« AnteriorContinuar »
* Ladies' and gentlemen,' said Mr. Spencer, as he wished us all the good wishes of the season, standing at the head of the table, which was crowded with good things, and most prettily decorated with holly and other evergreens, ‘I wish you all a happy new year, and many of them! Put that into an acrostic, and I'll guess it directly! And may I hope that you will, one and all, condescend to favour my humble dwelling with your presence this day week to solve all the unsolvable acrostics and spend another merry evening together.'
MARCH 18 6 4.
HOW THE SHAREHOLDERS' MONEY GOES.
there be one phase of London Society with which London Society thinks itself more intimately acquainted than another, it is, thanks to the daily papers-probably that which those oracles are accustomed to describe as 'Proceedings in Parliament. And when we say that on the present occasion we propose to occupy a few pages of London Society in describing some of these proceedings, we shall seem to have undertaken a most unnecessary task unless we add at once that the proceedings with which we have now
to do are not by any means those which fill the columns of the Times' and the Telegraph, but proceedings of which the outer world (and, indeed, many of those most nearly concerned in them) know really very little, and with which the newspaper reader would gain no familiarity even if he read every word of his great state oracle every day of the week.
The place from which we report is not the gallery above the Speaker, but a corner of Committee Room No. 8 of the House of Commons. If the reader has only visited the House with a Chamberlain's order, and has merely gone the round of ordinary sight-seers, he will need some little instruction how to find Committee Room No. 8. Our instructions accordingly are that he proceed thus:-Let him go down to the House between the hours of twelve and four on any of the first five week-days during the session. Let him enter by the door opposite the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, close this door very carefully behind him so as to make no noise, take off his hat as if he were in church, and proceed carefully across the top of Westminster Hall into the Statesman's Gallery just in front of him. If any one informs him that the large white marble statues on each side of this gallery are the statutes at large,' let him firmly disbelieve it. They are nothing of the kind. They are simply the statuesand very excellent statues too-of some of our great orators and patriots, long since gone mute. Note how Grattan, in the warm animation of
VOL. V.-NO. XXVIII.
debate, seems as if he would step crowded with those who have busioff his pedestal and come down to ness there, the guardians of order you:-with what calm self-posses- naturally enough try to keep away sion Burke uplifts one single finger, those who go merely to loiter. as if gently keeping time to some The long elegant corridor which wonderful discourse:-how Pitt, the stretches by the seemingly intermihard-headed, obstinate little man, nable suite of Committee Rooms,
unds fronting the colossal Fox, each of which opens into it, has its who, with arm uplifted and fist windows looking into the interior clenched, looks inclined to drive courts of the structure. In the rehome his arguments by main force: cess of each window is a little desk, -how the boyish figure of Falkland, with inkstand, pens, &c., for the conleaning on his sword, has the sweet venience of the many who spend face ät up by a half-sorrowful smile: here so much of their time. On - what an invincible, fixed resolve each side of the corridor are benches, is in the clear-cut features of Hamp- which a few hours standing in a den as he, too, grasps the sword, with committee room often make acceptlips compressed. And having noted able enough to tired legs. Lounging all these our visitor can, if he likes, about, or sauntering up and down, pass forward and examine the fres- groups of men, for the most part coes close at hand. After which, engaged in earnest conversation, still with his hat off, and still mov- throng this corridor or passage all ing very noiselessly, let him ask day long (that is, all that part of the the first policeman he sees where day during which the committees this passage leads, and where that are sitting, for within five minutes of passage leads, and that functionary their rising the passage is deserted). will be pretty sure to respond by The excitement which attends the promptly ejecting him from the lottery of a Parliamentary Combuilding and assuring him that he mittee Room, where the prizes are is an audacious intruder.
