than the votes of the House, which had been printed since 1680, supplemented by speeches furnished by Members who wished to see themselves in print; but as time went on they improved so much that in 1737 Egmont wrote in his diary: ‘I will not set down the debates at length because the of Great Britain, the Gentleman’s Magazine, and the London Magazine, which come out monthly, [have] of late years done it.’32 The similarity of these reports suggests that they were derived from the same source, who appears also to have supplied them to Nathaniel Mist, the Jacobite printer, for transmission to the Pretender’s secretary. In forwarding them to Rome, Mist, who himself had taken refuge in Boulogne, often refers to the difficulty of obtaining access to debates owing to the enforcement of the standing order of 31 Oct. 1705 that any strangers present in the House or gallery while it was sitting should be taken into custody by the serjeant at arms.33 Apologizing for the delay in sending accounts of the debates on ‘that famous affair, the excise bill’, he wrote to the Pretender’s private secretary:
The reason you find them so late is that the gentleman I employ cannot at all times be admitted into the House, even though he bestows constant fees upon their doorkeepers and officers, and therefore he is obliged to keep up an acquaintance and give attendance to several of the Members for the sake of their assistance ... He tells me in a letter I have received ... [from] my bookseller that it is with difficulty and danger that he can collect and transmit them, but as I think they are really both entertaining and useful I have given him suitable encouragement and ordered him to spare for no cost.34
The letter enclosed a report, which appeared six months later in the magazines, of a debate on 8 Mar. about a petition from Rhode Island against the molasses bill. In 1738 the House, on a complaint by the Speaker, resolved that the publication of debates was a breach of privilege, ‘as well during the recess as the sitting of Parliament’. By this time the State had ceased to report debates, but the other two magazines continued to do so, the Gentleman’s Magazine as the proceedings of the senate of Lilliput and the Magazine as those of a political club, giving the speakers fictitious names, the real ones being provided separately. From 1747 the Gentleman’s Magazine ceased to report debates on the ground that there was no public interest in them, but the Magazine continued its reports with impunity, Pelham taking the line: ‘Let them alone; they make better speeches for us than we can make for ourselves’.35
Persons guilty of breach of privilege were committed to the custody of the serjeant at arms for the rest of the session or unless the House ordered their discharge at an earlier date, subject to paying their fees. These consisted of 10s. to the Speaker’s secretary for the warrant and 6 s. 8 d. to the clerk for the order of committal; £3 6 s. 8 d. to the serjeant for taking the offender into custody, £1 to him for every day in custody, and 6 s. 8 d. a day to the messenger attending him, amounting to a severe fine for a poor man who had been prevented by imprisonment from earning his living.36
Fees were fixed by a table of fees authorized by the House as chargeable by their officers for various duties, particularly in connexion with private bills. It had been one of the complaints made about private bills in 1706 that ‘the fees that were paid for them to the Speaker and the clerks of both Houses inclined them to favour and promote them,’ on which Onslow comments: ‘I can very truly say that my constant practice has been the contrary’.37 Hatsell, however, admits that ‘there has at all times been some difficulty in settling, between the parties applying for or interested in bills, and the officers of the House, what are to be deemed “public” and what “private” bills’.38 As the Speaker himself was an interested party, such questions had in the last resort to be settled by the House. Thus Knatchbull records that when William Lowndes, secretary to the Treasury, introduced, 29 Mar. 1723, a bill relating to a tax for repairing gaols in his county, Buckinghamshire, ‘he, to make it a public bill and to save the charges of a private one, brought it in general, and so it was rejected nem. con.’ In a report to a select committee on fees in 1751, Dyson states
that where a bill has been brought into the House upon motion, without a previous petition, or in consequence of a report from a committee of the whole House, it has been sometimes argued that the manner of bringing in such bill proved it to be a public one, and therefore not subject to the payment of fees.
This method was ‘particularly practised’ in connexion with the continuance of temporary Acts.
Application is made to the committee appointed to consider of expiring laws to insert in their report of laws fit to be continued such Acts as, in their own nature, ought to pay fees, and for which fees were originally paid. Now, as the provisions directed to be made in consequence of such report are usually inserted in some general bill, the persons interested in such particular provisions are under no necessity of appearing to solicit or follow such bill, so that no demand of fees can be made; and the regular method (and indeed in such cases the only remaining one) of enforcing the payment of fees, by objecting to the progress of the bill, is what the officers of the House must be very backward to make use of in relation to matters which have the appearance of being originally taken up by the House itself.
