HC Deb 28 February 1866 vol 181 cc1239-57

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. HADFIELD moved the second reading of this Bill. He said that he regretted in some degree the necessity of introducing this measure for the seventh time to the House of Commons. Two years ago a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), who was much respected on both sides of that House, proposed to him in the House that if he (Mr. Hadfield) would assent to referring the Bill to a Select Committee he would give it his support and the support of the party whom he undertook to represent on that occasion. The Government also recommended that course to be adopted. He assented to the proposition, and a Select Committee, fairly chosen from Members on both sides of the House, was last year appointed. The Bill which he now submitted to the House was that adopted by the Committee in question. The Members of the Committee were two to one in favour of the present Bill, and as this House had so frequently expressed a favourable opinion of it, he trusted the other House would now allow it to become the law of the land, and so remove one of the last rags of intolerance that remained on the statute-book. The reasons for the measure were these:—About thirty-eight years ago, when the Bill for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts was introduced by Lord John Russell into the House, it was found necessary, in order to secure the passing of the measure, to introduce a clause into the Bill to satisfy the demands of a certain party who required a declaration to be substituted for the repeal of the Sacramental Test. The late Sir George Lewis stated in that House that the clause was introduced into the Bill of 1828, not because it was a thoroughly substantial measure, but because it seemed to be one containing a declaration that would satisfy the honour of certain parties who would be otherwise unwilling to give up the sacramental test. The Duke of Marlborough, however, stated in another place that if that declaration were to be proposed over again it would probably never be adopted. And a still higher authority than even the noble Duke—namely, the leader of the great Conservative party (the Earl of Derby), stated that as regarded protection to the Church of England the clause in question was not worth the paper upon which it was printed. In both Houses Government Members had supported the present Bill. Well, thirty-eight years had passed since the repeal of the Test Acts, and since then that particular clause had never been enforced, except partially in corporations. The Act required two classes of persons to make the declaration—first, the great officers of State, civil, military, and naval, who never made it; and next, the officers and servants of corporate bodies. Mayors, aldermen, councillors, town clerks, and other corporate officers, must of necessity make the declaration before taking office, because, if they did not, their offices would be void; but the servants of the corporations—the policemen, the lamplighters, the scavengers, and so forth—never did. He had investigated the circumstances of five corporations, and he found that while the declaration was made and subscribed by 511 principal officers, it had not been made or subscribed by 5,300 subordinate officers and servants. Practically, therefore, it was disregarded, not only by the great officers of State, but by most of the second class to which it referred. In order to save Ministers and other great officers of the State from the penalty attached to their disobedience to the law it was necessary to pass a Bill of indemnity through Parliament every year. Surely, if any one ought to make the declaration, it would be the chief officers of State, but they were allowed to disobey a positive enactment. No less than thirty-seven Bills of Indemnity had been passed in relation to this matter since the measure for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. As those who did make the declaration could not contravene the substance of it without breaking the law, they might as well be asked to subscribe to a declaration that they would not commit felony. Hoping that the other House would at last assent to the repeal of a declaration, subscription to which would annoy, insult, and offend thousands who were most loyal and respectable, and occupied positions of usefulness, he moved the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Hadfield.)


