Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day/Mr. Speaker


The first announcement to members on returning to their seats in Parliament last session was that their Speaker had resigned his distinguished post, and thrown upon them the preliminary business of selecting another to assume the place of First Commoner in England, and to be president of their councils.

There have been—excluding the present—only four Speakers of the House of Commons since the death of George III., which occurred above half a century ago. When George IV. succeeded to the throne in 1820, Mr. C. Manners Sutton was Speaker, having been chosen to that high office in 1817, and he remained Speaker down to the dissolution of the first reformed Parliament, in 1834. On the meeting of the next Parliament, on the 19th of February 1835, his re-election was opposed—this first opportunity for a trial of strength between the two political parties being taken. On that occasion, the new Ministry—Sir Robert Peel's—was defeated, the numbers being—for Mr. James Abercromby, 316; and for Mr. C. Manners Sutton, 306. The latter was then created Viscount Canterbury. Mr. Abercromby was Speaker for only a very few years. He retired at the Whitsuntide recess in 1839, and again there was a contest for the vacant chair. The numbers on this occasion were—for Mr. Shaw Lefevre, 317; and for Mr. Goulburn, 299. Mr. Abercromby was then raised to the peerage as Baron Dunfermline. Mr. Shaw Lefevre remained Speaker for nearly eighteen years. At the dissolution of Parliament in March 1857, he retired, and was created Viscount Eversley. On the meeting of the new Parliament, on the 30th of April 1857, Mr. J. Evelyn Denison was unanimously chosen Speaker. Mr. Denison therefore presided over the deliberations of the House of Commons for nearly fifteen years.

Mr. Denison was born in the year 1800, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in 1823. In the same year,


he was returned to Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme. On the formation of Canning's Administration, Mr. Denison was appointed one of the Lords of the Admiralty.

At this time the question of Roman-Catholic emancipation agitated the rival political parties of the day, and Mr. Denison was a constant adherent to the claims of the Roman Catholics.

The death of Canning led to a change of the Administration; and Mr. Denison relinquished his post at the Admiralty Board. Preferring an independent political career to the responsibilities of office, he remained in privacy, although several Administrations sought his services.

In 1830 Mr. Denison was returned for Hastings. In 1831, after the lamentable death of Mr. Huskisson, he was invited to stand for Liverpool; and, at the general election of 1831, he was returned for that borough, and also for the county of Nottingham; but he elected to sit for the latter.

During two Parliaments he represented the borough of Malton; and in 1857 he was returned for North Nottinghamshire, for which place he has since continued the member. Mr. Denison took an active part in the conduct of the private business of the House, and, as we have just mentioned, on the retirement of Mr. Shaw Lefevre he was, in 1857, unanimously chosen Speaker; being afterwards unanimously elected in 1859 and in 1866.

Mr. Denison married, in 1827, the third daughter of the Duke of Portland.

The emolument of the Speaker, it may be added, consists of a furnished house in the New Palace at Westminster, and a standing salary of 5000l. a year, besides other collateral advantages in the way of valuable pieces of Crown patronage which fall to his disposal from time to time.

Mr. Denison, on retiring from the Speakership, was raised to the peerage, with the title of Viscount Ossington, of Ossington, in the county of Notts.