so splendid and the blanks so many, If the prospect of this result is yet so obstinately disbelieved in, not satisfactory, then, as an alterna- would be well shown if we could tive mode of procedure, we advise analyze these groups and show what our friend to put on an air of im- manner of men they are who are portant business,—to press forward thus drawn together. Here are and let the doors shut behind him barristers, solicitors, parliamentary with a good slam,-above all, to agents, clerks, clergymen, men of the keep his hat on and look like a man sword and men of the sea, secretaries who knows where he is going and and projectors of every description who wants to be there as quickly as of joint-stock enterprise beneath the possible. If, beyond this, he will be moon, owners of mines and colat the trouble of carrying in his lieries, iron-founders, noblemen and hand a roll of foolscap or brief paper their agents, railway chairmen, railwe have no doubt he will find it a way directors, railway managers, railpassport to the most secret and hid- way engineers, railway shareholders den penetralia of the building. In- (though not so many of these last deed, he would be an unusually as there ought to be). The railastute policeman who would object, way element is strongest of all, for at sight of such a talisman, to admit at least four-fifths of the Private a man of average impudence to join Bills' which come before the comthe Lord Chancellor himself upon mittees are promoted by railway the very woolsack. At any rate, he companies. Scarcely a mile of railwill be an unusually surly police- way in Britain but you will find man who declines to point out the some one here able (if willing) to winding staircase beyond the tele- give you a free pass over it. Scarcely graph office, &c., which leads to the an engineer of any eminence but you long line of the Commons' Commit- are more likely to find him here than tee Rooms.
at his own office. To such men this In fact, these rooms are open to corridor and the committee rooms the public, but as they are usually themselves are as much a rendezFons as the Exchange is to the day after day those Members of Parbroker and the merchant. Nowhere liament who have been sent up by else can you see so clearly all the their constituents not for their wonenthusiasm which attends the spend- derful gifts of tongue, but for their ing of vast sums of money foolishly, proved ability at doing real hard
- and this enthusiasm is, after all, work. Members who make, it may the most wonderful of any. Hardly be, very poor speeches on reforin anywhere else have you a prospect bills, on party politics, or foreign of seeing so clearly with what ear- affairs, and who have scant space nestness men can go about their allowed them in the 'Times; but projects, and about their principal Members who can go through a bill project of making money,- for that proposes to deal with millions where many spend some must also of pounds, discuss it clause by gather.
clause, reconcile conflicting inteAmongst so heterogeneous an rests, discriminate between the assemblage it would be odd indeed scheme of the professional projector did we not find some black sheep, and the scheme that really supplies and such sheep are to be found here a national want, and give their in flocks, The professional pro- prompt decisions honestly
and justly. jector, the unprincipled schemer, Such Members will sit five days & the bubble-blower,-men who care week through a long session, hearabsolutely nothing for the intrinsic ing often the dreariest of evidence merits of the projects they are advo- on private bills, from eleven till cating,—who know well enough four, then hurry away to prayers at indeed that they have no intrinsic the sound of the Speaker's bell, and merits;—but whose one object is to scarcely ever fail to have their squeeze as much out of the scheme names in the list of votes, however as possible and then throw it away late the division, or however tedious like a sucked orange. Such are to the debate. Happy are the constibe found here by dozens.
tuents who are thus represented. But we do not hesitate to say that As for the poor Members themhere also is to be found the true selves, one scarcely sees their happioutdoor parliament that manages ness so clearly. the home affairs of England. All It is time, however, that we leave that is most distinguished in our the corridor and enter the Commitcountry for energy, ability, and en- tee Room itself. And in doing so terprise in commercial pursuits is let us be specially careful to enter well represented here. Here are to by the proper door. For each room be found the men who keep the has two doors-one for the entrance great industrial machine of Britain of the public, the other for the use moving by their enterprise and their of Members only. And many are skill. It is they and such as they the instances of utter discomfiture who have made English industry on the part of visitors 10, entering and English progress what it is. It by the wrong door, find themselves is amongst these and such as these suddenly in the immediate, august that we find the Stephensons, the presence of the committee itself, and Brunels, the Watts, the Arkwrights as suddenly bundled out again by of to-day. They are the salt of a the offended clerk. great hard-working, money-making, Most of these rooms are much money-spending people.
