HC Deb 01 July 1880 vol 253 cc1261-347

In moving— That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the Motion relating to the Parliamentary Affirmation; it may be convenient that I should mention that, in consequence of the state of Public Business, the necessity of getting forward with the Belief of Distress (Ireland) Bill, and at the same time the great difficulty in which we stand for appointing a very early day for it, my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) is obliged to ask you and the House to hold a meeting on Saturday. ["Oh, oh!"] This is only information, which has no relation whatever to the Motion, which is that the Orders of the Day be postponed.


wished to know what would be the course of Business to-morrow?


That will depend mainly upon what is done to-night. If we do not get through the Employers' Liability Bill to-night, it must be taken to-morrow.


said, he thought it would now be convenient if he raised the point of Order of which he had given Notice. He believed that the Resolution of the Prime Minister relating to the question of Parliamentary Affirmation was disorderly, and of a kind that the Speaker ought to refuse to put from the Chair. The course adopted throughout the Brad-laugh incident by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had been to resist any attempt made by the Government to induce the House to break the law for the purpose of smuggling Mr. Bradlaugh into the House. He had done his best to second the laudable efforts of the right hon. Baronet; and he now rose to prevent a new precedent being established that would be dangerous to the Order of the House. The Rule of the House was perfectly simple and clear—the Rule not only of this House, but also of the other House of Parliament—and it was that, if a Question had been considered by the House, and a definite judgment had been pronounced upon it, that substantially the same Question could not be put to the House during the current Session. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He was pleased that the Prime Minister should think proper to cheer that statement, as it was what he did not expect. He was quite aware the burden of proving that the Resolution of the Prime Minister was a breach of that Rule rested upon him, and he should proceed in due course to do that; but first let him call the attention of the House to what were said to be the exceptions to that Rule. Now, there were no real exceptions to the Rule at all; and if the Prime Minister's Resolution were put, it would be the first exception that had occurred. There was an interesting case mentioned in Sir Erskine May's book on Parliamentary Usage, which occurred in 1844, when the same subject was considered by the House. It was a case of a letter sent from Italy to Mr. Thomas Duncombe, having been opened under a Warrant by Sir James Graham. A Motion was put respecting the matter, and then an Amendment was put that a Committee should be appointed to consider the particular case of Mr. Buncombe's letter. Both the Motion and the Amendment were withdrawn; and if that had not been so, the House would not have been able to pronounce a judgment on the second Resolution, which was afterwards moved by Mr. Duncombe, that a Select Committee should be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the particular case of his letter. That was in Order, because the first Motion had been withdrawn. A third Resolution, moved by Mr. Duncombe, was that the House should express its regret that a Secretary of State had opened letters. Of course, that was an entirely different question; and the fourth Resolution was a Motion for an Address to the Crown, praying for a copy of the Warrant authorizing a Secretary of State to open letters to be laid on the Table. A fifth Resolution was to bring in a Bill to secure the inviolability of letters passed through the Post Office. Therefore, although it was five times before the House, no Motion on which the House had expressed a judgment was ever before the House. He would now call attention to two recent precedents. The first was in the year 1870, when Mr. E. Torrens moved— That, in order to arrest the increase of Pauperism, and to relieve the distressed condition of the working classes, it is expedient that measures be adopted for facilitating the Emigration of poor families to British Colonies. On the 17th of May in the same year, Mr. W. M. Torrens moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She may direct measures to be taken to provide passages to the Colonies for intending Emigrants, who shall be approved by competent authority, at cheap and uniform rates of charge. The Speaker called the attention of the House to that second Resolution, and told the House— There is a Rule that no Question may be proposed which is the same in substance as has been resolved in the affirmative or negative in the same Session. Therefore, the proposal for facilitating the emigration of poor families could not be put. Another precedent was set in the last Parliament, when a Resolution was passed by the House with regard to an appointment in the Stationary Office. On the 16th of July, 1877, the House resolved— That, having regard to the recommendations made in 1874 by the Select Committee on Public Departments (Purchases, &c), this House is of opinion that the recent appointment of Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office is calculated to diminish the usefulness and influence of Select Committees of this House, and to discourage the interest and zeal of officials employed in the Public Departments of the State. On the 23rd of July, 1877, that Resolution was read at the Table of the House, and thereupon a Motion was made to rescind it. It was then resolved— That this House, while most anxious to maintain the usefulness and influence of its Select Committees, and to encourage the interest and zeal of officials employed in the Public Departments of the State, after hearing the further explanation concerning the recent appointment of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, withdraws the censure conveyed in the said Resolution. But the same Question was not on that occasion put in the same manner as it was proposed to put the Question to the House to-day. The Prime Minister would be following the precedent set last Session if he were to have the Resolution passed last week read at the Table, and if he were then to propose that, as he had been informed Mr. Bradlaugh had since become a member of the Society of Friends, it was desirable to rescind the Resolution. But let him call the attention of the House to what it was the House discussed. The question that was considered last week was whether Mr. Bradlaugh, who had been returned as a Member of the House, and who claimed for the time being to make a solemn affirmation, should be permitted to make and subscribe either a declaration or an oath under the Parliamentary Oaths Act. There were, in fact, two questions considered by the House—Should Mr. Bradlaugh be permitted to make an Affirmation; or should he, under the circumstances that were mentioned, be permitted to make an Oath? The House expressed on those two questions a definite and final judgment. What that judgment was was not at all germane to his present argument; but what he contended for was, that the House having expressed a definite and final judgment, it therefore became disorderly for any Member of the House, whether the Prime Minister or a private Member, to propose to the House, during the current Session, a Resolution the same, or substantially the same, as the one the House had pronounced judgment upon. They had had an example of the Rule recently. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) endeavoured to propose to the House a Motion that was the same as one that had been decided upon. Mr. Labouchere gave Notice on the 22nd of June that he should ask the Speaker whether he should be in Order in moving that Mr. Bradlaugh now be allowed to make an Affirmation, and the Speaker replied that— Such a Motion would be in direct opposition to the vote of the House last night, and would therefore be out of Order, because it is substantially the same Motion which the House has already pronounced judgment upon. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was thus put down, and now the Prime Minister was about to propose a Resolution which was substantially the same as the other Question; and he had no doubt that the Speaker, with that impartiality which he always exercised, would put the Prime Minister down in the same manner. Was the Resolution proposed by the Prime Minister the same as that upon which the judgment of the House had been taken? He maintained that it was. The subject of the former Resolution was Mr. Brad-laugh. The subject of the present Resolution was that— Every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath. The Prime Minister's Resolution described a class, but a class of which Mr. Bradlaugh was a member, and of which, at the present moment, he was the only existing member. It described Mr. Bradlaugh, not by name, but by his attributes; and did the Resolution become less disorderly because he was distinguished in that way? It might be said that the Resolution applied not to one man, but to half-a-dozen other persons. Would a Resolution which in itself was disorderly become less disorderly because something was added to it? And if they could not put the Question that Mr. Bradlaugh be permitted to affirm, could they put the Question that half-a-dozen persons be permitted to affirm? Suppose the Question was that "A" should be struck off a Select Committee because he was a lawyer, and that the House rejected such a proposition, was it open to any hon. Member then to propose that all lawyers should be struck off the Committee, even though "A" was the only Member on it? He appealed to the common sense of hon. Members whether the meaning of the Rule was not that that which was substantially the same Question should not be put a second time after the judgment of the House had been expressed? Was not the Resolution of the Prime Minister substantially and really a Resolution that Mr. Bradlaugh be permitted to make an Affirmation? To rescind the Resolution of last week would be perfectly in Order; but to do what the Prime Minister now proposed to do would be to set a precedent that would be disorderly. A Reso- lution which was disorderly did not become the less disorderly because it was decided upon in the solemn conclave of a Cabinet Council. Therefore, it would be his duty, when the Prime Minister rose to propose his Resolution, to ask the Speaker, as a question of Order, whether the Prime Minister could be permitted to put such a Resolution to the House? He thought the House would act very wisely if, instead of postponing the Orders of the Day, it were to proceed now to consider the Employers' Liability Bill.


Having listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman stating an argument which I find no necessity whatever for me to answer, I would beg, Sir, to put the Question to you now whether the Resolution which I am about to propose is a Resolution conformable to the Orders of the House?


The hon. and learned Member for Chatham has correctly stated the Rule of the House to be that the same Question may not be twice offered in a Session. But the point which the House has to consider is this—whether the Resolution now proposed to be offered to the House is substantially the same as that on which a vote of the House was taken on the 22nd of June. On comparing the two Resolutions, I find essential differences between them. On the former occasion the House imposed a restraint upon a particular individual as to his claim to take the Oath or to make an Affirmation. On the other hand, the Resolution now proposed to be offered to the House is a measure of relief extending to every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath. In this respect the two Resolutions present marked differences. I may add, further, that the Resolution about to be offered provides that a Member shall be permitted without question to make Affirmation, and that, in doing so, he shall be subject to any liability by statute. I need scarcely remind the House that there are numerous precedents of cases in which the House has modified or partially rescinded former Resolutions. This appears to me to be such a case, and I see no good ground for interposing to prevent the Resolu- tion now proposed to be offered to the House.

Motion agreed to.

Ordered, That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the Motion relating to the Parliamentary Affirmation.—{Mr. Gladstone.)


