It was the tremendous exertions of Mr. O'Connell and his followers that secured the triumph of the liberal party in this memorable struggle. The first trial of strength was on the election of a speaker. Parliament met on the 19 th of February, and lord Francis Egerton, one of the members for Lancashire, moved that Sir C. Manners Sutton, who for eighteen years had filled the chair with the unanimous approbation of all parties in the house, should be re-elected. Mr. Denison, one of the members for Surrey, proposed Mr. Abercrombie, a gentleman of high position at the bar, and member for the city of Edinburgh. The division, it was felt on both sides, would be decisive as to the fate of the government, by showing whether or not it was supported by a majority of the new parliament which was the response given to the prime minister's appeal to the country. The house was the fullest on record, there being 626 members present. Mr. Abercrombie was elected by a majority of ten, the numbers being 316 to 306. Sir Charles Sutton was supported by a majority of the English members - 23, but his opponent had a majority of ten of the Scotch. Still, had the decision been in the hands of the British representatives, government would have had a majority of 13; but of the Irish members only 41 voted for Sutton, while 61 voted for Abercrombie. From this memorable division, two things were evident to the tories, in which the future of England for the next half century was to them dissinctly foreshadowed; the first was, that the ministry was entirely, on party questions, at the mercy of the Irish catholic members: the second, that the county members of the whole empire were out-voted by the borough members in the proportion of 35 to 20, and that a large majority of the former had declared for the conservative side.
It was stated that this result was accomplished by what was called the Lichfield House compact, which made a great noise at the time. By this compact it was alleged that a formal coalition had been effected between the whigs and the Irish catholics; but they denied that there was anything formal about the arrangement. There was a meeting, it is true, at Lichfield House, when lord John Russell stated his intentions, and described what would be his parliamentary tactics. These met the concurrence of O'Connell and his friends, and to that extent alone, even by implication, did any compact exist. Mr. O'Connell was accustomed to explain his reason for supporting the whigs by a comparison which was not the most complimentary to them; he said they were like an old hat thrust into a broken pane to keep out the cold.