Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.
Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.
The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880
The Conservative Budget
Thursday 16th April 1874
Probably on no occasion has the House of Conservative Commons been more crowded than it was tonight, when Stafford Northcote rose to disclose the financial proposals of the Conservative Government. Every seat in the body of the House was occupied, and a little throng stood at the bar. Members filled the double row of seats in the gallery opposite the Treasury bench, some, for lack of better accommodation, sitting on the steps of the gangway. The only place where seats were unoccupied was the back bench in the gallery opposite, and here an additional score of members would have filled it to overflowing.
The various galleries over the clock devoted to the accommodation of strangers more or less distinguished were early filled to their utmost capacity. Amongst other members of the Upper House present were the Earl of Airlie, Lord Stafford, Lord Annesley, Lord Carlingford, and the Earl of Devon, a country neighbour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Gladstone, who had not been present in the House throughout the week, prolonged his absence over to-night; but Bright was there, taking his seat on the front Opposition bench for the first time this Session. Lowe, Goschen, Childers, Forster, and Stansfeld were amongst the ex-Ministers present.
The full strength of the Ministry was displayed on the Treasury bench, Disraeli with his left hand swathed in a black silk bandage, suffering, it was said, from an attack of gout.
When the questions had been put and answered, the Premier rose, and Walking down the House faced about at the cross benches on the right-hand side, and stood there a moment or two whilst Stafford Northcote occupied the attention of the Speaker.
“Mr. Disraeli!” said the Speaker, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had resumed his seat.
“A Message from the Queen” responded the right hon. gentleman, advancing, bowing to the chair, and handing in the document.
As he passed up the House all the members uncovered, and remained with bared heads whilst the Speaker read how the Queen, taking into consideration the momentous services rendered by Sir Garnet Wolseley in planning and conducting the Ashantee campaign, recommended her faithful Commons to grant him a sum of £25,000. Disraeli moved that the Message be referred to the Committee of Supply, and amid a buzz of conversation hats were with one consent replaced.
The buzz of conversation deepened into a cheer and then died away into profound silence, when, just on the stroke of five o’clock, the House having resolved itself into Committee of Supply, Stafford Northcote rose to make his speech.
Sir Stafford resumed his seat at twenty minutes to eight, after having spoken two hours and forty minutes. For the greater part of that time he, contenting himself with a plain business style of talking, managed to engross the attention of the Committee, though his hold was once or twice imperilled by a tendency to entertain the Committee with those replies to the arguments of deputations on the Budget, which he took credit to himself for refraining from delivering in the presence of the deputations themselves. During one of these somewhat frequent interludes, when he was replying at length to the arguments of the promoters of the repeal of brewers’ licences, the House began rapidly to thin. But, on the whole, he succeeded in maintaining the interest of his hearers; and the loud cheers that burst forth as he sat down did not all come from the Conservative benches.
Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885
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