HC Deb 19 June 1833 vol 18 cc1010-2

Mr. Pryme moved, that the House should resolve into a Committee on the Bill for substituting the Separatists' affirmations for their Oaths. The hon. Member explained the hardships those persons were subject to at present on account of their refusing to take an oath. They were prevented from being merchants, because they would not take Custom House oaths. They could not exercise their calling in Corporations, because they would not take the oath to the Corporation. They were sometimes deprived of their elective franchise, because they would not swear that they had not voted before. If they were half-pay officers, they could not receive their half-pay because they would not swear. They were subject, in short, to a variety of other similar hardships which fell no them because they would not swear.

Mr. Halcombe

thought, that before the House conceded to the Separatists' privileges which were not enjoyed by his Majesty's subjects in general, it ought to know something of who and what they were. In the known character of the Quakers they had some guarantee, but the Separatists were wholly unknown to him. He would be obliged to the hon. Member to state who and what the Separatists were. Upon looking at the Bill, he could not see that any parliamentary ground was laid for dispensing with the taking of oaths in the case of the people called Separatists,

Mr. Warburton

thought it a sufficient ground for passing the Bill, that the Member who introduced it, stated that the persons to whom it referred entertained conscientious objections to taking oaths.

Mr. Murray

said, that he was acquainted with many Separatists, and knew them to be a respectable body of persons, who adhered literally to the precept in the Gospel, which recommended that men should not swear. The Bill, which was intended to allow these people to take their affirmation instead of an oath, would be a boon to society in general as well as to them, for at present their scruples prevented them from giving evidence in Courts of Justice, which might lead to the punishment of the guilty or the acquittal of the innocent.

Mr. Goulburn

thought, that the House ought to be in possession of better information respecting the people calling themselves Separatists before the Bill was passed. He had looked into the most recent works describing the religious sects in this country, and he could find nothing about them. If the House showed a disposition to grant privileges such as that proposed by the Bill to all persons who said they entertained scruples to take oaths, it would tend to encourage unnecessarily dissent from the Established Church.

Mr. Pryme

said, the Bill contained a clause which enacted, that if any person should falsely pretend in a Court of Justice that he was a Separatist in order to avoid taking an oath, he should be liable to the penalties of perjury.

Bill committed.