Mr. Speaker, I have to thank the hon. Member for Sheffield for having placed this Bill for a second reading on a Wednesday afternoon, the day allotted for the consideration of Bills introduced by independent Members, in compliance with the customs and regulations of the House; for, during the last Session he was in the habit of placing the Bill after the Government Orders on Government nights, when there was no opportunity, from the late hour at which it came on—sometimes at half past two in the morning — of properly discussing it. Sir, as there are many hon. Members present who have not heard the question discussed before, I may perhaps be permitted to state some of my objections to the Bill. That they are light objections I think no man will presume to say, when the House of Lords has rejected the measure six times, and when the last time it was submitted to this House, legitimately and fairly, on a Wednesday, the second reading was carried only by a majority of two. Now, Sir, the object of this Bill is to repeal the declaration which was introduced into the Test and Corporation Acts in the year 1828, as a substitute for the sacramental test which was then repealed. I, for one, rejoice that the sacramental test was abandoned. I think it was an affirmation accompanied by a desecration of one of the holiest offices of the Church. But, Sir, because that solemn ceremony ceased to be required, neither House of Parliament in 1828 saw any reason for departing from the restrictions which this declaration contained — the declaration in the Municipal Corporations Act 9Geo. IV. c. 17. I think, Sir, I cannot do better than at once to read to the House this declaration, the repeal of which is the real object of this Bill. It was thought necessary by the Legislature in 1828, and has ever since that time been thought necessary by the House of Lords, that some rule should be laid down which should inviolably limit corporations to the transaction of that multifarious and highly important business which is by law allotted to them—namely, the regulation of the local affairs of cities or boroughs of which they formed the councils, and over which councils the mayors presided. I will presently show the House the effect of departing from that salutary and constitutional rule of law. Now this declaration was not carelessly drawn. The House will see, from the terms of it, that it was drawn by earnest men, with a clear and distinct purpose. It runs thus— I (A. B.) do solemnly and sincerely, and in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, upon the true faith of a Christian, that I will never exercise any power, authority, or influence"—(now mark these words)—"which I may possess in virtue of the office of to injure or weaken the Protestant Church, as it is by law established in England, to disturb the said Church, or the bishops and clergy of the said Church, in the possession of any rights or privileges to which the said Church or the said bishops and clergy are or may be by law entitled. The House would observe that the declaration defends only that which is established by law. Now, Sir, it was apprehended by the Legislature that there might be certain Nonconformists —persons dissenting from the Church of England—who might be inclined to make use of corporations as the arena for political agitation against the Church of England; and I will show the House before I sit down that in Ireland, where this law and restriction are not in force, such use has been made of corporations. I allude to the proceedings of the corporation of Dublin. But before I proceed to that point I wish to notice one or two of the observations made by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield). He has said that Lord Derby stated that this declaration is not worth more than the paper on which it is written. Now that is true in a very limited sense. One of the bolts of a ship, if displaced, may be of very small intrinsic value; but the bolts of a ship are of essential value whilst they are kept in their proper places; and therefore this declaration, which prevents the municipal corporations of this country from being abused—which prevents the corporate power granted by the State for the regulation of municipal affairs from being directed against the Church of England, which is in union with the State, is one of those securities which have combined to maintain the Constitution of this country in its present state of detailed, but very complete organization. I will cite an instance. Hon. Members opposite — many of them, at all events—are familiar with steam-looms in cotton mills. One roller, if taken from a loom, is of very small value; but if one of the rollers or one of the wires is taken from the loom, the loom is spoilt. Take one bolt out of a ship, and where will be its safety? So with this declaration. It is one, and no insufficient security that the municipal corporations of this country shall not be converted into arenas for political discussion, and that the corporate power of municipalities granted by law shall not he directed against the Church of England, which is maintained and established by law. That is no insignificant security. But the hon. Member went on to say that the great officers of State, although formerly bound to make this declaration, do not now make it, and are indemnified for not doing so under an annual Act; and I see that the hon. Member who so often assails the Act of Indemnity has had the grace to introduce a clause in the Bill renewing that very indemnity which he has so often condemned. Now, why is that indemnity granted? It is granted for two reasons. The great officers of State are selected from the representatives of the people owing to their special qualifications to deal with those questions of high politics, particularly questions involving religious considerations, and in their oaths they give a security equivalent to this declaration. And, therefore, for two reasons—first, because they are especially selected