If I did not reply to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite it was from no want of general respect for him, but because I felt that, considering the vehemence and strength of the language he thought himself entitled to use, and considering the extraordinary charges he thought himself warranted in making, and the peremptory manner in which, while professing to appeal to the Chair, he declared on his own authority what was Order and what was not, I felt that, under these circumstances, it would be inexpedient to enter upon a discussion so wide, because it would tend to introduce heat into this debate. There is one thing upon which I feel convinced that we are all agreed, and there is another upon which I hope we may, to a great extent, be agreed. That on which I hope we are all agreed is that there will be no advantage to the dignity of this House in a renewal of lengthened and heated discussion on this occasion. Contenting myself with that brief and simple appeal, I shall endeavour to act in the spirit of the sentiments I have uttered, and avoid every word that can give offence; and not only so, but entirely to refrain entering into the general argument which, as I think, has been completely exhausted. My duty will be to describe the particular situation of the House, to enumerate the facts of the case, and to explain the duty that we think is incumbent on the Government in this matter. We are all agreed on the primary and paramount duty of maintaining the dignity of the House; and the dignity of the House, as it may be considered in many points of view, may also be regarded from one that is fundamental and anterior to all others—that, namely, which concerns the police of the House and the maintenance of the exterior decency of our proceedings. Sir, it is a sense of the stringency of that obligation which has induced my Colleagues to take this matter into their consideration, and which now induces me to submit a proposal to the House, notwithstanding the fact that we were not the majority that brought about this position of affairs, and that we might on every general principle anticipate that that majority would be prepared to deal with that position of affairs which it created. Let us see whether that has been so. I do not question for a moment anything that has been said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, or by anyone else, as to the perfect sincerity with which he has declared his views on the decency of certain proceedings. We are agreed that the dignity of the House must be maintained in respect to the decency of its proceedings; but how has that been done for the last four days? As I believe, entirely by the knowledge on the part of a particular individual that the Motion which I am now about to submit to the House was a Motion about to be made. But for that knowledge, I believe I am correct in saying—though I do not possess, and have not sought to possess, any private channels or means of information—that we should have been subjected to the pain and grief of witnessing a repetition of the unbecoming scene which occurred in this House a short time back. Now, let us consider how it is that this duty comes into the hands of the Government, devolving upon it—I may say deputed to it—by those who constituted the recent majority. The majority of the House adopted the Resolution that Mr. Bradlaugh be neither permitted to affirm nor to take the Oath. Mr. Bradlaugh declined obedience to the Resolution; he appeared in the House; he committed an undeniable offence against the Order of the House, and declared his intention to repeat that offence again and again until he had effected his entry into the House of Commons. Upon that, he was committed without opposition—at any rate, almost with the general, if not unanimous, assent of the House—to the custody of the Serjeant at Arms. He remained in that custody a little more than 24 hours; and then the Leader of the Opposition rose in his place, and moved that he be released—that he be released, not upon apology, reparation, or promise not to repeat his offence, but with the full knowledge and clear recollection of his own announcement that that offence would be repeated from time to time, until the object with which it was committed was gained. My right hon. Friend, in making that Motion, said he felt he had vindicated the dignity of the House. It is my absolute duty to accept, however difficult it may be, that assertion of my right hon. Friend, and I do accept it; but I must say I believe he is one of a very few who would consider that to commit Mr. Bradlaugh and release him after 24 hours, and in the face of his announcement that his offence would be repeated toties quoties until his object was gained—I think there are very few who would feel that thereby the dignity of the House was maintained. If I had felt that it was, I should gladly have abstained from troubling the House of Commons now; but what I felt, and what my Colleagues felt, was, on the contrary, that we were subject from day to day to a certain and obvious violation of the dignity and decency of our proceedings, and that it was necessary for us—the majority of the Leaders of the Opposition having apparently considered it their duty to withdraw—to make a proposal to the House. Let me first say that I do not see any means of supporting our dignity or of upholding the Order of our proceedings by a repetition of what was done last week. Were Mr. Bradlaugh to repeat the act which led to his committal, I presume someone would move for a repetition of the committal. How long would the committal last? And would anything be gained to anyone if again the Motion were to be made, after another period of 24 hours, to release Mr. Bradlaugh? I can see no way of deliverance from the difficulty in which we are placed by this method of committal one day and release without apology or amendment on the next. Then it is said by some that the remedy ought to be sought by the method of legislation. I do not presume to restrain any Members of the House in that respect. If they can see their way to make a proposal, as many of the most important subjects relating to the Law of Parliament have been repeatedly dealt with by private Members, far be it from us to shut off from any Members the opportunity of moving or rendering a service to the House. We do not see that any advantage can possibly arise from our attempting anything of this kind; and on these three grounds, each of which I think to be conclusive, it seems to us that whenever a question of the alteration of the Parliamentary Oaths Act is raised, it is desirable that it should be discussed in cold blood. Discussed in cold blood it cannot be, if it be known, if it be notorious, that the immediate purpose for which that legislation is proposed is the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh. In the second place, we must bear in mind the lessons that have been taught by recent facts. We must recollect that, while legal and quasi- legal arguments have been offered by some Gentlemen on that side of the House in support of the recent Resolution, there have been a far larger number of speeches which have had no reference to those arguments at all, but which have bluntly and plainly expressed the sentiments of the Petitions presented before I rose, that we should not allow an Atheist to sit in the House of Commons. We know perfectly well that the legislation proposed by us on such a subject must necessarily raise, I will not say intemperate, but I will say lengthened discussions; because a principle of that kind, taking root in the minds and hearts of men, appears to them both to justify and to require their compelling the Parliament, by what they think is a legitimate use of their privileges, to enter largely into matters of such depth and importance We, therefore, feel that for us to make such a proposal with our eyes open would be to impede, in such a degree as to be equivalent to sacrificing, a great deal of the important Public Business we have brought under the consideration of the House. But, lastly, we should fail in that which is the main object in inducing us to move, because we have no reason to believe—and I do not believe—during those lengthened debates, with all the feeling they would excite, with all the uncertainty as to the ultimate fate of the measure, here or "elsewhere," that the dignity of this House, and the decency of our proceedings would be maintained. We believe that we should forfeit, at all events, the primary object we have in view—namely, the avoiding a repetition of the painful scenes we have already witnessed. That being so, we have considered whether there was any other course which we might adopt. Now, there was a point in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen where it appeared we were, to some extent, in contact. We are now going to propose this Resolution— That every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath, shall henceforth (notwithstanding so much of the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd day of June last as relates to Affirmation) be permitted, without question, to make and subscribe a solemn Affirmation in the form subscribed on 'The Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866,' as altered by 'The Promissory Oaths Act, 1868,' subject to any liability by statute. The words to which I call attention are "without question." I was a watcher and a hearer of the recent debates, and it appeared to me to be accepted and believed by a large number of Members of this House—I do not scruple to admit that it was believed by me—that Mr. Bradlaugh himself had forced upon the House of Commons a knowledge of his Atheistic opinions. Let us see how that stands. In the first place, hon. Gentlemen will perceive that we have not endeavoured needlessly to challenge a conflict with those who lately formed the majority. The main contention, I think, which formed the substance of their speeches was that Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to be allowed to take the Oath. It was with regard to the Oath that that feeling was principally excited, And not only was feeling excited, but there was a sentiment widely prevailing that taking the Oath with the declaration of opinion that the words which made it an oath were words of no force and value, would be a profanation. My difficulty has been as to the jurisdiction of the House. I do not believe in the jurisdiction of the House. I approach this question with no foregone conclusion; but the more I examined it, the more I became convinced that the House has no jurisdiction. If I thought the House were possessed of that jurisdiction—if I thought it were my duty to say whether Mr. Bradlaugh would or would not truly and substantially take the Oath by coming to this Table and reciting the words, but, at the same time, making known in connection with the fact of his swearing that the words were of no value, my opinion would be that that was not taking the Oath at all. But the whole of that part of the question, which I believe to have been at the root and ground of the votes of many hon. Members, we pass by. It is not necessary to raise it, and we refrain from raising it. We do not interfere with it. But with regard to that portion of the Resolution with which my present proposal does interfere, I believe that it was, to a large extent, debated under a misapprehension. It was not known to the House then, as we know now—and I only knew it when the evidence taken before the second Committee was printed—that, although Mr. Bradlaugh made an indication of an Act of Parliament, which was equivalent to a statement of opinion, it was not a voluntary or spontaneous act on his part. We now know that it was the result of questions put to him. I do not for a moment raise any doubt as to the propriety of those questions under the circumstances; but I must point out that the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite were speeches which, in my opinion, would not have been made had they been aware at the time that Mr. Bradlaugh himself simply claimed to affirm. I refer now to the evidence of Sir Erskine May, who stated at the very commencement of the evidence taken before the recent Committee that Mr. Bradlaugh simply claimed to affirm at the Table, and that the terms used by him contained no necessary reference whatever to his Atheistic opinions. Now, the strength of the contention made by hon. Gentlemen opposite was this—"We should have been content"—nay, there were hon. Gentlemen who said—"We should have been extremely gratified if Mr. Bradlaugh had been content to keep his opinions in the shade; but he has thrust them upon us; he has taken us into his confidence, and has made us cognizant of them by his own act; and that, having made us cognizant of them, we are so possessed and seized of them that all our proceedings must be regarded as founded on them." The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), said— The hon. Member might have taken his seat without opposition, but he had chosen to obtrude himself on the House and the country. That means, to obtrude his opinions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, who had conspicuously proved his own impartiality as well as sincerity, is reported to have said— It would not have been competent for any Member to go back upon Mr. Bradlaugh's election speeches; but the matter stands differently now that Mr. Bradlaugh has claimed to be exempt from the Oath, on the ground that he was a person on whom it was not binding. That claim was not made spontaneously by Mr. Bradlaugh. Mr. Bradlaugh's words, as you will find on reference to the evidence of Sir Erskine May, were words which in no way indicated his Atheism, but which left the question perfectly unsolved whether he was claiming under the statutes relating to judicial Affirmation, or under the laws which relate to Affirmations taken at this Table. Another hon. and learned Gentleman, the Mover of the Amendment (Sir Hardinge Giffard), said— It was impossible not to see that Mr. Bradlaugh's views had been thrust upon the House, and that important distinction must be obvious to everyone. I think I shall carry with me universal assent when I say that a man thrusts nothing upon the House but that which he himself spontaneously asserts at this Table, provided what he asserts is in the terms of the Act of Parliament, and neither falls short of it nor goes beyond it. That is an assertion I make on the credit of the very highest authority with reference to what was said by Mr. Brad-laugh—an assertion which cannot, I believe, be in the slightest degree impeached or impugned. If that be so, I ask is there any Gentleman in this House, on whatever side he may sit, or whatever opinions he may entertain, who will think that there ought to be visited upon Mr. Bradlaugh, as if it had been his own spontaneous act, inferences drawn from matter which he did not tender, which, so far as it depended upon him, he would have kept back, but which was drawn from him by questions put by the Officers at the Table? I believe, therefore, many Gentlemen have given their vote under a misapprehension as to the facts of the case, as to the obtrusion by Mr. Bradlaugh of the opinions which have given so much offence, and as to the effect of those opinions on the duty and obligations of the House. Now, these are the grounds on which we think that a Motion of this kind should be made—a Motion which I trust will settle this painful controversy; but a Motion which I think has a yet greater merit—an effectual preventive force for the future. It was no mere technical distinction, Sir, which was observed by you in the Chair, that this Motion is made so as to save us from, I hope, a remote risk of the recurrence of scenes and circumstances so painful and difficult that even the Leaders who bring them about are unable to deal with them, but find themselves, in the fulfilment of their duties, obliged to throw the responsibility of finding a remedy upon those who offered resistance to them. The foundation on which this Resolution rests is this. It is not well that any person duly elected, and tendering himself in the terms of the Act of Parliament at this Table to swear or affirm, should be precluded from taking his place in this House—subject to the liabilities incumbent on him by statute—through any question put to him on behalf of the House. That, Sir, is the simple issue which I present to the mind of the House, and I detach it altogether from the specialities of Mr. Bradlaugh's opinions. There might have been other opinions which might have been elicited by questions from persons in other circumstances. I care not what the opinions were; we stand upon this point—that where the law has laid down a rule, where the constituency have exercised their privilege, where their proceedings are unimpeachable in form and substance, and where the man whom they have chosen neither says nor does anything in this House of his own accord, spontaneously, deviating either to the right or left from the line pointed out by the Act of Parliament—we say that it is not well for the general interests of the country, it is not well for the interests or character of this House, that such a person, whatever his opinions, on presenting himself should be stopped on his road to his seat by the act of any person proceeding to question him on the part of the House. It is well that he should be left to be tried by the tribunals of his country, which have full means for conducting his trial, and which will acquit or condemn him according to law.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath, shall henceforth (notwithstanding so much of the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd of June last as relates to Affirmation) he permitted, without question, to make and subscribe a solemn Affirmation in the form prescribed by the 'Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866,' as altered by 'The Promissory Oaths Act, 1868,' subject to any liability by statute."—{Mr. Gladstone.)


in rising to move the following Amendment:— That this House cannot adopt a Resolution which virtually rescinds the Resolution passed by it on the 22nd day of June last, said: Mr. Speaker, I most entirely concur with the Prime Minister in the observations with which he opened his speech; and I trust the great body of the House also concur with him in desiring that we should debate this question in a calm and uncontroversial spirit, as far as that is possible, and that we should abstain from re-opening many of the questions which we discussed on the previous occasion. It will be my endeavour, in the few remarks I shall offer to the House, to present them in that spirit, and to observe the cautions given us by the Prime Minister. But, at the same time, while I admit that my right hon. Friend's speech was characterized by a good deal of moderation in many respects, I could not but notice that throughout his remarks—and very pointedly in some parts of them—he did, in measured but, at the same time, very significant language, endeavour to cast on Members who sit on this side of the House—on those of us who have already taken part in these debates, and on those whom he was pleased to describe as "the majority"—a responsibility which, on their part and on my own, I beg respectfully to disclaim; and I shall find it necessary to dispute at least one of the propositions on which he rested his case. He made an observation, in which he said that those whom he described as "the majority" had thrown on the Government the responsibility of dealing with the situation they had created; and if you were to judge of what has taken place from the description which the Prime Minister gives of it, you would think that from the beginning the matter had been taken up and dealt with by those whom he describes by that convenient term "the majority," and that the Government had had nothing to do with the matter until after the majority had completed its work after its own clumsy fashion, and had found itself too weak and too incompetent to deal with the result—and that that majority had thrown over upon the Government the task and the duty of preserving the Order of the House; and, founded upon that representation of the facts—which I contend to be an entire misrepresentation—the Prime Minister has offered to the House an argument for taking a step which I shall endeavour presently to show is a very serious and a very questionable step, on the ground that it is the only one the Government can see adequate to preserve the peace, and maintain what he calls the police of the House. Now, I very seriously doubt the wisdom of relying on such an argument as that. I hope the House will take into consideration what is the effect and meaning of an argument addressed to us in such a form as we have already heard, warning us that unless a certain course is pursued by the House we must expect a renewal of scenes derogatory to the character and dignity of the House. The speech of my right hon. Friend rested far too much on that foundation; and I, for my part, though not indisposed to attach a certain amount of weight to a fair consideration of Order, entirely disclaim that as a ground for a step which would in itself be inconvenient and improper. Let me for one moment ask how far the statement is correct, that this is a matter in which the Government were not concerned until the time when what the right hon. Gentleman is pleased to call the majority threw it upon them? What is the history of the case? It is said that there was no obtrusion by Mr. Bradlaugh of the circumstances under which he claimed to affirm before the House until he was questioned. I will not enter into that matter. I will remind hon. Gentlemen that Mr. Bradlaugh had given Notice even before he made his appearance at that Table—he had given Notice to you, Mr. Speaker, as the chief authority of the House—that he intended to take the step, and he came forward with the cognizance certainly of the Government that he intended to take the step. I presume it will not be denied by the Government that they were aware, before he presented himself, that it was his intention to claim the right to affirm; and they were also aware that you, Mr. Speaker, had great doubts whether he should be allowed to affirm. I believe they had even consulted their Law Officers on the point. Whether that was so or not, the step was taken by Mr. Bradlaugh coming forward and claiming to affirm, and being asked a question, which, in a few moments, I will endeavour to show it was necessary to ask him—namely, on what ground he made that claim? And having given his reason to you, Mr. Speaker, a Member, the Representative of the Government in this House, made a proposal that this matter should be referred to a Select Committee for consideration; and in the full belief that that course was recommended by the Government and that they were prepared to follow it, I immediately seconded that Resolution and agreed to the appointment of a Committee. Well, Sir, then the Government were seized of the matter from the beginning. And how did they deal with it? When was it the next step was taken? The next step was taken when the Committee reported. That Committee reported by a small majority, but still by a majority, against Mr. Bradlaugh's interpretation of the statute, and thereupon Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table and proposed to take the Oath. No step was taken to prevent him by Her Majesty's Government; but an independent Member raised the question whether it was competent for Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath? The Government thereupon again, and for the second time, took the matter into their own hands, by suggesting—I think by proposing—the appointment of another Committee, to consider the question whether he ought or ought not to be allowed to take the Oath, or rather whether the House was competent to interfere to prevent his doing so? Therefore, we had that step taken by the Government, and certainly it was taken not upon the responsibility of those whom the Prime Minister now describes as "the majority," because I and many of my Friends opposed the proposal. We maintained that it was not necessary to refer such a question as that to a Committee; and we proposed that a vote should be come to by the House on the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to take the Oath or not. The Government voted against us; they beat us, and appointed a Committee, and they waited until the time came for the Report of the Committee. I think it is a little too much for the right hon. Gentleman to speak as if all this were matter quite beside the question. Well, Sir, the hon. Member, the sitting Member for Northampton, thereupon did what it was natural, indeed, for him to do—he moved a Resolution, which was to the effect that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to affirm; and upon that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launces-ton (Sir Hardinge Giffard) moved an Amendment, which eventuated in the Resolution, which was adopted after two nights' debate. That undoubtedly was resisted, and very strongly resisted, by the Government; but it was adopted. I really do not know that we ought to apologize for adopting a Resolution of that kind. I am quite aware that in our position we are looked upon with a certain amount of jealousy on the part of the Government and its Supporters when we venture to put forward and maintain opinions of our own. We are perfectly aware that we are in a minority; and we are aware, that so far as our own strength is concerned, it is utterly useless to put it forth against the power of the Government, wielding, as it does, one of the largest majorities ever known in this House. I really do not know that we ought to go further than to make that acknowledgment. I do not think it is necessary for us to apologize for our existence. If we do exist, it is not at all necessary to apologize for exercising our own opinion and judgment upon an important question submitted to us. We could not help seeing that the course proposed by the hon. Member the sitting Member for Northampton was one open to objection, and we could not but support the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston. In that we had the concurrence and assent of a large number of Gentlemen who do not belong to the Party which sit in this quarter of the House. Having done that, and having resisted the proposals of the Government, I admit it was clearly fair we should be asked—"Now, how far do you mean to go, and how far do you mean to carry this victory which you have achieved?" On the day following, Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself, and was told of the carrying of the Resolution, and that it was necessary he should withdraw. When a question was raised as to whether anything more was to be done, I am not surprised that the Prime Minister put it to those who voted in the majority the night before—"Is there anything you have to propose?" I took upon myself the office of spokesman, not as speaking for all the Gentlemen who had voted in the majority the night before, but feeling it my duty as one in a position of some responsibility in this House. I took it upon myself, first of all, to say that we thought the decision of the House was clear, and we did not wish to add to it. The consequence was that Mr. Bradlaugh, as was necessarily the case, was called upon to withdraw. He declined; he refused—I will not say disrespectfully, but in a firm manner—to obey the Orders of the House; and it did seem to me that at that point the duty of preserving the order and dignity of the House ought to have reverted to the Prime Minister. I did not take upon myself voluntarily the duty of making any proposal. I made the proposal I did because the Prime Minister abstained, and abstained most distinctly and markedly, from making it; and it was impossible that you, Sir, could be left unsupported. It was clearly the duty of someone to take that step; I took that step, feeling it to be my duty, as I still believe it was. I was obliged, in support of your authority, and of the authority and dignity of the House, to make that Motion, which I made with great pain and reluctance, that Mr. Bradlaugh should be committed to the custody of the Serjeant at Arms. I made it in order to show that the House was prepared to support to the extreme its own right and its own authority, and to vindicate its Orders. Mr. Bradlaugh claimed to have a legal right to do what he was prevented doing. He asserted that the House was taking a step beyond its legal powers; he resisted to the last. I do not blame him; I think he was quite right in bringing the matter to that issue. It was so brought; a distinct claim was put forward on the one hand, and there was a distinct assertion of authority on the other. At that point I considered my functions terminated; and I thought it right the following clay to put a Question to the Prime Minister, and to ask whether the Government intended to do anything in the matter? Well, they said they did not. Or, rather, the right hon. Gentleman said he had not yet consulted his Colleagues, which struck me as a rather remarkable statement. Considering the very great importance of the crisis, I should have thought he would have taken, at all events, the trouble to consult his Colleagues as to what he ought to do. That being so, I considered my functions in the matter were now terminated, and I moved the discharge of Mr. Bradlaugh, as I should do again in the circumstances. What was the language of the Prime Minister on that occasion? The Prime Minister said he thought the matter had been fairly brought to an issue—that Mr. Bradlaugh had fairly raised his claim by refusing to withdraw, when he considered himself illegally ordered, until he was arrested; and the House had fairly asserted its claim by the step taken in committing him. Then, said the right hon. Gentleman, the question takes a new form—or a new issue is raised.


