Anyone who has visited the House of Commons or watched Question Time with the Prime Minister on television will know that MPs can be very noisy in their responses to statements by the speakers: if in approval with shouts of “Hear, hear!” and at other times with raucous sounds of disapproval, prompting the Speaker to shout “Order, order!” I must say I find this sort of behavior in a legislative body unsettling and quite distasteful. Esther De Berdt was sufficiently interested in politics to attend a session of the Commons and remarked on this behavior in a letter she wrote to her betrothed, Joseph Reed, on 26 April 1766.
Mamma & I a few days were in the House of Commons & was most agreeably entertained by hearing Mr. Pitt speak several times, and Mr. Charles Townsend. Mt. Pitt then appeared as the venerable orator, and seems to speak the sentiments of his heart with ease. Charles Townsend is the young florid speaker, and I think with a great deal of eloquence. He commands attention as much as Mr. Pitt, but I was quite amazed at the confusion and disorder which there is in the House, though I have heard so much of it before. I knew Mr. Grenville by seeing his picture in the print of the repeal & Counselor Wedderburne too. They both spoke, but every body seemed so insipid after the other great men, it quite tired our patience especially those two persons, who are such Enemies to America . . . .
There is a visitors’ gallery in the Commons. William Pitt the Elder (Lord Chatham) was Prime Minister at the time. George Grenville was in opposition and Charles Townsend was Chancellor of the Exchequer and responsible for the Townshend Acts passed in 1767 which taxed certain products imported by the American colonies.