for the treatment of these subjects; and secondly, because their oaths cover the subject-matter of this declaration, the Houses of Parliament are satisfied that they shall be permitted sometimes to neglect the acceptance of this declaration, which, in their case, is really unnecessary. But how stands the case with respect to municipal officers, with town councillors, and the mayor? They are not selected for the consideration of high politics in their corporate capacity. They are selected for a totally different object—the regulation of the local municipalities, of cities, and towns and boroughs in their different localities; and therefore, very reasonably, they are required to declare that they will not interfere in this one important matter; that is to say, they will not exceed their privileges and their functions by using the corporate power-mind you, by using the power and influence they obtain through their corporate offices, to attack the Church of England — the Protestant Church of England—which is in union with and established by the State. Is there anything unreasonable in such a regulation? Is it not a regulation which no sane Legislature could wish to depart from if they desired to establish afresh the Constitution of the country as it at present exists in Church and State. It is surprising to me that hon. Members on the other side of the House should have been so often led to vote in favour of this Bill; and I will show, before I conclude, by citing a recent illustration of the case in the Dublin corporation, the confusion which must, in all probability, arise from the repeal of this declaration, and a departure from the legal restrictions by which the corporations of this country are precluded from using the corporate power in commencing an internecine war against the Church of England, which, like the corporations, is also established by law as forming an element in the State. To abandon all these restrictions would be to allow any corporation to establish a system of warfare against the Church of England, and to use for that purpose the corporate power granted by the State itself, which State, as I before observed, is in union with the Church as by law established. I hope, Sir, that I have made this position clear, and, having done so, I will now proceed to consider the arguments that have been used on various occasions on this subject. It has been said, "Oh, what is the use of this declaration, and of others of a similar nature?" A certain class of objectors to all declarations and to all oaths say, "It is nonsense to attempt to bind men's consciences; they have no consciences to bind. Don't fancy you can reach the consciences of men who are engaged in political affairs." Well, I must say that is not a very high compliment to public men, or any class of politicians; but, Sir, they always omit one circumstance connected with the taking of an oath or a declaration, and the public acceptance of this declaration. If a man publicly makes such a declaration as that which we are now considering, or publicly takes an oath at the table of the House, or declares in the presence of some municipality that he will not do certain things, or use the power conferred upon him for certain objects forbidden by the terms of that oath, and then openly violates that oath, he is exposed to reproach, he loses caste in public estimation, credibility, and credit; and one great strength of these declarations and oaths is that, however little conscience a man may have on any subject, he fears exposure and the loss of caste consequent on that exposure, if he violates his declaration or oath. This is one great strength gained by requiring such engagements. But it is this very strength which sometimes forms a union between those whom I may call no-conscience objectors to all declarations and those who take the opposite view, and say, "These declarations and oaths are too stringent — they interfere too much with, the conscience; you have no right to appeal to any man's conscience to observe the laws, however salutary." So there are two classes of objectors. One class says, "It is no force on conscience." Another says, "These declarations have too much power." Well, but what is the upshot? That the common and unanimous consent of mankind, almost, ay, I may say from time immemorial, is, that solemn engagements should be required by declaration, and on oath, from those who are intrusted with the political regulations of the State, whether in minor or in major matters, and that those declarations and those oaths form a security stronger than that of any mere enactment, in order to secure the fundamental constitution of any State which may require their imposition. Why, Sir, it is the very strength of these declarations and these oaths which constitutes the real objection to them. What did the late Mr. O'Connell say on another subject? In the year 1828 he was elected for the county of Clare, and he boasted—being an able lawyer, and understanding the use of agitation better perhaps than any man that ever lived—that he could drive a coach and six through any Act of Parliament. When he appeared at the table of this House, and was required to take an oath, which on account of his religion he was incapable of taking, he declined doing so. He went back to the county of Clare, and what did he tell the people there? He told them this:—"True, I can drive a coach and six through an Act of Parliament; but I cannot ride on horseback, or even walk through an oath." It is not the weakness, but the strength of these oaths that is objected to; and they are objected to only by those who have some ulterior object to serve, and who desire to break through the rules of law of which these declarations and oaths—take that of 1828, for instance—is the exemplification and embodiment; and it is for this reason that the House of Lords has so long objected to the removal of this declaration. The hon. Member for Sheffield, in moving the second reading of this Bill, has told