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minary business. The states and territories are not called over, therefore, for petitions till the second Monday in the session. During the first three or four days the following resolution is offered and adopted by the house. “Resolved, That the several standing committees be appointed according to the standing rules and orders of the house.” There are are 33 standing committees recognized under the rules of the house. The speaker, therefore, usually takes from Friday or Saturday of the first week till the Monday of the second week, to make out his committees at his chambers. The committees appear on the journals as the proceedings of the last day on which the house convened.
The speaker, during the few days antecedent to the appointment of his committees, and after the adoption of the resolution for their appointment, is busily engaged in inquiring of the old members returned with new ones, upon what committee he had best place their respective friends. In this way he makes himself tolerably familiar with the qualifications of gentlemen, and although he may make some mistakes, he in general obtains a pretty just knowledge of the young members. With the light he can collect in this way, he makes out his committees. The first named is considered chairman; the committee can, however, elect some other member of the committee, but this power is seldom, if ever, exercised.
It can readily be seen, that the speaker holds a powerful sway, so far as personal respect is concerned, over the house. And although the committees when once out of his hands, are beyond his reach for the session, if not the congress, still there is a kind feeling of regard for the presiding officer who puts a gentleman at the head of a committee or as an associate of members on a distin. guished committee of the house. In addition to the standing committees, he has daily some opportunity of appointing on select committees, or calling to the chair, besides a host of other civilities within the range of his influence, that never fails to put a member in a respectable light before his constituents-if not the nation.
By the constitution and rules of the house, the speaker presides over the deliberations of the chamber of representatives. His office is, therefore, one of high responsibility, embracing every thing connected with the dignity and despatch of the legislation of the country. To be an efficient officer, his voice should be clear and impressive; his eye excellent; his memory well stored with parliamentary and congressional authorities, and a ready tact in applying them to the questions that are incessantly starting up, in high political or geographical disputes.
The speaker's chair, in a house of 242 members, has been well said to be no “bed of down." It is lined with ten thousand thorns, and he who expects to execute its duties to the satisfaction of all parties, must be more than human. In this age, a copy by the way of nearly all that have preceded it, in human frailties, no man can reach, or expect to hold, the chair, unconnected with some of the party difficulties of the times, and the duties of the chair will more or less savour of those feelings. A speaker should, however, keep his skirts clear of high party bias, if he expects to stand fair in his own conscience, or in the judgment of his peers.
There is much skill to be displayed in keeping the house in a good state of parliamentary discipline; and perhaps there is no greater error perpetrated by the chair, than a too frequent calling to order, or knocking, by the speaker, on his desk, to lessen the disorder of the house, while he only increases it. There is something in the tone and manner of an able speaker that will bring the house to order, when his knockings utterly fail. Sometimes he can keep the house in check by a glance of his eye, which will be generally successful, if the speaker would remember, that he is the presiding officer. Sometimes it will require his eye, his voice, and a decided manner, com. bined, to compose the agitated elements.
But a speaker, bearing in mind that he is elected to preside over the deliberations of the house, will not, while in the chair, permit himself to do any thing except the duties of the chair, and never lose sight of his office by occupying his time in reading or writing letters. For when he grows inattentive, he lets go the reins of the government of the house.
By a steady devotion to his duties, the speaker will often, with his eye, before any disorderly words are uttered, see that the member addressing him is rushing on towards an infringement of the rules, and thus be on his guard to instantly stop him in such an event. In this way he will be sure to hear what is said, and, if against order, say so, and forthwith arrest any continuation of it. Presiding officers have often been known to give as an excuse for not interrupting personal remarks, that they did not hear them. They ought to have heard them. I think every one who has ever presided, or shall hereafter preside, will fully appreciate the propriety of these suggestions. If strictly adhered to, they will save much bad feeling, and perhaps the lives of men of high swelling passion. Í have said that the duties of the chair are highly difficult and responsible,* when sedulously execut.
* The office of speaker of the house of commons is one of the most arduous kind; the amount of labour he has to perform is almost incredible. Not only must he be always present during the sittings of the house, but he must at all hours of the day, and on all occasions during the session, be accessible to every member who chooses to wait on him. He must sign all the records of the votes and proceedings of the house, and of course carefully read them over, lest there should be any thing wrong in them before affixing his signature; he must be always ready to instruct members as to matters of form; in short, nearly all the business part of the house is transacted by him and his clerks. Not even Saturday, when no business, except on very urgent occasions, is done in the house, was formerly a day of recreation to him; for every Saturday during the session, before the meeting of the present parliament, he was obliged to hold what are called Parliamentary Levees, and give splendid dinners to the members, to which they were invited, in certain numbers at a time, in rotation. His Saturdays are still in one way or other occupied with the duties of his office. It is doubtful even, with the labours of the week before him, whether the “Sabbath shines a day of rest to him,” though of course he is protected on that hallowed day from the personal intrusion of honourable members on his retirement. His salary was formerly £5,000 a year, but in 1833 it was reduced to £4,000; in addition to his salary, however, he receives fees ed. It is in part consideration of its responsibility, that the speaker receives double compensation, has a room, elegantly furnished, set apart in the capitol for his study, and in the event of the death of the president and vice-president of the United States and president of the senate, is designated by law to fill the chair of the executive. A man filling such a dignified station, with such high duties before him, should watch with the midnight lamp, and borrow its light to make himself worthy of his exalted position.
Usually on the second Monday of the session, the chaplain appears in the house, having been chosen on the preceding week, who makes a short prayer, a few minutes prior to the hour of meeting, after which the speaker takes the chair. The journals having been read, the speaker must, under the 16th rule, call for petitions from the members of each state, and delegates, beginning with Maine, and the territory of Wisconsin, alternately; and if on any day the whole of the states and territories shall not be called, the speaker shall begin on the next day, where he left off the preto the amount of £2,000 or £3,000, besides £1,000 of equipment money, and 2,000 ounces of plate, which are given him immediately on his election; he is also allowed two hogsheads of claret wine, and £100 for stationary every year; add to all this the circumstance of his having a handsome residence provided for him close to the house of commons at the public expense, and the situation is worth at least £8,000 per annum. In point of rank the speaker is next to the peers of Great Britain, and he has the same precedence at the king's council table. The speaker never votes on any question except the numbers be equal, when his casting vote decides the majority.-R. Recoll. H. of Commons.