The same question arose on a hybrid bill. The House ruled on all points in favour of the clerks, also sanctioning the practice of charging multiple fees on private bills concerning more than one interest or more than one object.39
In Onslow’s time the clerical staff of the House consisted of the clerk and the clerk-assistant, who sat at the table, the latter also attending the committee of privileges and elections and committees of the whole House; and of four ‘under-clerks without doors’, presumably occupying the room shown in Benson’s plan as the ‘clerks closet’, who attended other committees. The clerk of the House held his office for life by letters patent conferring a salary of £10 a year, in addition to which he received a sessional salary of £200 from the Treasury, supplemented by fees, which cannot have amounted to much in 1748, when Nicholas Government Hardinge sold his office to Dyson for £6,000. Yet, owing partly to the decisions of the House in 1751, but mainly to the vast increase in private bills during the last half of the century, Hatsell as clerk in 1809 was dividing with his deputy an income from fees of over £15,000.40
The Speaker himself received £5 a day throughout the year ‘for the expenses of [his] table’, which explains why, on Spencer Compton’s re-election in 1722, Sir John Pakington complained of not being invited to dinner by him ‘all the last Parliament’. In addition he derived about £1,000 a year from various perquisites, about half of which came from fees. Both Speakers during this period held lucrative sinecures, Compton that of paymaster general, Onslow the treasurership of the navy till 1742, when he resigned it because ‘the Opposition said that his attachment to the Court arose from interest’.41
Onslow’s gesture did not take him out of politics, since he continued to speak and vote when not in the chair, nor did he cease to attend the pre-session meetings of the chief ministerial representatives in the Commons at the house of their leader. But his position differed from that of previous Speakers, such as Harley, who, in the absence of a first-class minister in the House, had sometimes acted as the leader of the majority party. This function lapsed after Walpole, by electing to remain in the Commons as head of the Treasury, assumed it himself, leaving the Speaker free to concentrate on his official duties, which then included the arrangement of the daily business of the House. Asked by George II why it was impossible to put an early end to the session of 1731, Walpole replied: ‘I cannot tell your Majesty all but I will ask our governor’, meaning the Speaker, to which the King retorted: ‘Governor! I thought you was governor’. Onslow himself told the House in 1738 how he performed this part of his duties: ‘It is always my custom, gentlemen, before I take the chair, to digest in my own mind the manner in which the affairs of the day may be best carried on.’ There was no deputy Speaker. When Onslow was ill, the House adjourned on a motion by the clerk till he recovered. This occurred only three times, for two days in 1731, three in 1738, and a week in 1748, during his 33 years in the chair,42 a record which testifies not only to the strength of his constitution but also to the stability of the régime established by the general election of 1715.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. O.C. Williams, ‘Topography of the Old House of Commons’, 3, 10 (T/S in lib. of Min. of Public Buildings andWorks); Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702-7, p. 511.
- 2. Knatchbull Diary, 27 Feb. 1730; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 91, 343, 353; Coxe, Walpole, iii. 129; Cal. Treas. Bks. & Pprs. 1739-41, pp. 17, 51; Walpole II, i. 32; Hatsell (1781), 62-63.
- 3. Coxe, Walpole, iii. 519; Hatsell, ii. 92-95, 186-211.
- 4. HMC Carlisle, 109; Hatsell, ii. 94.
- 5. Hatsell, ii. 94; A.S. Foord, Majesty’s Opposition, 155-7.
- 6. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 2, 75; CJ, xxiv. 602, 684-5; CJ General Index, 1714-74, Members, 25; Hatsell, ii. 99-101.
- 7. Coxe, Walpole, ii. 278; Burnet, vi. 214-15n.
- 8. See appendix VII.
- 9. CJ, ix. 45; xvi. 404; xviii. 629; xxii. 498; xxiv. 9, 685; xxix. 9, 63; HMC Carlisle, 110; Parl. Hist. x. 818; Harley Diary, 8 Mar. 1739; Burnet, vi. 214n.
- 10. Liverpool Tractate ed. C. Strateman, 61.
- 11. HMC Carlisle, 150; D.M. Gill, ‘The Treasury, 1660-1714’, EHR, xlvi. 609.
- 12. Namier, Structure, 228.
- 13. Parl. Hist. x. 823.
- 14. Add. 30867, ff. 73-74.
- 15. Knatchbull Diary, 21 Feb., 6 and 13 Mar. 1729; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 239-40; see also pp. 38,44.
- 16. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 365, 367; Hervey, Mems. 178.
- 17. Hatsell, ii. 283-5n.
- 18. CJ, xxi. 593, 691, 746; xxiii. 380; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 177, 186, 189, 255.
- 19. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 131, 176.
- 20. Knatchbull Diary, 25 Feb., 4 and 11 Mar. 1730;HMC Egmont Diary, i. 55, 81-82, 87, 90, 173.
- 21. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 78.
- 22. Hatsell, iii. 234-5; Diary, i. 358-9.
- 23. Knatchbull Diary, 15 Oct. 1722.
- 24. Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 587.
- 25. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 81.
- 26. Hervey, 75-76. See ARUNDEL and MONTGOMERY BOROUGHS.
- 27. Burnet, iv. 285-6n.; v. 192-3n.
- 28. Hist. England (1858), iv. 20.
- 29. See e.g. CJ, xviii. 171, 240; xx. 287, 323.
- 30. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 213.
- 31. K. Ellis, The Post Office in 18th Cent. 42.
- 32. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 350.
- 33. Hatsell, ii. 180-2.
- 34. Stuart mss 160/1, misdated 8 Mar. 1733. The debates on the excise bill were on 14 and 16 Mar. CJ, xxiii. 148.
- 35. Coxe, Pelham, i. 354-5.
- 36. L. Hanson, Government and the Press, 1695-1763, p. 74.
- 37. Burnet, v. 243-4.
- 38. Hatsell, ii. 283.
- 39. CJ, xxvi. 277-8, 290.
- 40. O.C. Williams, Clerical Organization of the House of Commons, 100, 107-11.
- 41. O.C. Williams, 307-11; Knatchbull Diary, 9 Oct. 1722; Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 129n.
- 42. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 176; Parl. Hist. x. 818; Hatsell, ii. 223n; CJ, xxi. 662; xxiii. 39-40, 158; xxv. 532.