The Chair of the Speaker of Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly that adorns the elegance of the House resembles the Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons of United Kingdom. This artistic Chair was presented by His Excellency, Lord Willingdon, the Governor of Madras Presidency and his wife Lady Willingdon to the President of Madras Legislative Council as a personal gift during an interesting ceremony held on 6th March 1922. Lord Willingdon was the grandson of Speaker Brand who was the Speaker of House of Commons. Before presenting the Presidential Chair His Excellency addressed the Legislative Council. The Leader of the House Hon. Sir Lionel Davidson moved a resolution as follows:
That the respectful thanks of this House be given to their Excellencies the Governor and Lady Willingdon for their kind and appropriate gift of the President's Chair.
This motion was seconded by Diwan Bahadur M.Ramachandra Rao Pantulu. The Hon. President Thiru P.Rajagopalachari expressed his personal acknowledgement to the gift. Thereafter the motion was put and carried amidst enthusiastic applause.
THE HISTORICAL EVENT
6th MARCH 1922
Their Excellencies the Governor and Lady Willingdon arrived at the Council Chamber at 11.05 a.m. and took their seats on either side of the President. His Excellency, before presenting the Presidential chair, addressed the Council in the following terms:
"Mr. President and honourable members of the Madras Legislative Council:- I need hardly say to you that it is a very great pleasure and privilege to Her Excellency and myself to come here and attend this, to my mind, interesting ceremony and to hand over as a personal gift from herself and myself to you, Sir, as the custodian of all affairs connected with this Legislative Council, this President's chair (Cheers). I think I may claim, Sir, that both she and I - perhaps I in rather a greater degree than she - have some hereditary right to present this chair to any legislative council; for, as you are all aware, she claims for her father a gentleman, a great imperial citizen, who lived long years doing parliamentary work in both Houses of Parliament and held high offices in the State and in His Majesty's Cabinet (Cheers). I think my claim is still greater, for I can call to my mind in my youth the time when my grandfather, Speaker Brand, was Speaker of the House of Commons and therefore I can truly say I was brought up under the shadow of the Speaker's chair (Cheers). Now, Sir, this ceremony calls certain interesting things to my mind and very particularly the fact that I have had the honour and privilege which I think few Governors have had of presiding over legislative councils for seven years during my life in India, and I have had practical opportunities of witnessing, and of interesting myself in, all the advances of those legislative councils during those years. I can recollect the time - and I think the honourable members who are sitting here will probably recollect the time too - when it was not unusual for an honourable member to circulate a printed document to both the President and every honourable member of the House and then come down to the House and read out that pretty document to honourable members. Now it is unusual, indeed, I think it is rather infrequent, for honourable members to bring down a carefully typewritten document and read it with due solemnity to honourable members of the House.
Now, Sir, I realize the enormous advance that has been made in that matter in legislative councils when I sit up in that gallery (pointing to the Governor's box), for I find that all your proceedings are carried out with all the customs and habits of parliamentary procedure in the House of Commons. Now, Sir, with that recollection in my mind, may I not say that I have the full belief that this gift of ours may be to you a further stepping - stone to reach that final goal that is promised to you under the reforms (Cheers), that this chair may be casting a shadow of the events which may be coming to you before many years are over? (Cheers) Mr. President, it is my most sincere hope that all who succeed you and sit in that chair may uphold in the highest degree the dignity and prestige of the Madras Legislative Council (Cheers), and I trust that they will always conduct the affairs with that decision, good judgement and tact which have so eminently characterized your conduct of affairs since you have held the President's chair (Cheers). May I make one personal observation on behalf of my wife and myself before I conclude these few remarks? It is this. It is our sincere hope that in future years the honourable members present and those who succeed them may call to mind, by the fact of this gift of the President's chair, the memory of two people who, great as their mistakes might have been, and many as their faults might have been, have tried honestly, sincerely and devotedly to help forward the progress, prosperity and welfare of your country." (Cheers).
The Hon'ble Sir Lionel Davidson: "Mr. President, few words are needed from me, Sir, to commend to this House the resolution which I have the honour to move. It runs in these terms: 'That the respectful thanks of this House be given to Their Excellencies the Governor and Lady Willingdon for their kindly and appropriate gift of a President's chair.' (Cheers). His Excellency has told us, Sir, why the gift is appropriate, though it was not within His Excellency's knowledge that the terms of my resolution would contain that word. We must all recognize that it has been a singularly felicitous thought on the part of Their Excellencies to bestow this chair on the House, and we all realize, Sir, how eminently fit you are to occupy it. It only remains for me to echo what is, I am confident, the thought of every one in this House, namely, that Their Excellencies have indeed been sincere and true friends of the progress of India and that His Excellency in particular has spared no pains to advance the future of this country (Cheers). I will now, Sir, repeat the terms of my resolution, viz., 'that the respectful thanks of this House be given to Their Excellencies the Governor and Lady Willingdon for their kindly and appropriate gift of a President's chair." (Cheers).
Diwan Bahadur M. Ramachandra Rao Pantulu: "Mr. President, I beg to second this motion and in doing so I associate myself fully with the observations made by the Hon'ble Sir Lionel Davidson. In announcing this gift, sometime last year, His Excellency made the observation that you, sir, would be able to call members to order with even greater dignity than you have hitherto brought to the discharge of your high office. Those words of His Excellency peculiarly appropriate and I join with my Hon'ble friend Sir Lionel Davidson in the remarks that he has made in regard to yourself as President of this House. Sir, I sincerely trust and I join with His Excellency in the hope that the precedents and conventions established by you and your successors will contribute to the smooth and harmonious working of the parliamentary system that has been inaugurated last year."
"I also join with His Excellency in the hope, and I am sure every honourable member of this House has the same thought at the present moment of the early realization of full responsible government and the establishment of full self-government in India, to which His Excellency has referred. Sir, we are aware that His Excellency has taken a good deal of interest in the working of the Reforms, and I believe that this gift of Their Excellencies is a further proof of their solicitude for the establishment of parliamentary forms and methods and for the development of the system of parliamentary government that has been brought into operation. We are deeply grateful to Their Excellencies for this gift. I have only one word more. I see in the books that the Speakers of the House of Commons used to take away the arm chair used by them as Presidents of the assembly as a memento of their tenure of office (laughter). I may, however, inform the Council that there was a break in the practice since 1832. That is a relief, and I trust Sir, that this chair which is the gift of Their Excellencies will go down to future generations as a historic relic presented to the Council at the beginning of the new era. With these words, I beg to second the motion."
The Hon'ble the President (Thiru P. Rajagopala Achariyar) :- "Before putting the motion to the House I should like, with the leave of honourable members, to express to Their Excellencies my personal acknowledgement of their gift and also how greatly I appreciate His Excellency's kind reference and also the very kind reference by the Leader of the House as well as by the honourable member Mr. Ramachandra Rao to the way in which I have discharged my duties as President. I should only like to add one word, viz., that any little success that I may have attained in that direction is due entirely to the heartly and cordial co-operation that I have had from all sections of the House. I do not think any President, however capable, can really manage an assembly like this unless he commands the respect and confidence- I would even say the affectionate respect and confidence- of the members. And I for my part would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge most heartily, and to say how greatly I appreciate, the cordial terms which have subsisted between the House and its President. As regards those who may come after me, I can have no higher wish for them than that they should in their time find themselves presiding over assemblies as good as the one over which it is my privilege to preside now. With these words, I will now put the motion to the House. "
The motion was put and carried amidst enthusiastic applause.