alike in their general aspect. They And though we speak of them look down upon the great silent merely as an outdoor parliament we higliway of the penny boats, which sce amongst them no small number are continually passing and repassof our legislators both hereditary ing beneath the windows. And and elective. It is true that we do often, in hot weather, the odours not, as a rule, meet here our great which Father Thames sends up politicians and diplomatists, for this from his lucid waters are so overis not their place, though on occa- powering that these windows havo sions they, too, may be seen flitting to be kept close shut. up and down. But here we meet Each room is divided about equally by a low handrail running from witness being examined in a chair, side to side, and designed to sepa- not in a box), and opposite to him rate those who are officially engaged sits the official reporter of the comupon the bill from the public and mittee, who is a personage of suffi. those who are merely interested in cient importance to have a paragraph its fate. Outside the rail, therefore, to himself. there is merely standing room. Im- He is invested with much more mediately inside it is a long table plenary powers than are given to with seats for the barristers, solici- the gentlemen in the gallery abore tors, and chief promoters and oppo- the Speaker. There, if one does not nents of the bill. But as this table catch what Lord Palmerston says, does not extend quite across the he is by no means allowed to interroom it leaves space for a few chairs rupt his lordship and make him say and another table for the conve- it over again. But here our reporter nience of witnesses in waiting, or, in a similar emergency is allowed to indeed, of any one who chooses to interrupt counsel, witness, or compush forward and make himself at mittee until his notes are correct. home.
He is, in fact, the recognized officer [And here I hope I may be allowed of the House, whose duty it is to to pause from charitable motives, take verbatim notes of the whole of and drop a hint which I am sure the proceedings. These notes of his will be gratefully received by my are referred to very frequently in needy literary brethren. They will the course of the proceedings, and always find at this spare table & what is found written there is held plentiful supply of the best of pens, conclusive in cases of dispute. Proink, and paper (paper with embossed bably some of the most rapid shortheading, House of Commons,' which hand writers of the day are to be is surely respectable), all of which found in attendance on these comthey are free to use ad libitum, and mittees—men who will write from no questions asked. The only defi- two hundred to two hundred and ciency, to which I would respect fifty words per minute without any fully call the attention of the officers apparent exertion, and who will of the House, is that postage-stamps continue their work without relief are not supplied also. But this, from the time of the committee however, is merely within paren- taking its seat to its rising again. theses.]
Perhaps such a man might be very Beyond this barristers' table and much out of his place as a reporter witnesses' table the room is sacred of the debates, where speed and to the committee and its officers. endurance are by no means the only There is a horseshoe table at which qualities that are requisite. But, on sits the committee itself;—the chair- the other hand, the reporter from man in the convex centre and two the gallery would be often quite as other members on each side of him. much out of place in the committee The committees usually consist of room. The committee's reporter five. The chairman is generally an has no scope whatever for the eserexperienced Member of the House- cise of his genius, and not much for always a gentleman of thorough the exercise of his judgment. He is business capacity. The other four never worried with a classical quotamembers (if we may venture to say tion. It is no part of his duty to imit without fear of impeachment) as prove the eloquence of the counsel, often as not contain amongst them to condense the verbosity of the witgentlemen who know very little of, ness or correct his grammar, to gloss and care still less for, what is going on, over ugly mistakes, or add point to and who leave themselves implicitly a pointless answer. His business is in the hands of their chairman with to photograph the proceedings as a confidence that is well deserved. well as pen and stenography will do
In the concave recess of the horse- it. If a witness acquits himself shoe is another small oblong table, well he may depend on finding his on one side of which is a chair for performance put down to his credit. the witness under examination [the If he makes himself an ass he is