So how did they expel him?

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, May 19, 2009 ,

Tory Historian is bemused. There are airy references to the Speaker who was expelled in 1695 for taking bribes but no explanation as to the mechanism whereby this was achieved.

The Daily Telegraph gives a swift summary of some of the highlights in the history of that venerable institution. Well, highlights and low lights:

In the years before 1560, seven speakers were beheaded and one was murdered.

The office of speaker was first held by Sir Peter de la Mare, knight for Herefordshire, in 1376's "Good Parliament", so-called because the Commons refused to grant the Crown any new taxes until its grievances had been addressed.

In the dispute with Edward III, Sir Peter acted as spokesman for the Commons and their collective strength prevailed.

But as soon as Parliament was dissolved, Sir Peter was thrown into prison and his successor Sir Thomas Hungerford presided over the "Bad Parliament", which reversed most of the gains of the previous year.
The idea of a "Bad Parliament" is rather appealing.

Wikipedia has a more detailed history though the same stories appear. Tory Historian suspects it was the source of the Telegraph hack's information. Let's be fair - it is not easy to find out so much information at such a short notice.

As this list shows, the power to expel members has not been used often by the House (some might say not often enough) and the habit has fallen off in recent decades. A pity really.

Now to the Speaker who was expelled. He was Sir John Trevor (c.1637 - 1717), a man who was less than impeccable in his general honesty as an MP or as a judge. He was also severely cross-eyed so it was difficult to know at times whom he was calling upon to speak.

In March 1695 Sir John was given 1,000 guineas (quite a sizeable amount in those days) by the City of London to aid the passage of the Orphans' Bill through the House. He was found out (somebody presumably leaked the information) and, as this was considered to be "a high crime and misdemeanour" expelled from the House. One assumes that he lost his seat as well, though not, perhaps the seat in the Irish House of Commons. Certainly he was not expected to resign as a judge or restore the money. One wonders why the City of London did not insist on the latter.

The concise Dictionary of National Biography (Tory Historian has inherited some splendid books) merely says that Sir John was "deprived of his speakership for taking bribes" without explaining the mechanism for doing so. In fact, this seems to have been a more comprehensive expulsion.

1 Responses to So how did they expel him?

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. The new, 2004 edition of the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography' provides a fuller account of Sir John Trevor's life.

    Though the ODNB is a subscriber service, the Trevor article is currently freely available:

    The ODNB also includes a list of all Speakers since 1376:

    Again this is currently freely available, with access to all Speakers - and the other 57,000 people in the ODNB - via nearly all UK public libraries (libraries offer remote online access which allows members to log-in free, at home).

    The ODNB,, currently also has a free feature on the people in Margaret Thatcher's 1979 cabinet.

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