The new issue raised was the question of declining to obey the Order of the Chair.


I have not the words before me. At any rate, at that point the question had entered upon a new phase; and it was now a question of what Mr. Bradlaugh would do, and how the House would deal with him. I did not mean to have gone into all this question of the police argument. I hoped it might be unnecessary; but it has been forced upon me by the course which has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Bradlaugh made a claim, believing he had a right; the House believed it had the right to prevent him doing what he claimed to do. The matter was brought to a final issue, and Mr. Bradlaugh put it to the House in such a way as to ascertain that the House was serious. There the incident closed. And now, what is his position? Does he still advance his claim? I suppose he does. How does he mean to enforce it? Are we to assume against any man until we have evidence which shows by his own acts that he intends to enforce a claim of law which has been fully raised and fully disputed, by anything in the nature of intimidation or violence? We should be doing injustice to Mr. Bradlaugh to suppose so. Yet this is the argument on which the right hon. Gentleman bases this Resolution. He says the great argument for dealing with this question is that it is necessary to preserve the order of the House, and we shall not preserve the order of the House if we have violence and unauthorized interruption. Mr. Bradlaugh had the right to be here up to and at the moment at which he was ordered to withdraw; the making him withdraw was the one step which had then to be taken, but if Mr. Bradlaugh enters the House again it will become a very different question. We were told that the scene of the other day would be repeated again and again. I do not know whether that is a correct statement. Is such a thing possible? The order that has been given is, I conceive, a binding order—a continuing order. I imagine, Sir, you do not require—would not require—a further order to be made to Mr. Bradlaugh to withdraw. I imagine you would consider yourself entitled to give such police instructions to the officers of the House as would prevent his interfering again. I must not anticipate these matters; I only wish to enter my protest against an argument which seems to me a most dangerous argument. Why, Sir, what did my right hon. Friend say as to the possibility of an amendment of the law? He said that an amendment of the Parliamentary Oaths Act ought to be undertaken coolly and deliberately, and that it cannot be so if upon the decision of that great question hangs the decision whether Mr. Bradlaugh is or is not to be admitted. Are we, then, to suppose that we can settle a question of this sort, which will have an important permanent effect upon the character and proceedings of this House, in a spirit of calmness and coolness, under the menace that if we do not deal with this question in a particular way, Mr. Bradlaugh will take steps which will put us in the position in which we shall have to maintain order by again committing him to custody, probably without the active assistance of the Government? Now, Sir, I have said as much as I think I need say, and, indeed, I apologise to the House for having said so much on that part of the question; but it seemed to me necessary. I wish now to address myself to the point raised in the Amendment of which I have given Notice, to the effect that the House cannot adopt a Resolution which virtually rescinds the Resolution passed by it on the 22nd of June last. I need not say that I entirely agree with you, Sir, in the judgment you have pronounced just now with regard to the technical question which was raised by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Gorst). But whatever may be the technical position, the argument of my hon. and learned Friend seemed to be conclusive as far as it referred to the virtual rescinding of a Resolution passed by the House. I ask, is this not a proposal to virtually rescind a Resolution duly passed? The Resolution was one in two parts, relating both to the Affirmation and the Oath. How came that Resolution to be passed? It was not an original Resolution; it was an Amendment upon another Resolution moved by the sitting Member for Northampton, to the effect that Mr. Bradlaugh be allowed to affirm. That was distinctly negatived; and the division that was taken was not on the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), but on the original Resolution. But this Resolution, if passed, will exactly do the very thing which the hon. Member for Northampton asked us to do last week, and which the House refused to do. It is quite true that it is apparently covered by the general terms of the Resolution; but I think if the House will look at the matter for one moment, they will see that the terms of the Resolution are such that they confine its operation to Mr. Bradlaugh. It proposes that every person returned as a Member to this House who may claim to be a person for the time being entitled to affirm may affirm without question asked. What is meant by "every person?" I will take my own case. Suppose I came into the House and went up to the Table after this Resolution had passed, and claimed to be allowed by law to make a solemn Affirmation instead of an Oath. I am not to be asked any questions, as I understand; but am to be allowed to make an Affirmation, "subject to any liability by statute." Now, what is the meaning of that? That if, after making the Affirmation, anybody proceeds against me for penalties, I shall say—"I claimed that I had a right to do so." "How do you prove your claim?" I should be asked in a Court of Law. "Are you a Quaker or a Moravian?" "No." "Have you any doubt as to the validity of the Oath?" "No." "On what do you rest your claim?" "Well, I do not know. I have nothing to rest it on;" and thus I should subject myself to severe penalties. I want to know, am I correct? Will that be the operation of the Resolution? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Not at all.] Then, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me where I am in error? If I do claim, am I never to be challenged afterwards? It seems to me that there is no meaning in the Resolution, unless it be that the taking of an Oath is to be done away with for ever. I will assume that the person who affirms defends himself in an action for penalties and ventures his seat by his claim of right. Has Mr. Bradlaugh such a right? He says he has under the Statute which enables a person to give evidence in a Court of Justice, and which Statute gives the right, If the presiding Judge is satisfied that the taking of an oath shall have no binding effect upon his conscience. But how can he do this if no question is to he put? Mr. Bradlaugh may possibly say that individually he is clear in the matter; because it has been admitted more than once in Courts of Justice that he was a person so entitled to affirm, and that, therefore, so far as he is concerned, it is his privilege to do so; and that would be an ingenious way out of the difficulty. But that would not be an answer in the case of one who, having just the same claim, had never been in the Courts of Justice. How is such a one to get the advantage of this claim? Clearly by having the question put to him by the Clerk at the Table. And I presume that when the question was put to Mr. Bradlaugh by the Clerk—"On what ground do you claim to affirm?" he was only doing that which was absolutely necessary in order to ascertain what was meant by the claim. I do not see how you are to get out of that, or how you are to show that the Resolution is not confined to Mr. Bradlaugh. I will go a step further, and say—Suppose you do pass this Resolution and get the matter established in the way you desire—that Mr. Bradlaugh claims to affirm and that the case is brought to trial. Are you out of your difficulty? Not at all. You make, or may make, your difficulty ten times worse. What if the Court should say with the majority of the Committee you appointed—Mr. Bradlaugh had no right to claim to affirm, and he is subject to penalties and his seat is vacated. What will you do then? Suppose his constituents return him and he comes here; what are you to do? Or suppose he does not seek re-election; will not the constituency say—"We find ourselves seriously aggrieved in this matter, for here is the Member we wish to return excluded, and excluded by the law as expounded by the Courts of Justice." What are you going to do? Are you going to amend or alter the law? You will have pressure put upon you to legislate; for, depend upon it, you will not get out of the difficulty by any of these ingenious Resolutions. A statement, I am reminded, appeared in one of the morning papers which was entirely unauthorized, and one which I do not accept, to the effect that the Conservative Party were about to make a proposal for legislation in this matter. What I am prepared to say is this—that if you deal with it at all you must deal with it by legislation. How was it that these matters were dealt with before? What was the course pursued when Baron Rothschild and Mr. Alderman Salomons came and proposed to take their seats in this House? Did the House proceed by Resolution? Nothing of the sort. The House refused, and for eight years refused, to admit them into the House, and those Gentlemen represented constituencies at least as important as Northampton, which remained without Members while the question was being discussed and legislation was being considered. Well, you are now proposing a wholly different course. You are proposing to deal with the matter by a Resolution which I venture to think, with all submission, is beyond the competency of the House of Commons. ["No!"] Well, that is, perhaps, a strong expression to use, as I do not know whether it is possible to limit the competency of the House of Commons. But let the House consider seriously what position they will be in if they set this precedent. When Mr. Alderman Salomons took his seat in the House against the orders and directions of the Speaker, and resisted for a time the attempts made to remove him from the House, he was proceeded against in a Court of Law, damages were recovered against him, and the matter occasioned no great inconvenience. But if you ad- mit a Member to take his seat here with a warning that afterwards he will be subject to an action in a Court of Law, you cannot afford to sit by as you did in the case of the action against Mr. Alderman Salomons, because, in this case, the House would be a party to the matter; it would become a question of the Privilege of the House, and it may open an extremely inconvenient question between the Courts and the House of Commons. What the consequences of such a collision as that might be I do not venture to foretell; but this I am sure of—that if it is the wish of the House to maintain their Privileges, they should be very cautious how they exercise those Privileges. The step now asked to be taken is one which is somewhat humiliating to the House of Commons. It is that they should virtually rescind a Resolution debated, not hastily, not in a small House, but in a full House, and carried by a large majority—a majority consisting not of Gentlemen drawn exclusively from one side of it—and after two nights' discussion and after two Committees had sat upon the question—I say it would be humiliating to the House to rescind their Resolution upon the invitation of the Prime Minister, grounded upon something very like a threat, or the intimation of a threat, that possible consequences might ensue damaging to the order and peace of the House. I believe that if the House sets this precedent they will before long have occasion to repent it.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House cannot adopt a Resolution which virtually rescinds the Resolution passed by it on the 22nd day of June last,"—(Sir Stafford Northcote,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that the question before the House was not confined simply to rules and regulations; but it affected materially the rights and privileges of those constituencies in which new Members had as great an interest as the oldest Member of that House. The gist of the matter, as laid down by the Prime Minister, was that the House, in adopting a Resolution passed on a previous occasion, had gone beyond its jurisdiction. It was, of course, perfectly clear that Parliament had a right to make laws; but it had not the power to explain them after they had been made, and certainly no one branch, either the Crown, or the Lords, or the Commons, had the power of explaining Acts passed by those Estates. That was alone the province of the Executive, as represented in this instance by Her Majesty's Judges. It seemed to him that if this Resolution were rejected, they not only denied the right of Members duly elected to sit in the House, but they proposed to impose a qualification beyond that imposed by Statute Law. The question of law was disputed by eminent lawyers; and it seemed to him to be the duty of the Judges and the Executive, rather than of the House, to interpret the law. By the Resolution of the House last week, Mr. Bradlaugh was in the position of a man denied a legal right, the opportunity of applying for a legal remedy, for he could not raise the question in the Courts in the form of an action against the Serjeant at Arms. Had he been a voter for Northampton, he should have voted against Mr. Bradlaugh; but were that Gentleman to be returned to the constituency, he would now, if he had a vote, give it to him, not in support of his opinions, but in vindication of the rights of the constituents, which rights the House would have tried to take away. What the Opposition wanted to say in the matter was that they would not have Mr. Bradlaugh in the House because he was an Atheist; but they were afraid to take the courageous and straightforward course of saying so by a Resolution. They tried to circumvent the question by assuming the function of interpreters of the law—a function belonging to the Judicature, and which Parliament had never before undertaken. It seemed to him that the proposition of the Government appeared the only reasonable way in which the point could be brought to a proper decision, and he, therefore, supported it.