us that at the close of the last Parliament the subject was referred to a Select Committee, and on a previous occasion he accused me of contumacy, because, although assenting to the appointment of that Committee, I refused to serve upon it. But why did I refuse to do so? I had no objection to the subject being considered by the Committee. The more it is considered, the better. But I objected to serve for this reason, which I stated to the House at the time—that the Bill consists entirely of principle, and that the Committee could do nothing with it — that they could make no effectual modification or alteration of its details; and the hon. Member for Sheffield will excuse me for saying that the Committee so reported to the House. They made a formal alteration of three words in the preamble, to save appearances, and comply with the usual custom of the House, and did nothing in the sense of altering its terms and details. Let hon. Members consider that they are dealing with a grave question of principle, although on a subject which in itself appears to be of minor importance. It is all very well to laugh at this declaration. But has it no effect? If it had no effect we should not have had six proposals for its repeal in the House of Commons, to be six times rejected by the House of Lords. The truth is, that this declaration, although of minor importance, forms part of one of those securities of the Constitution which, although they may sometimes appear anomalous, and taken by themselves be as valueless as a bolt taken out of a ship, which, when displaced, is only a piece of waste iron, yet combined they form a category of securities for the Constitution, an organization, the result of which, thank God, has been for centuries the enjoyment of the temperate freedom of this country. Depend upon it, you will not enlarge freedom, you will not increase personal liberty by what is called the simplification of such regulations and laws as this. Nothing can be so simple as the organization of the United States. I have been in the United States, and I know that a great many other Members of this House have been there also, and if they happened to be there during any period of political excitement, I appeal to them whether personal liberty is not much better secured in this country than in the United States. Those who went before us were not all fools. There is a party in the present day who invite each man to declare that his father was a fool. I cannot consider that as a personal compliment. Depend upon it that the organization of the Constitution, which has been the fruit of years, and carefully compiled in all its details, was not the work of fools, but has been handed down to us for our security, and ought not to be tampered with by piecemeal innovators. Take, for the sake of comparison, such a machine as that to which I have alluded before—the steam-loom. If some portions of it, al- though they be but wooden rollers and wires, are to be removed, do you not require a skilled workman to effect the operation, so that it shall be an improvement instead of a detriment? I fear these piecemeal innovations. Why, some of these piecemeal innovators have not the instinct of the rat, which, when on shipboard, has the sense not to gnaw the main plank which forms the outer protection of the vessel from the waves. Some of these innovators do not care what may be the result of their attempts. They have minor or personal interests to serve, and will sacrifice great public interests to the attainment of their puny objects. Others, indeed, are actuated by great purposes, and are combined to effect some great political change through this piecemeal legislation. Although individually insignificant, collectively they are formidable. They are working piecemeal, it is true, but still it is for the purpose of overthrowing the organism which they are attacking. I pray the House not to be led away by the belief that, although this declaration, taken by itself, may be of minor importance, the principle of the Bill is unimportant. It would inflict a great blow upon the Constitution of this country. I trust hon. Gentlemen will not vote lightly against this declaration, because, if experience goes for anything, they are dealing with a very grave matter. I will give the House an illustration of the working of a corporation where no restriction exists confining members of it to their proper functions as defined by the law of which this declaration is an instrument. I do not value the declaration but as a means to an end. The declaration is a means of preventing a corporate power being directed against the Church of England. I venerate the Church of England, but I only value her as a means to an end. She seems to me to be the most efficient means for evangelizing the population of this country, and as a consequence of that evangelization imbuing them and keeping them imbued with both the capability and the desire to maintain and enjoy that temperate freedom which is consistent with order extending from domestic up to the highest political affairs. If the House will allow me I will read a statement of what took place in the Dublin corporation about a year ago. And I would remind the House that the law which we are now considering does not apply to Ireland. It is limited to English corporations. I have here a copy of the proceed- ings of the Dublin corporation at a meeting held on Friday, the 17th of February, 1865. The object of the meeting was to consider the following Motion, notice of which had been given by Sir John Gray, the present Member for Kilkenny. It was reprinted by direction of the National Association for Ireland, as it is called, a well-known body, acting under the sanction and direction of Legate Cullen, the representative of the Papacy in Ireland. Sir John Gray's notice runs thus— I will ask that the qualification oaths taken by Protestants, and also those taken by Catholics, be produced by the town clerk, and will move the adoption of a petition to