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The Speaker in the Age of Party, 1672–1715




The discussion by King Charles II and his senior advisors in 1672 of the choice of a new Speaker for the forthcoming parliamentary session reveals both the way in which the appointment was prepared and the government's considerations in the appointment. Prominent among them was the Speaker's personal influence, and his personal views on the great issue to be debated, the Declaration of Indulgence. The choice of Sir Job Charlton, and the behaviour of his successor, Sir Edward Seymour, in the chair, mark a new phase in the history of the speakership, in which Speakers are less likely to be lawyers, for whom the office was a step on the road to high legal office, and more likely to be significant political leaders with their own influence and following. After the 1688 revolution, the tendency for Speakers to be party political leaders became still more marked. Nevertheless, the country ideology espoused by several of them, including Paul Foley, Robert Harley and the tory, Sir Thomas Hanmer, provides a pedigree for the model of the impartial speakership whose invention is often attributed to Arthur Onslow.