who had an Amendment on the Paper to the 2nd Resolution to the effect— That it is necessary that the said Acts be amended in order to entitle such person to make an Affirmation in lieu of taking an Oath, denied that the difficulty in which the House was placed was due to the action of the Opposition. From the moment that Mr. Bradlaugh was returned it was foreseen that the difficulty would arise, and it was a great pity that the Liberal Party gave the countenance they did to his candidature. He had received the open patronage of the Leaders of that Party, and a noted Nonconformist telegraphed to the electors of Northampton to elect him rather than allow a Tory to get in. When he presented himself and claimed to affirm, the Government knew perfectly well that he did not come within the category of persons entitled by law to make an Affirmation; and if it had not been for the Party bias which they and their supporters imported into the matter the House would never have been placed in its present difficulty. It had been said that Members on the Opposition side ought to produce some legislation for the purpose of enabling Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat. He submitted, however, that this was not the duty of the Opposition. He maintained that it was not possible for the House to do anything to enable Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat except by legislation. The relief which the law allowed, to make an Affirmation, was confined to persons who held some religious belief; and, although there were persons sitting in the House whose views involved the negation of religious belief, this was the first time that an avowed Atheist had ever come into the House himself, thrusting his objectionable opinions under the notice of the House. It was well known that Mr. Bradlaugh had declared in a Court of Law that an oath would not be binding on his conscience; but because a learned Judge allowed him to affirm in the interests of justice, that was no reason why Parliament should permit him to take the same course. If Mr. Bradlaugh had ground of complaint against anyone it was against Her Majesty's Government for not adopting the manly and straightforward way of meeting his claims by legislation, instead of trying to get him into the House by a back way. The Resolution of the Government not only rescinded that at which the House had already arrived, but it authorized an illegal act, or one of very doubtful legality, to be done by Mr. Bradlaugh, and repeated by anyone else holding his views in future. This was the only instance on record in which an attempt had been made to make a Standing Order which would allow an act of doubtful legality to be done. He had no sympathy with Mr. Bradlaugh; but he thought the Government had treated him with gross injustice from beginning to end of this matter. If the Resolution were passed he would still be liable to an action at law; and it was but the beginning of a long controversy, which he (Lord Henry Scott) would prefer to see dealt with in an honest and straightforward manner, and not by the course proposed by the Government.


Sir, as I had not an opportunity of speaking on the former occasion, I hope the House will extend its indulgence to me a short time. Now, it seems to me that neither the Resolution nor the Amendment, nor both together, raise the true issue. It is impossible to dissociate the personality of Mr. Bradlaugh from the question before the House. The Motion has special reference to him and to others, if, un-happily such there be, who share, or funcy they share, his views. If this were a question of civil and religious liberty, I would say—"Amend the Forms of Parliament for the acccommodation of Mr. Bradlaugh, and throw wide your doors for the admission of him and others." Civil liberty I take to mean that all men in this country are equal in the eye of the law; and by religious liberty I understand the right of every man to worship God according to his conscience. No one proposes to deprive Mr. Bradlaugh of any civil or religious right; but Parliament, having been broadly challenged, is bound to defend against him and others the principle of its own existence. No new test is sought to be imposed. The test of Theism has existed always. It is implied in every act and in every form of Parliament. It pervades the whole body of the Constitution, of which, like the soul in man, it is the animating principle. Is the prayer with which Parliament opens each day its proceedings an empty formula; or is it not an humble action of acknowledgment of its absolute dependence on an Allwise Providence? Does the phrase quoted in the Preamble of every Act, "the Lords spiritual and temporal," signify only the union between Church and State, and not the higher and better union between religion and the law? The legislators among the most ancient peoples sought a religious sanction for their laws and placed them under the protection of their divinities. Thus it was among the Egyptians; thus it was with Lycurgus among the Lacedemonians; thus it was with Numa among the Romans. A belief in the Deity under the idea of Supreme Legislator has always existed. It is as natural to man as social life; and I hold that a man who repudiates that belief, and becomes the active propagandist of doctrines as subversive of social life as of the Constitution of the Realm, is disqualified to discharge the duties of a legislator. Parliament is not merely a political machine; Parliament is, in its highest aspect, a religious institution, whose every act must be a conformity with the moral law, the foundation and source of which is God. Admit the Atheist, and you will have, in course of time, Atheistical legislation. The legislators of one generation, perhaps the present, will sow the wind; and mankind, in the next, will reap the whirlwind. Thus came the excesses of the French Revolution, the seeds of which were sown, in the first instance, by the speculations of English philosophers. Eight years ago the right hon. Gentleman then, as now, Prime Minister, delivered a remarkable address before the University College of Liverpool, in which he uplifted the strong voice of a conscientious man in defence of Christianity assailed. His deep conviction of impending danger could alone have induced the right hon. Gentleman to use the language of solemn warning that characterized that memorable address. Within these eight years the danger has not diminished. The wolf is at the gate; and instead of uniting to drive him away, the British Legislature discuss the formalities with which he shall be received within the fold. A Member may be, or may have been, returned to this House who cannot find it in his conscience to tolerate the Almighty; and we are warned in the name of religious liberty that in order to satisfy his conscientious scruples we must efface the religious character of Parliament. A new Affirmation Book shall be prepared in lieu of the Bible, on which shall be emblazoned the legend—"God expunged by special desire;" Party nomenclature shall be enriched by the addition of the Swearers and the Affirmers. In Oath and Affirmation allegiance to the temporal Sovereignty is obligatory; but allegiance to the King of Kings is a matter of discretion; and this is religious toleration, religious liberty. Material progress and political improvement apart, the distinguishing characteristics of the age are a decline in high intellect and an increase in audacious impiety. I trust that the House of Commons will not be induced to alter its time-honoured rule for the purpose of admitting to a seat in this House anyone, no matter by which constituency returned, who shall openly dispute the Divine origin of the moral law, and the authoritative sanctions of its behests. Even that law requires for its sustainment the aids and defences which religion alone can supply. Without them it would fail, the idea of duty would disappear, and mankind would be left dependent for their moral government on a scientific morality sustained by a human religion. My hon. Friends and Colleagues from Ireland, whatever the course which they may take upon this question, will be mindful, I know, of the honour of their country. Whatever the faults of our countrymen—and they are many, and serious enough—they are redeemed by the fidelity with which, during sorrowful centuries, they have clung to their nationality and religion combined. They have justified the description of Burke—that a nation is a moral essence, not a geographical definition. So long as that essence remains uncontaminated and undefiled, the nation lives, though it may be in chains. But once contaminate it by foreign mixtures, by false theories, and by pernicious doctrines, the process of national decay is rapid, and most fatal, perhaps, in its operation amongst Catholic people long subject to misgovernment.


The apology which it is fitting and customary that a new Member should offer who ventures for the first time to claim the attention of this honourable House is rendered more than usually necessary in the present instance by the almost unprecedented gravity of the subject in debate. Occasions there may have been—and doubtless there have been in plenty—when a new Member, on taking his seat, finds himself face to face at once with questions vital to what he feels and knows to be his country's good; but when I take into account the daily-increasing complexity of those social problems which are unceasingly stirring around us; when I bear in mind that it is scarcely too much to say, as has been said, that these are days when the Previous Question is being moved on every subject, human and divine; when I look to the momentous issues which may result from the bare consideration of a question such as this—I cannot fancy that—go back how far soever I may along the lines of English history—there ever can have been a time when, on a new Member's part, there was greater cause for firm resolution, the result of serious reflection and anxious care. I feel sure, so far as my short experience has enabled me to judge of the general tone and tenor of this House, that I shall not be expressing the sentiments of myself alone, but of many an hon. Member—new and old alike, on this side and on that—when I say that it was with a sense of profound responsibility that we have approached those questions to which the unparalleled conduct of the Member for Northampton gave rise in the earlier stages of this matter; but if it was with a sense of responsibility that we approached those questions which related to the mere appointment of Committees and their numerical strength, it is now with a sense of something much more akin to apprehension that we draw near to the subject in the phase which it has now assumed—of apprehension, not lest this honourable House should ultimately adopt a course of procedure which is other than in accordance with what is just and right, but lest the community itself should suffer irremediable harm from the protracted discussion in this place of a matter which, to say the very least of it, must be fruitless of good. Now, Sir, I have to claim the attention of the House while I lay before it a view of this question which, while it is a simple one, is largely entertained in the country generally, and has the advantage of being, strictly speaking, neither legal nor sentimental. It is widely held, then, that throughout the debates on this question there has been a want of clearness in distinguishing between complicity with a man's views and the maintenance of his rights; between active participation in—nay, mere recognition of—the cause of such and such a speculative agitator, and the duty of upholding the right of every English citizen to the benefit of election by his fellow-men. With the former, Parliament has nothing in the world to do; while, in giving effect to the latter, it is simply exercising its natural and necessary, its ordinary and proper function. It is true that there has been good cause for such a confusion of ideas. It is a great anomaly, indeed, when we find a man of no religion attempting, in the name of religious liberty, to treat any precedent of Parliament as a thing of no effect; but a far greater anomaly would it be for the Representatives of the English people, in the name of a precedent of Parliament, to deny to any English citizen a right which is his by birth. For this reason, I shall support the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, it would be unbecoming in me to particularize any of those hon. Gentlemen opposite who in previous debates, or in this one, have thought it a conscientious duty to act on considerations derived from an opposite point of view; but I would merely express the surprise I felt—I think it was almost on my first entrance into this House—to see an hon. Gentleman—it was the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff)—standing up in his place, as a duly elected Member of this House, and interposing between another equally duly elected Member and his seat. I cannot but think that that is a species of obstruction which neither this House nor this nation will endure. I am not speaking of obstruction to the Public Business of this House—though that is bad enough—but of obstruction to the will of the English people—obstruction of a nature such as the Constitutional historian of the future will have to deal with, and with which, if I mistake not, he will not deal too tenderly. If, Sir, hon. Members opposite choose to make use of such methods as these, most assuredly will they find, ere many years have passed away, that organized obstruction to the inevitable is the surest factor which can be found of sudden, and, it may be, of disastrous change. The mill stream never runs so swiftly as when sweeping the mill dam away. One other point to which I feel bound to allude is the ungenerous and unworthy, base, and untrue insinuations which have been levelled at the Liberal Party, and at the Noncon- formists in particular, in respect to complicity on their part with this most atrocious case. As an individual unit of that great Party, which represents—as I believe—the immemorial spirit of the English people, and as the Representative of a constituency (East Cornwall) largely Nonconformist in that part of this country which John Wesley specially made his own, I wish, standing here in my place, in such poor words as I am capable of, most indignantly to rebut and to repudiate that charge. It is framed in the same mould as one which we had to deal with during the recent Election, and which, appearing in a letter, which, from the prominence of its author and the prominence of its recipient, was dignified by the name of a Manifesto, imputed disloyalty by implication to the Liberal Party. Both alike were based on individual instances devoid of truth; the first recoiled on those who made it, and the second will do the same. But, since that insinuation has been made, it must be answered; and for this object I have in my mind the words of that chivalrous and far-seeing man, M. de Tocqueville— The experience of all ages has shown that the most living root of religious belief has ever been planted in the heart of the people. Now, in the first place, whatever some philosophers may say, even if there were a dozen Mr. Bradlaughs in this House, the fact would remain that, in so far as the community is concerned, this nation is still not only a religious but a Christian nation. There is inherent within it a religious expression, which alternately guides and controls, and is guided and controlled by the civil power; and, in the second place, Liberalism, if I know anything of it, is the expression of the voice of the people's heart. In the practical politics of the Party, therefore, religion still lives, and moves, and has its being. It is unnecessary for me to make any defence for Nonconformists. The Wesleyans have sent, as a protest to this House, one of the most solemn documents ever laid before it,—on the matter of the Oath. The fact, then, really amounts to this—that all this while Liberals and Nonconformists have been seeing what, I am sorry to say, some hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House as well as on that have been blind to—namely, that the maintenance of a man's rights has nothing on earth to do with complicity with his views. In conclusion, I will say that fortunate, most fortunate, do I hold it to be that the Leader of this House in such a crisis as this is the right hon. Gentleman whom his Queen and country alike have called to occupy that exalted post. In him all alike can place reliance when the cause of religion is at stake. Not unwilling will he be that I should recall to this House, to his Party, but to the new Members most of all, words which, in 1872, he used in an address to students at Liverpool— In preparing yourselves for the combat of life I beg you to take this also into your account, that the spirit of denial is abroad, and that it has challenged all religion, but especially the religion we profess, to the combat of life and death. Having regard to those words, and to many others of like import which have fallen from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared faithfully and trustfully to follow him into the Lobby to which this Resolution will lead, believing that—where religion is in question—if I may use the old simile of the ship of the State, no counter seas will make his hand to waver on the wheel, no passing clouds divert his vision from the lode-star of our ancient faith.


approached the question from a very young Member's point of view, and not from considerations ultra-legal or ultra-ecclesiastical. He was one of three Conservative Members who supported the original proposition of the Government that the case should be referred to a Select Committee. He wished to say a few words about the allegations that the Conservative Party nourished some personal animosity against Mr. Bradlaugh, and that they were actuated in their conduct by a desire to obtain an electioneering advantage. As for the charge of personal animosity, he could assure the House that he entertained no animosity towards Mr. Bradlaugh. With regard to the second allegation to which he had referred, he would remind the House that it was not the Conservative Party who initiated the proceedings against Mr. Bradlaugh. The person who originally expressed a doubt as to whether Mr. Bradlaugh could or could not affirm was the Speaker himself, and upon such doubt being expressed, Her Majesty's Govern- ment chose a Select Committee to inquire into the matter, and ascertain whether, under the circumstances, Mr. Bradlaugh was in a position to make an Affirmation. It was perfectly open to the Government to have accepted that Report; and, therefore, the Conservatives could hardly be blamed for loyally taking up the Report of a Committee which the Government itself had proposed. Then, the Conservative Party were charged with endeavouring to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of the House for political reasons; and he thought before imputing to the Conservative Party that they were actuated in their proceedings by merely an electioneering desire, it would be more regular to inquire what the real circumstances of the case were. What the Conservative Party were doing was to support the decision arrived at by the two Committees that were appointed to consider the question, and they were not opposing the Resolution for any electioneering purposes. It was hard that they should be accused of having waited till the eleventh hour before taking action. Had they not been told that they had no right to take Mr. Bradlaugh's previous conduct into account? How, then, could they do otherwise than assume, until Mr. Bradlaugh's conduct showed that the assumption was wrong, that the opinions of that gentleman had undergone sufficient change to allow him to go through the proper forms before taking his seat? So far as he understood the whole question, he could not see how the Committees could have come to any other decision than the one they did arrive at. In conclusion, he protested against the Conservative Party being accused of attempting to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of the House to suit their own purposes, and stated that they were simply supporting the decisions of the two Committees, both of which were appointed by the Government. If the Resolution of the Prime Minister was not passed, and Mr. Bradlaugh was unable to take his seat in the House, a very simple course was open to the Government—a course that had been advocated by almost every newspaper, and many persons outside the walls of that House—namely, that the Government should introduce some measure the effect of which should be to permit Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat. If that course were adopted by the Government there would be no captious opposition from any Gentleman on that side of the House. He trusted that the House would support the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon.