both Houses of Parliament praying that Her Majesty's Protestant subjects may, in all cases, be relieved from the necessity of taking oaths which injuriously reflect on the religion of their Catholic fellow-subjects; and that for the qualification oaths. Now let the House mark this— And that for the qualification oaths now taken by Members of Parliament, members of municipal bodies, and others. The qualification oaths taken by Members of Parliament and the declaration now before the House— There may be substituted a uniform oath which shall be simply an oath of allegiance to the Queen and her successors, and of obedience to the laws of the realm; and that a deputation be appointed to wait on his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, and on the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to request them to use their influence as Members of the Government and of the Legislature to effect this object, and to remove all other disabilities that affect any of the subjects of the Crown because of their possessing a particular form of faith. Now, Sir, I think we have in the proceedings to which I am referring the origin of another Bill, the Parliamentary Oaths Bill, which is before the House, although not just now under its consideration; for the object of Sir John Gray and of the National Association of Ireland is precisely the object of the Parliamentary Oaths Bill, which will be considered hereafter. I now advert to the following circumstances in order to give an illustration of the sort of confusion which is likely to prevail if the restrictions imposed on the corporations of England by this municipal declaration be removed. Here is the report of the proceedings of the Dublin corporation— The Town Clerk then read the requisition calling the special meeting. The Lord Mayor called on Sir John Gray. Sir John Gray rose amid loud applause, and was proceeding to speak, when Alderman Bonsall rose and said—Allow me for a moment, before proceeding. There has been a meeting of the Conservative party in this house held, and—[Cries of "Order!"] Sir John Gray—We don't want to have anything to do with meetings held outside this house. If the Alderman will be good enough to wait, he can tell us all about it in any observations he may hereafter make. Alderman Bonsall —Now is the time and place. Mr. Devitt—I rise to order. Alderman Bonsall is a gentleman, I am sure, too anxious to support the rules of the house to persist when he knows he is disorderly. Alderman Bonsall—I am going to speak to the point of order. Sir John Gray—What is the point of order? And now, Mr. Speaker, let me call your attention as the guide of order in this House, to what follows:— Alderman Bonsall—The point of order is, that Sir John Gray's motion is one not suitable to this course, but is one calculated to excite political and religious rancour between the members of this corporation. We are here to promote public interests, and not to discuss questions of that character. If gentlemen at the other side feel aggrieved by these oaths, let them meet as a party and petition to have them repealed. But to introduce the subject here will inevitably have the result of giving offence to gentlemen we do not wish to offend, but to live on terms of harmony with. I appeal to Sir John Gray to withdraw his motion. This is the reply of the Lord Mayor, who occupied in that corporation the position which you, Sir, so worthily fill in this House— The Lord Mayor—As this corporation is constituted at present"— Remember that the law now under discussion does not apply to Ireland. I feel it is in the power of any member to introduce any matter whatever he pleases. If Sir John Gray puts a motion on the paper, if he wants to establish a company, or to get up anything at all that may be connected with places beyond the city, Sligo for instance, I am bound to hear him upon the point. It is for you to rule whether he is to be heard or not. As the corporation is at present constituted, it is in the power of any member to introduce any matter he chooses. These are very important words, for I believe that the speaker is a very liberal politician. He went on to say— In that view I think Sir John Gray is in order, so far as this corporation is concerned, in bringing this matter before the council. But I must say I regret that he has introduced it, for this reason, that I think the discussion of such subjects is not desirable. You all know my opinion upon religious and political matters, and that, as far as I can, in my line, I keep myself clear of them. On several occasions I stated I would do my best to prevent their introduction into the council, but I am powerless in this case. I will hear whatever is said about it, but I must say I believe the introduction of it will not tend to the harmony of the council. I am bound, at the same time, to rule the point of order, and to say I will hear Sir John Gray. Alderman Bonsall—Then we will leave the room. Here the Conservative Members rose from their seats, and left the house in a body, amidst hisses from the gallery. [Laughter from some hon. Members.] I wish hon. Members to hear the sort of confusion which was introduced. You have not heard it all yet. The Lord Mayor—I will direct the gallery to be cleared if there is not silence. Sir John Gray—This proceeding shows how cautious the Lord Mayor, occupying the chair of this assembly, and selected by the unanimous decision of this house—how cautious he ought to be not to allow the influence of any party to induce him to deviate from the rules of order. The Lord Mayor—I don't know what yon mean. If you refer to me, I don't think I have left myself open to these observations. I ruled the point of order with you. I gave my own private opinion that I thought it was a pity to introduce it. I said it was in your power to introduce it if you chose. I will not state what my own opinions are on the subject. They may be with you exactly, but in this chair I am bound to act impartially. That duty I will discharge to the best of my power. I am sure Sir John Gray does not wish to attack me. Sir, I feel that I should not be justified in trespassing further on the indulgence of the House by quotation; but I may state that the most violent and exciting language was subsequently used, and that these oaths and declarations were described by Sir John Gray as "impious." He did not say heretical, but saved himself by declaring that he was a Protestant. A violent discussion took place. There was evidence of the utmost discord—perhaps I ought not to say discord in that meeting, because the whole of one section of the corporation had retired from the room; but they were pursued by every kind of invective, and—[A cry of"Oh, oh !"]