said, that as an Irish Catholic, representing a constituency the majority of whom were Catholics, he felt himself under a solemn obligation to enter his earnest and unqualified protest against any measure having for its aim or object the facilitating the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh into that House. In saying that he believed he was not only expressing his own sentiments, but those of men of every shade of opinion, religious or political, in the county he had the honour to represent (Wicklow). Concurring as he did to the fullest extent with those hon. Gentlemen who had from the first declared themselves against opening the door of the House to Mr. Bradlaugh, he was forced to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, whose character he (Mr. Corbet) held in the highest estimation, had on that occasion allowed his well-known constitutional liberality to lead him to overstep, or rather to wish altogether to obliterate, the broad and distinct line of demarcation which existed, and which it was to be hoped ever would exist, between hon. Members of that House and those classes of the community with whom Mr. Bradlaugh had striven so effectually and so successfully to identify himself. In his earnest desire and, as he (Mr. Corbet) believed, anxiety to be just to an individual, the Prime Minister was pursuing a course calculated to give mortal offence not merely to a small section of the community, but to the whole people of the United Kingdom, minus the demented electors of Northampton. The last thing which anyone would dream of alleging against the right hon. Gentleman was that he had any sympathy with Mr. Bradlaugh's Besantine doctrines of morality or avowed Atheism. They had been admonished by the Treasury Bench to avoid introducing any element of passion into the discussion of that most odious question; but it was impossible calmly to contemplate the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh into that Assembly. Outside that door clamouring to take his seat, not amid the political outcasts of fortune, but among the upright and virtuous followers of Her Majesty's Government, there was one who, judged by his own antecedents, out of his own lips, and by his widely disseminated and scandalous writings, was the human embodiment of the reverse of virtue. Catholics held that there was but one infallible authority on earth in the matter of faith and morals. Having had the advantage of reading a celebrated literary production and of observing the course taken during the progress of those debates, he thought he might hazard the conjecture that that authority was not the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government.


expressed regret that there should be imported into every discussion upon this question so much pietistic declamation, and so much abuse. He held that it would be altogether more consistent with the usages of the House, and also with the practice of gentlemen, if they were allowed to debate that matter as a question of principle, avoiding those too frequent personal allusions to the unfortunate individual who had given rise to that discussion. This had been an unfortunate affair from beginning to end. It was, no doubt, an extreme case. Hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House were battling, first of all, for what they considered to be the cause of civil and religious liberty, served up, he owned, with not very savoury sauce on that occasion. But the question would never have arisen, and they would never have been put on their mettle, if the person referred to were an ordinary person and one who would be welcome to the House. Personal objection was the cause of all the hot debate and strong sentiments they had heard. He protested, however, against personal dislike being substituted for the real question before the House, to the consideration of which he desired to recall the debate. The Motion before them was intended to extricate the House from the difficult position in which it had been placed by the adoption of the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) on the 22nd of June. That Resolution, which now stood recorded on the Journals of the House, declared in so many words that Mr. Bradlaugh should not be permitted either to take the Oath or to make the Affirmation mentioned in the Statute. That declaration was without any limit of time or any condition whatever. But the Statute Law of the country expressly directed that every Member of the House—a term which clearly included Mr. Bradlaugh—was to do one or other of the two things which the Resolution of the 22nd of June said Mr. Bradlaugh should not do. The Statute was perfectly plain. It in simple words enacted that the Oath should be taken by every Member at the Table in the middle of the House. That was a duty thrown upon every Member, and there was only one exception to its obligation. That exception was found in this—that the Statute contemplated the possibility of some Members objecting to take the Oath. It was passed to remove difficulties which had arisen in practice as to taking the Oath; and to meet and provided for this difficulty it provide that if a Member objected to take the Oath, there was an alternative course opened for him—that of making an Affirmation. But either Oath or Affirmation he must take. From one or other there was no escape. One of the most unfortunate features in the history of this controversy was that there had been separate Referenoes, each embracing only one-half of the question, to two distinct Committees. He could not doubt that if the whole question had been sent to one Committee, the Report of that Committee would have adopted the view the conclusion to which the House was invited to come by the Prime Minister—namely, that no Member was to be prevented from doing that which the law said he should do—was a proper conclusion. He could not but believe that if one Committee had considered both branches of this question together, and as a whole, they must have determined that Mr. Bradlaugh could and must either affirm or take the Oath. His own conviction was that he might affirm, and that having claimed to affirm he could not take the Oath. He had also a strong conviction that if the Report of either of these Committees had been contrary to what it was, hon. Gentlemen opposite would have asserted the right of the House to decide for itself on this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, that was the very thing the House were now asked by the Government to do. Unless they modified the unfortunate Resolution which now stood on the Journals of the House, they, would be preventing a Member from complying with the obligations of the Act of Parliament. He was bound to admit that the suggestion of the second Committee, that the matter should be left to be decided by a Court of Law, was not altogether satisfactory. It seemed to him to be rather a flabby conclusion. What he should have been glad to see the second Committee do was to have stated that, in their judgment, the first Committee had not considered the matter adequately as a whole, and were wrong in their view. Had they taken this course the present embarrassment would have been less; but even as it was, the House could do no harm by agreeing to the invitation of the Prime Minister. Taking the Oath, or making an Affirmation, was not intended as a religious test, but only as a declaration of loyalty. Mr. Bradlaugh was desirous of carrying out the mandate of his constituents, by complying with the obligation of the law and taking his seat, and in preventing him from doing it in the manner prescribed by Statute the House itself was, in his (Sir Henry Jackson's) opinion, violating the law. The law said he should not do it until he had signified his allegiance to his Sovereign, and that this could be done by an action purely secular. He failed to see what injury Parliament would sustain by dispensing with the Oath in this case, and allowing the hon. Member to substitute a Declaration of his allegiance.


said, that the decision of the first Committee was said to have been appealed against, and was overruled by the decision of the second Committee. He could only say, as was said by his right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that had he known that the second Committee was intended to be an appeal from the first Committee, he should not have felt it his duty to take a seat in that Committee. The only proper tribunal to which to appeal from a Committee of that House was the full House itself; and, in his opinion, that was the proper course for Her Majesty's Government to have taken. It was said that the recommendation of the second Committee reversing the decision of the first Committee and allowing Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm, had been carried by a majority of 12 to 9, while the Report of the first Committee had been carried by a majority of I, but to this 9 should be added, the Chairman and the late Attorney General, who was then absent; and it would be seen the real majority in the second Committee was also 1; and the fact was that that majority was brought about solely by the change of side by the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood). It appeared to him quite clear that Mr. Bradlaugh could not be permitted to take the Oath or make an Affirmation. If at the Table of the House he had not made the claim to affirm by virtue of the Evidence Amendment Act, 1869–70, he would have been able to take the Oath without a question being raised; but, seeing that Mr. Bradlaugh called the attention of the Speaker to his claim, the House had a right to interfere. His (Mr. Staveley Hill's) view with regard to the right to affirm was this. Originally both witnesses in Courts of Law and. Members of that House were required absolutely to take the Oath; but the rigid rule had been gradually relaxed, both in Courts of Justice and in that House, in favour of those who entertained religious scruples against taking an oath. The legislation on this subject, however, had never gone so far with regard to that House as it had with regard to Courts of Justice, and the law allowing Affirmations to be taken in that House not only with reference to this promissory Oath, but even to the Oath of testimony also, as shown by the Act of 1871, only went as far as that which was conceded for Courts of Justice in 1854. He denied that it was possible to construe one set of Acts by the other set. He was of opinion, therefore, that Mr. Bradlaugh was not a person entitled under the Act of Parliament to make an Affirmation; and if, at the same time, it had been rightly held that he could not take the Oath, what course should be followed? The bringing forward of this subject was a great misfortune; but if Mr. Brad laugh had not himself raised the question, he could have taken the Oath, and nothing more would have been heard of him; but he (Mr. Staveley Hill) submitted that it would have been impossible for hon. Members to have sat there and witnessed an act which in itself would have been utterly ludicrous. The Prime Minister was inaccurate in stating that the objection had originated with the Clerk at the Table, because all that the latter had done had been to ask Mr. Bradlaugh by what right he claimed to affirm, a question which it was right and necessary to put to those claiming to make an Affirmation. The Prime Minister, who had not completely stated what had taken place on previous occasions, now asked—"What else can we do than appeal to the House?" The Committee, he (Mr. Staveley Hill) submitted, that sat last to consider the question, had all the precedents before them relating to the Parliamentary Oath, and it was proved to be the clear practice of Parliament that where a Member declined to take the Oath when it was tendered to him, or was unwilling to take the Oath, or in the judgment of the House was not a proper person to whom the Oath should be administered, the course had always been to declare the seat vacant, and to issue a new Writ. In 1620 occurred the precedent of Sir John Lee, who had been in the House for some time and had not taken the Oath. In spite of his willingness to take the Oath a new Writ was issued. Another precedent was that of Sir H. Monson, in 1689, in whose ease a new Writ was issued because he had not taken the Oath, and had not attended the service of the House. He might mention also the precedent of Lord Fanshawe; but the best case in point was furnished by John Archdale, the Quaker Member for Chipping Wycombe in 1698. In his case the Speaker acquainted the House that he had received from Archdale a sealed letter, to the effect that he had not opposed the wishes of the burgesses when he found them desirous of electing him, and that, if the House would permit him to do so without taking the Oath, he was ready to execute his trust. The House having heard the letter read and the Statutes, Mr. Archdale came in, and the Speaker, by direction of the House, asked him whether he would take the Oath. That he declined to do on account of the principles of his religion, and a new Writ was ordered to issue. Now, as far as Parliamentary requirements went, that was the closest parallel he could find to the case of the hon. Member for Northampton. Having regard to those precedents, the course that the Government ought to have taken was sufficiently obvious. All further trouble would have been avoided if the manly course had been adopted of issuing a new Writ. If Mr. Bradlaugh was still loved by the people of Northampton, in spite of his vagaries, and again returned, then he could have walked up to the Table and taken the Oath, and no more would have been heard of the matter; if not returned, the contention would equally have been at an end, and the House could have calmly proceeded to legislate for any future similar case. As it was, he hoped the House would not affirm the Resolution of the Prime Minister—one that would allow Mr. Bradlaugh, by a sort of side wind, to take his seat, and so frustrate the previous Resolution it had arrived at. One thing was clear, that it would not be right to invite Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm at his own peril. If, in consequence of the action of the House, he incurred a penalty, the House would be bound in common fairness to give him an indemnity.


held that the action of the House had not been in accordance with the law, and hon. Members ought to be very glad at the eleventh hour to recede from the false position they had taken up. The Oath of Allegiance was never designed for the purposes to which it had been diverted by the recent Resolution; for the House, by excluding Mr. Bradlaugh, would practically convert it into a religious test. No one could help thinking it strange that the law itself should be invoked in order to prevent the hon. Member from complying with its requirements. Sir Erskine May had stated distinctly that there was no precedent for refusing to allow a man who presented himself at the Table to take the Oath from taking it. There were certain oaths at present which a man was entitled to take in the Courts of Law, even although he were an Atheist. Until a very recent period every answer in Chancery had to be sworn by the defendant. Was the suggestion ever made that a man upon whom the law imposed the duty of making his answer in Chancery upon oath was prevented from doing so because he was an Atheist? The principle which underlay the whole matter was that when the law enjoined that an oath should be taken it would not step in to prevent its being taken. Taylor on Evidence, the highest authority in England upon the subject, quoted without disapproval, or rather with approval, an American authority who laid down that whether a person about to be sworn was an Atheist or not, the question could never be raised by anyone but the adverse party. In another place, the same authority said that there was nothing to prevent an Atheist from taking an oath of office, or from swearing a complaint before a magistrate, or from making oath in his answer in Chancery. Was he (Mr. Butt) not right, therefore, in saying that when the law enjoined on a Member of Parliament to take the Oath, it could not in the same breath say—"You shall not be allowed to take it?" The authority which he had already quoted also said that the law never allowed an objection of infidelity to be raised against any man seeking his own right before a Court of Justice. On what did the House proceed? On its own notion that the Oath had no binding effect on a person entertaining the opinions of Mr. Bradlaugh. The House was in danger of doing great injustice, when it prevented Mr. Bradlaugh from doing that which he said he was prepared to do. It was said Mr. Bradlaugh had obtruded his opinions on the House. Holding the opinions he did, Mr. Bradlaugh did not, perhaps, think himself justified in coming to the Table and swallowing the Oath without raising any question, or he might have raised the question in order to make political capital out of it. But, if it were so, it was no reason why, if he was otherwise minded to take the Oath, the House should prevent him. If notoriety were his object, the whole action of the House was aiding and abetting him in his desire. Was it fair, legal, or right towards his constituency to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh taking the Oath? Could any hon. Member doubt that in a contest between the House and Mr. Bradlaugh's constituency the House would ultimately be beaten? If the views which hon. Members opposite entertained of Mr. Bradlaugh's aims were correct, they were, by the action they took, playing most completely into his hands, and the longer they kept him out of the House the greater would be his ultimate triumph when he took his seat, as he assuredly would. It was for the interest, dignity, and honour of the House that it should adopt some Resolution, putting an end to the present situation.