— I will just read, or, not to trespass upon the House, I will say that I may have occasion to read hereafter the expressions which were used. The councillors who had retired were pursued as men who had deserted their duty, and as the cowardly supporters of impious oaths. One expression used was impious as applied to these oaths and this declaration, and if that was not strong language, I know not what hon. Members will consider strong language. I have referred to these proceedings for the purpose of showing the manner in which corporate power may be applied to purposes which are not intended by the law, if no restriction be imposed upon it. I wish to show how some of the most useful members of a corporation may be driven to retire from it. Now, what is the object of these corporations? It is, that all the leading and most trustworthy inhabitants of cities and corporate towns should be combined for the regulation of the local affairs of the cities and boroughs; and if, by removing these restrictions, you enable and cause questions irritating to the political and religious feelings of many of the inhabitants to be discussed in these corporations, the consequence will be that many of the leading and most trustworthy inhabitants of cities and boroughs will not serve as members of these corporations, and the effect will probably be the destruction of the corporations themselves. It is all very well, in a superficial sense, to view the retirement of one large section of the leading inhabitants from a corporation, but such retirement lays the foundation of its destruction, for if any corporation becomes the representative of only a section of the inhabitants of the city or borough it will cease to command respect, and there will be but one alternative—to supersede that sectional representation by some central authority. Therefore, one of my chief objections to the passing of the Bill is, that it would probably cause such dissension in corporations as to be fatal to their usefulness, and ultimately lead to their destruction; and this is one of the chief reasons, Sir, for my thinking it necessary to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Newdegate.)


said, he must express his regret that any Member of that House should rise to defend an obsolete Act of Parliament which never was of the slightest use, and which had long ago fallen into disrepute. Making every allowance for the sincerity of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), he thought he was pursuing a course calculated to weaken rather than to strengthen the Church of England. The declaration, Lord Derby had stated in another place, was not worth the paper upon which it was written 5 but it was defended by hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords, not because it was of the slightest use, but because it was a mark, as had been stated elsewhere, of the pre-eminence of the Church of England and a badge of dissenting inferiority. He could conceive nothing more calculated to injure the Church of England, and to weaken its influence with the people of this country, than keeping up the miserable, absurd, and irritating tests of this kind, which Were unworthy of the Church, and which served but to perpetuate sectarian animosity. The hon. Gentleman, in his arguments in favour of the declaration, had never once alluded to the fact that that declaration was not taken by one-twelfth of the people who ought to take it, and that every year a Bill of Indemnity was brought into that House to relieve hon. Gentlemen sitting upon the Treasury Benches, and town councillors and other officials, from the consequences of having broken the law. How could the declaration produce any effect, seeing that as a rule it was not taken. The hon. Gentleman had referred to Ireland; he (Mr. Baxter) would refer, for a moment, to Scotland. They had no such declaration there and never had. They had never required it, although most of the town councils in Scotland had ecclesiastical patronage and the appointment of Church ministers. He thought the Church of England must be in a very bad way if it required to be propped up in this way; but with all respect for the hon. Member North Warwickshire, although not a member of the Church of England, he had more faith in her and in her influence than the hon. Gentleman had. He believed that the less they fenced it about with laws which were totally at variance with the spirit of the age, the more thoroughly she would be established in the affections of the people. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not aware that though the great body of the Dissenters of this country were anxious to remove grievances of this sort, there was a body whom he might call the extreme Dissenters, who rejoiced that there were laws of this kind, and that there were church rates. In their opinion the removal of these grievances would make the Church of England stronger, and if it was any consolation to the hon. Member to know it, he would tell him that, in the opinion of that extreme party, he was at that moment playing their game. This was a consideration which ought to weigh with the hon. Member, and ought to facilitate the passing of a measure which he (Mr. Baxter) was ashamed of hearing discussed in the 19th century.