said, it was with the utmost reluctance that, as an Irish Protestant, a member of the Synod of the Protestant Church of Ireland, and the parochial nominator of his parish, chosen by the votes of his fellow-Protestants to that office, he wished to explain his reasons for the vote which he intended to give for the Resolution of the Prime Minister. He could not recollect any time when he had felt greater timidity, less confidence in the result of the action which he was about to take, or less confident in the belief that the mass of the Irish people were behind him than upon the present occasion. In his past political life he had always felt that his action would be understood and appreciated by his constituents; but, upon the present occasion, he was bound to believe there was, at all events, very great risk of its being misunderstood. His religion, however, taught him to be just and fear not; and although a man might be placed under a temporary cloud or a temporary disqualification, he thought and felt convinced that, in the long run, if he acted according to the just dictates of his own conscience, every right-thinking man at home in Ireland would ultimately come to his support. Now, why did he intend to vote for the Resolution of the Prime Minister? Because he believed that the law entitled Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat in that House, and he objected to that method of making law by Parliamentary Resolution. If those Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House desired to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of the House—and who said they desired to do so, because the law was against his views—if they desired what they said, why did they not legally test the question? But what had they done? They had prevented any legal test from being taken; they had deliberately prevented the action of the ordinary law of the land; and they had deliberately prevented an important constituency like Northampton from having its right of representation in the House of Commons. Now, a cry had been raised against him (Mr. Parnell) in Ireland that he was an Atheist, because he voted for the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh. He wished to say that Mr. Bradlaugh's religious tenets and his doctrines with reference to over-population were abominable; but because he (Mr. Parnell) objected to that Gentleman's doctrines on those questions was not a sufficient reason why he should go contrary to the law. Catholic Members for Ireland had felt very strongly on the question—very strongly, indeed—and they had been told that they ought to recollect that it was once sought to keep them out, just as it was now sought to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out. But he would ask the Catholic Members what did they fear? Did they fear that their religion would be injured by Mr. Bradlaugh's introduction to the House? ["No, no!"] If they did not, then upon what principle did they proceed? He had listened carefully to many of the speeches of his Catholic Friends from Ireland, and it had appeared to him that they had argued that it was their duty as Catholics to keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of the House lest their religion should be injured by his introduction. ["No, no!"] Then, for what other reason did they object to his coming there? An appeal had been made to Catholic Ireland. They had been told that that little Island was the last country that had resisted the inroads of Continental infidelity, and that unless they desired that that odious thing should creep into Ireland, they must keep Mr. Bradlaugh out of the House. Well, that surely seemed to indicate a fear on the part of Irish Catholics that their religion might be injured by Mr. Bradlaugh's introduction into the House; but were they entitled really to look at it from that point of view? Were they, as Catholics, entitled to say—"Because we are Catholics, we object to Mr. Bradlaugh?" For they must recollect exactly the same argument was used against their own admission. Why were Catholics deprived of their civil rights for centuries? Why were they prevented from coming into that House? It was because Protestants feared that the admission of Catholics would injure the Protestant religion, and it was because the majority of Protestants began to see that even if they had that fear, it was an unworthy fear, and a fear that they ought not to allow to influence them in considering the civil rights of their fellowmen, that Catholics were at last admitted to the same civil and religious rights as Protestants. They must never forget that, in dealing with this subject, if they once admitted the principle that they were entitled to ob- ject to a man because his doctrines were likely to injure their religion, they struck at the very root of civil and religious liberty, and that was why he felt it his duty to do that which was personally odious to him. It was a personally odious task for him to undertake to vote for the admission of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) to that House; but if he had to walk through that Lobby by himself, he should feel himself a coward if he refused to do so.


said, he was very glad to be able to follow his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) who had spoken last, in order to assure him that he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) should be sorry if any Catholic Member from Ireland rose to reply to him, and used a single word which would imply a failure to appreciate his honesty, his devotion, his sincerity, and his patriotism. The liberality of his (Mr. A. M. Sullivan's) co-religionists who elected a Protestant Gentleman like the hon. Member for Cork to represent them would be only hypocrisy and sham, if they expected their Member to speak on a question like this otherwise than as a conscientious Protestant; and no one would be more ready to defend the hon. Member against any such aspersions as he had anticipated than would his Catholic fellow-Members. His hon. Friend, however, had spoken in the same way that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had spoken the other night for the abolition of tests, and not on the question before the House; and in the spirit of that speech he invited the hon. Member to vote for the Amendment he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) had placed on the Paper. But the speech was beside the question now before the Chair. He (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) had listened to the speech of the Prime Minister that night, and it was a serious speech and a critical one for him, for the House, and for the country. The onus lay upon the right hon. Gentleman to justify to the House the proposition he had submitted for their consideration. The House had ere now rescinded Resolutions and abolished or modified its religious or political tests; but, he asked, had the right hon. Gentleman in his speech been able to quote one single precedent where a Resolution of the House had been rescinded by such a side wind as he now proposed? He had not even fortified the consciences of his devoted followers by citing one single precedent during 500 years of the House of Commons to show where a religious test had been abolished in a manner at all comparable to that now submitted to the House? There was great danger in dealing with a question introduced by the Prime Minister, because of his eloquence and skill and the admiration most of them had for him. But he would ask the House to consider whether this was a Motion to satisfy an individual, or to remove the grievance of a class? Was it a capitulation to Mr. Bradlaugh? If it was not a capitulation to threats of violence and disorder, then was it an amendment of the law, which amendment experience had shown to be necessary and right? The police motive avowedly animated the present proposition. But, consider the view of the case which was academically taken in the country—namely, that this was a removal of a grievance which oppressed a class—what class was oppressed? They were told in a novel that a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was informed that the Cork Militia was in the Castle yard, and when he went out to inquire for it, a single voice responded—"Here I am, your Excellency." What class was aggrieved by their present rules? "Here I am, might respond the hon. Gentleman sitting under the Gallery. That was the class. What other class had petitioned declaring that they were without representation? He would never vote for excluding any appreciable section of the nation from fair representation. The oppression of minorities had been the corner stone of tyranny in the history of Europe. Where was the class that was oppressed now? It was nothing but an individual. If there had been a class, it would have imitated other classes in petitioning for representation for ten, or five, or two years. They would have imitated other classes for whom the House had waived tests. Whenever before in the history of their proceedings had the House responded to the first knock of a class or of an individual? Did the first Catholic find a Prime Minister to admit him in the first instance? Or did the first Jew who was so conscientious that he was excluded for years? For 30 years his co-religionists had trod the thorny path leading to Catho- lic Emancipation, during which period successive Ministries were made and unmade upon the question; and yet when a Catholic came to the Table and could not take the Oath he represented a nation of 8,000,000. But he had a conscience, and once he said he would not swear he did not swear. Even after Emancipation was passed, O'Connell had to go back to Clare and be re-elected, because the Act was not retrospective. But was Mr. Bradlaugh, who represented himself, to be dealt with in a more liberal, tolerant, and generous way? Then there were the Jews. He supposed he should be classed with the Ultramontane bigots—["Hear, hear!"]—he understood that cheer; but he spoke of the emancipation of the Jews, because he had read with sympathy and with respect of the struggles of that cruelly-oppressed race, and he was proud to think that the Irish Members of that day supported their emancipation. But when Alderman Salomons came into the House no Prime Minister rose to propose not merely an amendment of the law, but a retrospective Resolution. That great honour was reserved for Mr. Bradlaugh. The Prime Minister rested his case very little on there being a class grievance; but he based it mainly on police considerations. An avowal had been made that night by the Premier of England which, two years ago, he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) would have thought to be impossible—namely, that the proper way whereby the House should prevent a Gentleman forcing his way to the mace and remaining there as long as he pleased was to let him have what he demanded. If that were not done, and if the House did not pass under the Caudine forks, they were told that Mr. Bradlaugh, evening after evening, might come there and bully them—the Commons of the Empire. Why, since the bauble was removed from the Table, and armed men scattered the Members of the House, no such outrage as that had been committed on it. Was the reign of rowdyism again to be introduced, so that, on the threat of disorder and physical violence, they were to go on their knees and say—"Dear Mr. Bradlaugh, spare us from such scenes, and for police considerations you shall have all that you require?" His Friend, Mr. Plimsoil, gained something by standing in the midst of the floor and shaking his fist at the then Premier; but if Mr. Plimsoll were then a Member of the House, he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) could tell him that if he only threatened to come down, grasp the mace, and say—"Let me see who is able to put me out," the Prime Minister would counsel the House, with a view to escape from scenes of disorderand violence, they should pass the Merchant Shipping Bill. That was the only reason for the Motion before the House. ["No, no!"] If that was not the animating motive of the Resolution, why should the Government hesitate to accept his (Mr. A. M. Sullivan's) Amendment, which adopted their own view, but applied it prospectively, not retrospectively. For himself, he was opposed to tests where they were designed to disfranchise any section of the nation; therefore it was that he placed his Amendment on the Paper. He would appeal to that section of the Liberal Party which sat opposite, who were really at one with him on the question, to support him. They, too, as he did, desired to abolish religious tests; and if Party compulsion were removed from them, they would make the proposed emancipation consonant with all precedent; for never before had it been retrospective. He thought that it was more manly to honestly avow that he was conscious that he was moved in this matter by what some might call religious prejudices, than to pretend that he was not moved by some such feeling; but they were not prejudices of that narrow kind which would make a bigot seek to oppress all those who were not of his own religious belief. His was, he hoped, a broader and a wider view. He looked abroad, and he confessed his mind was overshadowed by a gloomy fear that there were days in store for Europe darker than any which had gone by for probably some hundreds of years. The very basis of the social edifice in every land was being ruthlessly assailed—and assailed by the stealthy step of men like him on whose behalf they were now asked to change the British Constitution. It was not because of Mr. Bradlaugh's religious opinions alone—though these were to him abhorrent—that he would refuse to violate all rule and precedent in extending to him the privileges of a Member of the House; it was because of other of his principles, which, taken in conjunction with his Atheistic opinions, struck fatally at the foundation of civil society, as they knew it; and, therefore, he said that the Resolution would mark a turning point in the Parliamentary history of England. What the House was about to do was, not to accomplish a triumph for the principles of religious liberty, but to register high on the door-post of the House of Commons the flood-mark of unbelief and infidelity. Yet, would it not be well when Nihilism in Russia, Communism in France, Socialism in Germany, and Atheism in many lands, were threatening Thrones and Constitutions, if they in England—Jews, Protestants, and Catholics—were to join hands in holy reverence round the shrine of religious belief, and act upon the grand old Constitutional principle—Honour the King and worship God?