said, he regretted that he was not in his place when his hon. Friend concluded his speech, as he had intended to second the Motion for the second reading. He hoped his hon. Friend opposite would acquit him of seeking to join in any conspiracy against the Church of England, but he had a strong traditional hatred, as they all had in Scotland, to the maintenance of oaths useless and offensive, which in their country had been made the means of inflicting grievous injury. In Scotland they had, in order to maintain the Episcopal Church, multiplied oaths, and they had not passed over the non-taking of them. On the contrary, the refusal to take them was made a point of criminal indictment, and many had lost their lives on the scaffold on that account. Nay, more, they made even an explanation of the oaths a ground of prosecution. An ancestor of the present Duke of Argyll, taking the oath as Privy Councillor, stated— I take it so far as it is consistent with itself and the Protestant religion, and I do declare that I mean not to bind myself in my station in a lawful way to wish and endeavour any alteration I think of advantage to the Church or State not repugnant to the Protestant religion and my loyalty, and this I understand as a part of my oath. For making that explanation he was tried, condemned to death, and beheaded. And now would hon. Members seek to maintain this utterly contemptible shadow of defence, which the Earl of Derby justly said was no better security to the Church of England than the paper on which it was printed?


said, he would appeal to his hon. Friend not to divide the House. Having been engaged in a Committee upstairs he had not had the advantage of hearing his hon. Friend's arguments, but as the Bill had been before the House several times, and as his hon. Friend had often expressed his views on the matter, he had probably only missed hearing the same arguments over again. If any additional arguments had been employed, he should have an opportunity of reading them before the Bill reached another stage. But what he wanted to point out to his hon. Friend was that this was but a very small portion of a great question which was to be discussed when they came to the second reading of the Government Bill on Parliamentary Oaths. It might be in the recollection of hon. Members that he spoke last Session in favour of the principle of the Oaths Bill, and he had seen since then no reason to change his opinion. Now, if this House should assent to the principle of the Government Bill, it would follow that they must accept the principle of the Bill under discussion. Well, then, was it worth while to fight to-day about this small part of the question, which would stand or fall by the decision which the House would come to on the larger question? He had hoped that the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would have consented to postpone the second reading till after the decision on the Oaths Bill. But he had informed him that out of regard to hon. Members who came down to support him it was not possible to do so. It was to be regretted that the hon. Gentleman had come to that determination; but, nevertheless, he would ask his hon. Friend to let the second reading pass to-day without a division, and provided he could persuade the House to reject the Government Bill he would then be in a stronger position to oppose this Bill at a later stage than he was to-day. From the state of these (the Opposition) Benches, his hon. Friend must be very well aware that hon. Members who had a strong feeling with regard to Church matters were not disposed to support him in his present course. He would therefore ask whether his hon. Friend would put himself in the unenviable position of leading a very small party into the lobby on this occasion? Out of respect to his hon. Friend he would not vote against him—he would quit the House before the question was put; but he appealed to his hon. Friend not to compel the House to go to a division.


Sir, I rise merely to say that, having frequently expressed my opinion on the principle of the Bill, it is unnecessary for me to repeat what I have said upon former occasions. There is the less necessity for doing so as the hon. Gentleman opposite has advanced no new arguments against the Bill to-day. He has reminded us that the Bill has been six times already passed by the House of Commons, and I hope this House will follow the example of its predecessors, and affirm the second reading. I think it is generally admitted, if we were dealing with this subject afresh, we should not think for a moment of imposing any such declaration; and I will go further and say that Parliament itself has decided year after year that this declaration ought not to be enforced by unanimously passing the Act of Indemnity, and thus relieving those who failed to take it from the penalties to which hey would otherwise be subject. Under these circumstances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen to the appeal made to him, and that he will not put the House to the trouble of a division. It is quite plain, as the hon. Gentleman who spoke last pointed out, that the state of the Benches opposite shows that there is no intention on the part of hon. Members on that side, as a body, to give any opposition to the Bill.


I feel it to be my duty to divide the House.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: —Ayes 176; Noes 55: Majority 121.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday.

Adam, W. P. Dundas, F.
Agnew, Sir A. Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.
Akroyd, E. Dunlop, A. M.
Allen, W. S. Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E.
Antrobus, E. Evans, T. W.
Aytoun, R. S. Ewart, W.
Baines, E. Ewing, H. E. Crum-
Barclay, A. C. Fawcett, H.
Baring, hon. T. G. Fenwick, E. M.
Bass, A. Fildes, J.
Bass, M. T. Foley, H. W.
Baxter, W. E. Forster, C.
Bazley, T. Forster, W. E.
Biddulph, M. Fort, R.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Fortescue, hon. D. F.
Bonham-Carter, J. French, Colonel
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Gaselee, Serjeant S.
Brand, hon. H. Gaskell, J. M.