Sir, I should like to be allowed to make a few observations on the subject before the House, because, with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), I think no Nonconformist has yet taken part in these discussions. I have listened to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) with great admiration for its eloquence, but with unspeakable astonishment at the principles it enunciated. Indeed, the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to base his objection to Mr. Bradlaugh's claims on no principle whatever. It is with him a mere question of number and time. He appears to think that the admission of men to the enjoyment of their civil and political rights depends upon how many they are. Mr. Brad-laugh is only one man; therefore, he must be rejected. But surely one man is as much entitled to justice as 100,000 men. Then, says my hon. and learned Friend, you ought not to admit him at once. If he perseveres long enough, and knocks at the door of the House year after year, then my hon. and learned Friend will go himself and open the door to him. Indeed, he carried this curious theory of keeping men waiting for their rights, so far that he seemed actually to justify the course taken by the Protestants of this country in shutting out so long his own fellow-religionists from this House. But how can that which is wrong now become right six or seven years hence? There have been, throughout this debate, two questions constantly cropping up of very unequal significance and importance. One of them might be called formal and technical—that is, whether Mr. Bradlaugh was to be allowed to make an Affirmation and so obtain his seat. That is a question of law and jurisdiction, the solution of which depends upon the construction of statutes, and the collation of precedents, with which I do not feel that I am particularly competent to deal. I have listened with considerable attention to the elaborate legal discussions which have been conducted with great ability by some of the most accomplished Members of the Profession. But I am ashamed to be obliged to confess that, as it has happened to me before, after passing through a similar process, I found myself in a state of rather greater bewilderment at the end than I was at the beginning. But, underlying this technical point, there is another, which seems to me far more essential and important, which, as was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, has evidently taken possession of the minds of a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite—namely, this, whether Mr. Bradlaugh should be refused admission to this House because he is an avowed Atheist. No one will suspect me of having any sympathy with the views which Mr. Bradlaugh holds; and if I do not stigmatize them and those who hold them in the vehement language which has been sometimes used here, it is because, in the first place, I do not think it is quite a generous and manly thing for us to take advantage of our position in this House to hurl anathemas against any class of men, especially if they are not here to defend themselves; and, secondly, because I do not believe that hurling anathemas ever does good, and is not, I am quite sure, the Christian method of dealing with the erring. Indeed, the feelings with which I regard those who have been so unhappy as to persuade themselves into the dismal creed or no-creed ascribed to Mr. Bradlaugh are not feelings of hatred and hostility, but of infinite sadness and pity. For it seems to me there is no class of men on the face of the earth more deserving of our compassion than those who have lost all faith in God. To me, to blot out that existence would be like blotting the sun out of the Universe. But, much as we may deplore the existence of such men amongst us, in my opinion, the right way of dealing with them is not the way of persecution; for, disguise it as you may, to deprive a man of his rights of citizenship on account of his views on religion, is persecution. It seems to me that hon. Gentlemen opposite are falling back upon an old, and what I had hoped was an exploded, error in this country, that the cause of religion, and especially of the Christian religion, can be advantaged by being placed under the protection of penal laws. It is an utter and fatal delusion which lay at the bottom of that system of religious persecution, with all its unutterable horrors and atrocities, which, I venture to say, has done more to harden men's hearts against Christianity, and to bring reproach upon its great name, than all the writings and all the speeches of all the infidels that ever lived. I said I had hoped this principle had fallen into final discredit amongst us. There was a time—and much of that time is within the memory of living men—when all official life in this country was regarded as the special preserve of members of the Established Church, and all sorts of test oaths and declarations were invented to bar the entrance, within that sacred in-closure, of all conscientious dissidents, the unconscientious' finding it easy enough to get in. But, by degrees, a more enlightened, and, as I believe, a more Christian spirit, prevailed, and relaxations were made, first, in favour of the Protestant Dissenters by the Toleration Act; then in favour of the Unitarians, who, in the first instance, were excluded from the benefits of the Toleration Act; then more fully in favour of the Nonconformists, by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts; then in favour of the Roman Catholics; then in favour of the members of the Society of Friends, and finally in favour of the Jews. At every one of these remissions, lamentations, and denunciations as loud, and, no doubt, as sincere as those now used, were uttered by the political and ecclesiastical ancestors of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When the Nonconformists were struggling for the abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts, most rev. and right rev. Prelates in the other House, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in this House, were never weary of saying that those laws were the main bulwarks and supports of our excellent Constitution in Church and State—I am quoting the exact words that were fre- quently used—and that to admit Dissenters to Offices of State would seal the fate of both Church and State. When the Roman Catholics were contending for the removal of the disabilities under which they so long laboured, the country resounded with cries of alarm and distress from the same parties. I lately met with a quotation from a speech by Lord Eldon, who was the very incarnation of intolerance, delivered in 1829, the year when the Roman Catholic Disabilities Removal Bill was passed, and I ask the special attention to it of the Roman Catholic Members of this House. Lord Eldon said— I know that sooner or later this Bill will overturn the aristocracy and the Monarchy. He then quoted some extracts from speeches of Roman Catholics, and proceeded— Even though you suppress the Roman Catholics who utter these seditious, treasonable, abominable, and detestable speeches, others will arise who will utter speeches more treasonable, more abominable, and more detestable. Then he concluded, and I commend the words to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Meath— Believing this measure to be an abrogation of all those laws which I deem to be necessary to the safety of the Church, a violation of those laws which I deem to be necessary to the preservation of the Throne as of the Church, and as indispensable to the existence of the Lords and Commons of this Realm as that of the King and of our holy religion, I would rather cease to exist than, upon waking to-morrow morning, find that I had consented to a measure fraught with evils so imminent and deadly, and of which, if I had not solemnly expressed this my humble but firm conviction, I should have been acting the part of a traitor to my country, my Sovereign, and my God. And when the Jews were admitted to Parliament, many of us here can remember what solemn prognostications of evil were uttered. We were told that we had un-Christianized the Legislature and un-Christianized the country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), whose thorough honesty and sturdy consistency I entirely recognize and respect, in opposing the Bill introduced by Lord John Russell for the admission of the Jews, said— He did not think it was advisable to have sitting in that House an individual who regarded our Redeemer as an impostor, and he predicted that, as the admission of the Jews to the Legislature in France was the prelude to the destruction of the Monarchy, so it would be in this country. Well, now, I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether any of those evils, so lugubriously predicted as the result of relaxing the principle of religious exclusiveness, have come to pass? Has the State sustained any injury? Is it not true, on the contrary, that by broadening the foundation on which the content and loyalty of the people rested, by admitting excluded classes to the privileges of the Constitution, you have added immensely to the stability of the State? Has the Church suffered any damage? I am now speaking of the Church of England. So far otherwise, that I believe, and I make the acknowledgment not grudgingly, but with my whole heart, that the Church of England, as a religious institution, is at this moment more powerful, more effective for good, more full of spiritual life and activity than at any period of her history. And I will tell you why. When the Church found these outward secular props of exclusive privilege and ascendancy removed one after another from beneath her, she fell back more and more on the love and zeal, on the devotion and liberality of her own children, who have, on the whole, nobly honoured the confidence thus reposed in them. I will venture further to make this general remark, that in the proportion as the Church of England has ceased to be a persecuting Church has she become a prosperous Church, and if she could only be persuaded to shake herself free from the remaining fetters of State patronage and control, I believe her prosperity would still increase four-fold. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite are pursuing a most mistaken and mischievous course in this matter. I dare say they mean well; I am quite sure that some of them are moved by very sincere religious feeling, though even they, perhaps, are thankful to Providence that the opportunity of displaying their zeal for religion should coincide so happily with the opportunity of occasioning some embarrassment to a Liberal Government. But I have the strongest conviction that they are doing far more damage than service to the cause which, I have no doubt, is near to the hearts of many of them. For what are they doing? They are advertising Mr. Bradlaugh and his doctrines over the country and over the world. They have raised him to a pinnacle if not of popularity, at least of notoriety, which makes him the observed of all observers. They are enabling him to pose, if such be his ambition, as a hero and a martyr before his own followers. Nay, they have done more. I do not know how other Members have fared. But within the last two or three weeks I have been deluged with pamphlets and papers containing extracts from the writings of Mr. Bradlaugh and his associates—the most offensive the compilers could find—and very offensive some of them are. And these are, I suppose, scattered broadcast through the country; and thus hon. Gentlemen opposite, most unwittingly and unintentionally, I am sure, but practically and in effect, are becoming the agents and missionaries of Mr. Bradlaugh. I am told there is a great rush of demand for his publications, and I am quite certain of this, that there is no town or city in this country in which, if Mr. Bradlaugh were announced to speak, a room would be found largo enough to hold the people who would flock to see and hear him. I formerly voted for the Motion of the sitting Member for Northampton, and I shall now vote for the Motion of the Prime Minister without the slightest hesitation, and, in doing so, I am not voting for Mr. Bradlaugh. I am voting for a great principle, for which the Nonconformists have been contending for 200 years; and if that be not the principle for which they have been contending, I do not know what it is—namely, this—that we have no right, as a condition of admitting a man to the enjoyment of his civil and political rights, to take into account his opinions on religion at all. For my part, I should be glad if the whole system of swearing in admitting Members to this House could be dispensed with. To many of us it seems little better than a solemn farce, or rather a farce not at all solemn, but with a painful touch of profanity in it. No man who watched what was going on on the first day of the present Parliament, when hon. Members were crowding and squeezing around the Table laid out in the centre of the House, and scrambling for the New Testaments that were scattered upon it, amid jokes and good-humoured merriment—no man, I say, could have watched that scene and believed that what we were doing had anything about it of the solemnity of a religious act. I disclaim utterly the idea of serving the cause of Christianity by any amount of swearing. I think I have more faith in the vitality of the Christian religion than some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe its existence and prevalence in the world do not depend much upon anything that Courts or Parliaments or Governments might do or abstain from doing. If we look back to its past history we shall find that its earliest and noblest triumphs were achieved when it had all the Courts and Governments and Parliaments of the world against it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), in the very able and effective speech he delivered early in these discussions, said, referring to the Book which is the instrument of the Oath, that he hoped it is a Book we all revere. Well, I hope so too. But I venture to suggest to him and other hon. Gentlemen that there is a better way of showing our reverence to that Book than by kissing its binding, and that is by giving heed in our national life to its principles and precepts. We are told that we ought to maintain our character as a Christian nation. But how can we become, or how can we remain, a Christian nation? Not by putting Christianity into an Act of Parliament. Not by formal acts of homage as a part of a public pageant. No but by imbuing the national sentiment with a Christian spirit, by fashioning our public policy in accordance with Christian principles. What is the value of a formal acknowledgment made by the lip, or by certain acts of pompous ceremony, when all that may co-exist with a policy which is in utter contempt of the essential principles of that very religion to which this elaborate outward reverence is rendered, with unequal and oppressive laws, with unjust wars, with restless and reckless aggression on the rights and territories of other nations, with a policy of ambition, selfishness and greed? If we would be a Christian Legislature, let us guide our deliberations by a Christian spirit, and fashion our policy according to a Christian standard, and by such means we shall do more to deserve and secure for ourselves that character than by all the oaths ever invented and imposed upon the unwilling consciences of mankind.


(who spoke amid much and continued interruption) said, that he had never lavished anathemas upon the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), and that he had confined himself exclusively to the legal question as to whether the hon. Member was or was not entitled to take the Oath. His own opinion was that the difficulties in which the House was involved were entirely owing to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who had been endeavouring from the first to evade the responsibility of his position and to throw it upon others. At the outset of the proceedings the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House; but his Delegate moved that a Committee should be appointed to consider the question of Mr. Bradlaugh's right to affirm. That Committee decided against him, and when the hon. Member presented himself at the Table for the purpose of taking the Oath, he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had deemed it his duty to object to his doing so. The right hon. Gentleman then again shifted the responsibility to the shoulders of another Committee, and when the Report of that Committee was presented, the right hon. Gentleman allowed the sitting Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) to take the matter into his own hands. Later on the right hon. Gentleman again abdicated his functions as Leader of the House. In. the Resolution he now brought forward the right hon. Gentleman did not even venture to affirm any doctrine, but attempted to shift the responsibility of his position upon some on this side of the House—to some common informer—who was to be left to assert the privileges of Parliament, because the right hon. Gentleman evaded the responsibility of his position. [Uproar.] He should insist on his right to be heard. ["Oh!"] He should not be put down by clamour. The Prime Minister would allow the Member for Northampton to affirm with the collusion of the House; but if he were to be allowed to do so, he could not speak or vote in the House without having a millstone round his neck; for his every act would be illegal, and he might be subjected to great and grievous penalties. He (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) was perfectly ready to submit to the verdict of the country on the subject, because he was satisfied that the views which he held on this question were the views of the mass of the people of this country. He was convinced the Prime Minister was running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. In the past when any question of the admission of a Member arose, the case was decided either by a Committee or by legislation; but the Prime Minister would not follow either of these precedents. He would allow Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm, though two Committees had decided against him. ["No, no!"] He ought either to have accepted the decisions of the Committees, or have brought in a Bill to allow Atheists to sit in Parliament.


said, at the commencement of the debate, he had no intention of taking any part in it, and, as a new Member, he should not long detain the House. He respected and admired the courage and honesty of the Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell), whose speech he had listened to with pleasure; but he did not think his views would be popular in Ireland. ["Oh, oh!"] In saying that, he spoke as being himself a Protestant Member, representing a county of considerable size. He was intimately acquainted with the feelings of the North and the East of Ireland, and the opinion of Ireland, he believed, would be against the Resolution. ["No!"] He regretted that the subject had been turned into a question of mere Nisi Prim. They had had too much of legal argument, and he, therefore, eliminated that element altogether, and came to what seemed to him the real question. The issue before the House was clear—whether the doors of that Christian Legislature should be thrown open and Atheism invited to come in. The particular issue, indeed, was even more than that. It was not simply Atheism, but Atheism in its most revolting form, in the person, teaching, and character of the Member for Northampton. He had no wish to indulge in rhetorical abuse; but nowhere could there be found a more offensive representative of Atheism than Mr. Bradlaugh. ["Oh, oh!"]


reminded the hon. Member that he should be guarded in his language. The person to whom he was alluding was a Member of that House, and should not be referred to in such a manner.


said, he bowed to the ruling of the Chair, and would withdraw the expression complained of. The question was not whether the Legislature should be un-Christianized, hut whether the highest element of authority should be eliminated from it, and it should cease to be a Legislature fitting to rule a Christian country. In connection with the question, he could not help complaining that many false analogies had been raised on the opposite side of the House. The position of Mr. Bradlaugh had been likened to the former position of Roman Catholics, Jews, and Quakers; but he saw no analogy whatever between the cases, because the present was not properly a religious question at all. Having listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), who spoke as a Nonconformist, he (Mr. M'Coan) must say that he failed to recognize in it the Nonconformity of which he had any knowledge; and it was inconceivable to him how a Gentleman of the hon. Member's antecedents could express the opinions he had done, for they seemed to him nothing more nor less than an attempted palliation of Atheism. He concluded by asking whether any constituency, be it that of Northampton or any other, had the right to foist upon the House of Commons a person against whom their highest instincts revolted?