Briscoe, J. I. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Browne, Lord J. T. Gilpin, C.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Bryan, G. L. Gladstone, W. H.
Butler, C. S. Goldsmid, Sir F. H.
Buxton, C. Goldsmid, F. D.
Buxton, Sir T. F. Gower, hon. F. L.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Gower, G. W. G. L.
Carington, hon. C. R. Grenfell, H. R.
Cave, T. Greville, Colonel F.
Cheetham, J. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Childers, H. C. E. Gridley, Captain H. G.
Clay, J. Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.
Clinton, Lord E. P. Hamilton, E. W. T.
Collier, Sir R. P. Hanbury, R. C.
Colthurst, Sir G. C. Hardcastle J. A.
Colvile, C. R. Harris, J. D.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Hartley, J.
Crosland, Colonel T. P. Hay, Lord J.
Davey, R. Hay, Lord W. M.
Dilke, Sir W. Hayter, Captain A. D.
Dillon, J. B. Henderson, J.
Dodson, J. G. Henley, Lord
Doulton, F. Hibbert, J. T.
Duff, M. E. G. Hodgkinson, G.
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Peel, J.
Hurst, R. H. Pender, J.
Ingham, R. Philips, R. N.
Jardine, R. Pim, J.
Johnstone, Sir J. Potter, E.
Kearsley, Captain R. Potter, T. B.
Kennedy, T. Price, W. P.
Kinglake, A. W. Rebow, J. G.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Robartes, T. J. A.
Labouchere, H. Robertson, D.
Laing, S. Rothschild, Baron M de
Layard, A. H. Rothschild, N. M. de
Lamont, J. Russell, A.
Lawrence, W. Russell, H.
Lawson, J. A. St. Aubyn, J.
Leatham, W. H. Samuelson, B.
Lee, W. Seymour, A.
Leeman, G. Shafto, R. D.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Sherriff, A. C.
Lewis, H. Simeon, Sir J.
Locke, J. Smith, J. B.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Speirs; A. A.
Lusk, Alderman A. Stansfeld, J.
Mackie, J. Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.
M'Lagan, P. Stone, W. H.
M'Laren, D. Sykes, Colonel W. H.
Marjoribanks, D. C. Synan, E. J.
Marsh, M. H. Taylor, P. A.
Martin, C. W. Torrens, W. T. M' C.
Martin, P. W. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.
Milbank, F. A. Trevelyan, G. O.
Mill, J. S. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Mills, J. R. Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.
Mitchell, A. Waldegrave-Leslie, hn G.
Monk, C. J. Watkin, E. W.
More, R. J. Whitbread, S.
Morley, S. Whitworth, B.
Morrison, W. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Neate, C. Woods, H.
Nicol, J. D. Wyld, J.
Norwood, C. M. Wynn, C. W. W.
O'Conor Don, The Young, A. W.
Oliphant, L. Young, R.
Otway, A. J.
Padmore, R. TELLERS.
Parry, T. Hadfield, G.
Peel, A. W. King, L.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Holmesdale, Viscount
Barttelot, Colonel Horsfall, T. B.
Beach, W. W. B. Huddleston, J. W.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Jolliffe, H. H.
Bromley, W. D. Kekewich, S. T.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Kendall, N.
Cave, S. Langton, W. G.
Clive, Capt. hon. G. W. Lefroy, A.
Cole, hon. H. Lindsay, Colonel R. L.
Cole, hon. J. L. Manners, rt. hon. Lord J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Miller, S.B.
Cox, W. T. Miller, T. J.
Du Pre, C. G. Mordaunt, Sir C.
Dutton, hon. R. H. North, Colonel
Feilden, J. Packe, C. W.
Greenall, G. Paget, R. H.
Guinness, B. L. Palk, Sir L.
Hamilton, Lord C. J. Parker, Major W.
Hamilton, Viscount Ridley, Sir M. W.
Hervey, Lord A. H. C. Schreiber, C.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Sclater-Booth, G.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Selwyn, C. J.
Hogg, Lt.-Colonel J. M. Severne, J. E.
Simonds, W. B. Wise, H. C.
Surtees, F. Wyndham, hon. H.
Surtees, H. E.
Thorold, J. H. TELLERS.
Turner, C. Newdegate, C. N.
Walpole, rt. hon. S. H. Greene, J.
Walrond, J. W.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.