said, he believed the course suggested by the Resolution of the right, hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was the course best adapted for relieving the House from the position of serious embarrassment in which they found themselves. He did not think there could be any doubt that, as a result of the vote given a week ago, the House was placed in a position of great embarrassment. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Members opposite seemed to dissent from that view. All he could say was, that they did not seem to have any Representatives in the Press of this country, or anywhere outside the House. Article upon article had been published by journalists of every shade of polities, commenting upon the difficulty of the position in which the House was placed. He was astonished that any persons who remembered the scene that took place last Wednesday week should represent that the House was not embarrassed in consequence of the vote to which he had referred. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) had moved that Mr. Bradlaugh be committed to custody, and next evening had moved for his release; but what suggestion had he given for relieving the House from the danger of a repetition of such scenes as had been witnessed? He wanted to know what remedy the right hon. Gentleman would suggest? Supposing Mr. Bradlaugh had presented himself at the Table on the night after his release, what course would, the right hon. Member opposite have advocated? Would Mr. Bradlaugh have been committed to the custody of the Serjeant at Arms for the remainder of the Session? ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Members said "Hear, hear!" but he doubted very much whether that course would have been really expedient and calculated to further the interests of the House. What was the situation? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) having been elected by the constituency, and being willing to adopt either of the courses which the statute prescribed, the House refused him permission to do so, and thus refused to let him take his seat. Did hon. Members, then, suppose that it was probable that Mr. Bradlaugh would remain tranquilly content with that state of things? Did they think it probable that the constituency of Northampton would be content with that state of things? The constituency had elected Mr. Bradlaugh to represent, not their religious views, but their politics; and they had not elected him in consequence of his own religious views. According to the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), it was in the highest degree to be deprecated that they should allow a class of any appreciable extent to be unrepresented. But it seemed to be of no importance whatever to him if they prevented a constituency from being represented by the Member of its choice. The constituency of Northampton had chosen their Member, and if the law did not deny him the right of representing them, it was an injustice both to the constituency and to the man whom they had elected to keep him out of the House. It had been said that the question had been settled by the decision of a Committee. It, however, was never sent to a Committee for decision. When the Committee was moved for, the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) insisted that the decision of the Committee could not bind the House, and appealed to him (the Solicitor General) to say whether it was intended that it should bind the House, and obtained from him an acknowledgment on behalf of the Government that it would not do so. All that the question was sent to the Committee for was in order that they might assist the House with their opinion. The Committee were almost equally divided. All that they did was to express their opinion, and that opinion was one of a most doubtful and doubting character; and he asked the House to bear this in mind, that if the minority of the Committee were right—and hon. Gentlemen opposite would allow that that was at least possible—then Mr. Bradlaugh was now, by the law, as it at present stood, legally entitled to sit in that House, and was kept out and prevented from taking his seat in violation of his legal right given to him by the statute law. If that were so, ought he to be deprived of that right because of the view which some of them took of his religious opinions? However much they might dislike Mr. Bradlaugh's opinions, it would be a violation of their duty to prevent him from having his legal rights. Some hon. Gentlemen had urged them to admit no Atheist, but to bar the door against him, unless he knocked very loudly, and then, perhaps, they would open it to him. ["No, no!"] But whether Mr. Bradlaugh was an Atheist or not was entirely beside the question if he had a legal right to sit in that House. He trusted that no hon. Members opposite would again contend that because they hated Mr. Bradlaugh's Atheism, he was to be deprived of any legal right he had. Well, the law, at any rate, was very doubtful. Some thought it was one way, others that it was another. What, then, was to be done? Did hon. Gentlemen really think that in a doubtful question of the construction of a statute, on which a man's legal rights depended, that House, after a heated religious discussion, was the best tribunal to decide the matter by a vote? It was profoundly important that they should do that which was just, but it was almost equally important that they should seem to do it. If they led men to think that they had not done that which was just, but had been actuated to do injustice by passion and prejudice, they would excite in the minds of public, who did not love more than they did the opinions of Mr. Bradlaugh, a feeling that he had suffered wrong; they would arouse a sentiment of sympathy for him, and induce people to feel a certain leaning towards him, and to desire his success. They would, in fact, be playing his game and extending his power and influence, because, if there was one thing more deeply rooted than another in the breasts of the people, it was a love of justice, a love of fair play, and a desire that every man, however obnoxious his opinions might be to others, might have no less than justice done to him. Did hon. Members think that the mass of the people would imagine that justice had been done when there was a doubt as to the legal right of a man to sit in that House, and the House by its own vote irrevocably and without appeal determined against that right, after hearing arguments addressed to its passions and its prejudices in a heated debate? The Resolution of the Prime Minister pointed out how complete justice might be done, and people be at the same time convinced that justice had been done. It proposed to give to Mr. Bradlaugh no more than his strict legal rights. But, on the other hand, if they refused to pass this Resolution, they might be depriving Mr. Bradlaugh of his legal and statutory rights. If he were allowed to affirm, and the law turned out to be what hon. Members opposite said it was, he would subject himself to a penalty, and his seat would be vacated. Legislation by Resolution had been spoken of; but that House could not legislate by Resolution, and, therefore, if they passed this Resolution, it would not give to Mr. Bradlaugh, in the eye of the law, one single right which he had not before, but it would enable him, if he had a right, to keep his seat, and if he had not a right to lose it, in due course of law. It had been said that to pass this Resolution would be contrary, in some way or other, to the dignity of the House. He was wholly unable to follow that reasoning. He believed there could be no falser dignity than for the House to assume that they were the best tribunal to decide a question of law—the best body to perform functions eminently unfit for a Legislature. He denied that it was any breach of the dignity of the House to suggest that the construction of a very difficult and doubtful point of law, which the House had warmly discussed, should be referred to a legal tribunal. A doubt had been suggested whether a Court of Law could decide this question. He was unable to understand how such a doubt existed. He asserted with the utmost confidence that if Mr. Bradlaugh were sued for penalties, no Resolution of that House could for a moment stand in the way of those proceedings. It was said—"Once get Mr. Bradlaugh into the House, and no one will sue him for penalties." Those who said so must have very little confidence in their view of the law. Did they really believe that no one would speculate upon their law, with £500 as a prize? It was said that it was an indignity to ask Mr. Bradlaugh to come and make an Affirmation, and leave him afterwards to be sued for it. This Resolution did not invite Mr. Bradlaugh; he wished to come and make an Affirmation. All that the Resolution said was—"If Mr. Bradlaugh comes here to affirm, this House will no longer stand in his way." Hon. Gentlemen opposite suggested that there should be legislation on this subject. Was that suggestion seriously made? If a Bill were introduced would they support it? If they would not, then the suggestion was made not for the purpose of getting the House out of a difficulty, but with the benevolent intention of getting the Government into one. With one breath hon. Members opposite implored them to shut the door against Mr. Bradlaugh; with the next they said—"You ought to legislate." He might be forgiven, then, if he doubted the sincerity of some of the observations which had come from the Opposition. They were marked by want of sincerity and of straightforwardness, and were made rather with, the view of embarrassing the Government than of relieving the House from the difficult position in which it was placed. Did hon. Gentlemen mean that if a Bill was introduced to admit Mr. Bradlaugh, they would support it? ["No, no!"] It had been said that if the Government would bring in a Bill on the subject, it would meet no factious opposition; but that meant that it would be opposed, possibly at every stage. He was convinced that such a measure would be opposed to an extent that would prevent the Government from carrying any other of their measures. [Laughter.] He understood the meaning of that laugh, and he now understood better than ever why hon. Members opposite desired that the Government should introduce such a Bill. What was to be gained by a prolongation of this controversy? The course proposed by the Prime Minister would relieve the House from a great difficulty, and would relegate the question to the calm atmosphere of the Courts of Law. The Government were actuated by a desire to do what was right, wise, and prudent in this matter. He therefore trusted that the House would yet exhibit not only dignity in its proceedings, but practical wisdom and good sense, by adopting the proposal of the Government.


said, that several hours ago the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had recommended that this debate should be conducted in a calm and judicial spirit; and, for his part, he hoped that the speech to which they had just listened would not lead them to forget that recommendation. He hoped, also, that the House would come to the conclusion that nothing would be gained by the prolongation of this discussion. Whichever side of the House was right or wrong, they clearly understood the question at issue. He should not have felt it necessary to make the observations that he now felt it his duty to make, had it not been for one or two sentences which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister at the opening of the discussion. In his opinion, the question whether the House had anything to do with the case of a Member who came up to the Table in the ordinary way and asked to be sworn, did not enter at all into the subject before them. They were not discussing the question of the inquisitorial power of the House, though the second Committee had distinctly stated that the House had no power to interfere in such cases. They had declared that the House had no power to put any question to a Member coming up to be sworn, if he did not make any statement of his own. He did not wish to use the word in an offensive sense; but he could not help saying that Mr. Bradlaugh had flaunted or paraded his opinions upon the House, and he was sure that that was a statement which nobody could deny. He was sorry to say, however, that no less an authority than the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had denied the accuracy of that statement. It was, at all events, beyond doubt that Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table with the avowed purpose of stating there that he was an Atheist. Mr. Brad-laugh, wishing to test the question, acted in such a way as to practically place before the House the fact that he was an avowed Atheist. He desired to state the matter as clearly as possible. Mr. Bradlaugh said—"I am an avowed Atheist, and, as such, I believe it is my right to affirm, and I claim my right." That was what Mr. Bradlaugh stated when he first came to the Table. But for the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, he (Sir E. Assheton Cross) should not have troubled the House with any remarks upon this part of the case. It was suggested by him that Mr. Bradlaugh had not assumed that attitude. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Bradlaugh did not state this until he was asked a question by the Clerk at the Table. That, however, was what he should call special pleading. The right hon. Gentleman apparently forgot that, after the letter which was written by Mr. Bradlaugh to the Speaker, the Clerk at the Table was bound to ask him under what statute he claimed to affirm. This was not done in an inquisitorial manner. It was the consequence of Mr. Bradlaugh's own act. It was only just to Mr. Bradlaugh to say that he came up as of right, and for the purpose of trying the question; and he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) found no fault with him in consequence of his claiming to affirm under that particular statute. It must not be supposed, therefore, that they were even suggesting that the House had any right to make an inquiry of its own if a Member presented himself to take the Oath without bringing to the Notice of the House such matters as Mr. Bradlaugh had referred to. This matter had been carefully inquired into by Select Committees, and the universal opinion of those Committees, in which the Law Officers of the Government joined, was that Mr. Bradlaugh claimed to affirm in consequence of having been allowed to make affirmation in a Court of Justice, and that he thereby stated that he had proved, to the satisfaction of the presiding Judge, that he was an Atheist. The next point upon which he wished the House to be clear was this—that this was no interference with the choice of any consti- tuency. He thought he could prove, to the satisfaction of the House, that there was no such interference. No one wanted to interfere with the rights of any constituency; but a constituency was bound to elect only such persons as they were, by law, entitled to elect. For instance, a constituency could not persevere in returning a convict, aclergyman, or a public officer who was debarred from sitting in Parliament, because the statute limited the choice of the constituency, and excluded those persons. It was likewise provided by statute that no person could take his seat in the House of Commons, although he might have been elected, unless he took the Oath of Allegiance, except in those particular cases in which for conscience sake the Legislature had allowed him to affirm. Therefore, they must dismiss altogether from their minds the idea that the House was by any Resolution of its own attempting to interfere with the choice of a constituency. A constituency might elect whom it would, provided that the person was one of those not debarred by statute from sitting in Parliament, and provided that he made the Oath or Affirmation according to law. The only question, therefore, was whether the person who had been elected for Northampton could take the Oath or make the Affirmation which the statute required. There was another question upon which there should be no doubt in their minds. They were not then discussing, unfortunately, perhaps, the Bill which he held in his hand brought in by the sitting Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). A great deal had been said on both sides which would be apposite if they were discussing that Bill. The arguments of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) would, no doubt, apply to that Bill; but they had nothing whatever to do with the question now before the House. The grievances which the hon. Member had mentioned were not relevant to the case, and his whole speech would have been more forcible from his point of view if the House had been discussing the Bill. As things were, however, he did not think that the hon. Member's speech had the least bearing upon the question. The law had made a broad distinction between the Oath and the Affirmation. By the Act 29th Elizabeth, the Oath of Allegiance was, as it were, the formal part of the Oath; the essential part of it being the appeal to the Supreme Being to witness the keeping of the promise. What was an affirmation? It was a personal promise on the faith and honour of a human being—at all events, he did not employ the appeal to the Supreme Being, unless, indeed, that appeal was included in the adverb "solemnly." The Legislature having made that distinction, it seemed to him (Sir E. Assheton Cross) to strike some hon. Gentlemen in a peculiar way. He would take the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham's (Mr. John Bright's) arguments, both in the Committee and in that House. The right hon. Gentleman asked what difference there could be between the Oath and the Affirmation, if both were equally binding on the conscience, and had urged, if that was the case, the hon. Member in question should be allowed either to take the Oath, or, if he preferred it, to make the Affirmation. All he (Sir E. Assheton Cross) could say was, that that course was not in accordance with the law. If it were desired to alter the law, it would be necessary to discuss the Bill of the sitting Member for Northampton; but, if not, the law must be taken as they found it. The right hon. Member for Birmingham was not entitled to take the law as he would wish it to be. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had gone even further during this series of debates. In his first speech the right hon. Gentleman argued very strongly that Mr. Bradlaugh ought to be allowed to take the Oath, and, in doing so, he had completely thrown overboard the opinions of his own Secretary of State, and had placed himself under the banner of the hon. and learned Member for Preston (Sir John Holker). The Committee had, however, settled that question as far as a Committee could settle it, and had decided against allowing Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath by a great majority. The evidence of Mr. Bradlaugh showed that there was no appeal to the Supreme Being in his mind. Then the right hon. Gentleman said he would take the other side of the question, and see if the House would allow Mr. Bradlaugh to make the Affirmation. It would have, perhaps, been wiser for the right hon. Gentleman to have made up his mind, in the first instance, as to which side he would take. It was clear that, as the law stood, a man could not, according to his own preference, take the Oath, or make the Affirmation, because of the distinct line drawn between the two. If the right. hon. Gentleman would carry his memory back, he would find that he was perfectly willing, in the first instance, to allow the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) to take the Oath without question, and then, when the question was raised by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drum-ruond Wolf), had said that it was a very serious matter and one that required a judicial tribunal to settle, and that it must be referred to a Select Committee; and now the right hon. Gentleman said that it was, after all, a question of the jurisdiction of the House. That, undoubtedly, had been referred to a Select Committee; and on that particular point the right hon. Gentleman had not only the opinion of his own Law Officers, but the opinion of the Committee, that the Oath taken by Mr. Bradlaugh would be no Oath, and further, that the House had jurisdiction to inquire into the matter. He did not wish to treat this question purely as a legal question; but there was one point which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have forgotten in the course of this discussion—while the Evidence Acts had been under discussion—and that was, that while the Promissory Oaths Act related to the whole of the United Kingdom, the Evidence Acts had reference only to England and Ireland. It was clear, therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge had pointed out, that these Acts were intended simply and solely for the benefit of persons who could not otherwise bring evidence into Courts of Law, and that they had nothing to do with the preliminaries of taking a seat in that House. Let them see the natural consequences of this. The right hon. Gentleman said that they ought to pass this Resolution. Why? It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman was bound to adduce the very strongest reasons for passing it, because, a very few days ago, they passed precisely an opposite Resolution. Although he differed from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) on the point of Order raised by him, still he must say that the precedents showed that it was on the rarest possible occa- sions, and only under a pressing necessity, that the House would rescind a Resolution it had passed a few days before. What were the grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to rescind the Resolution? He thought they were as peculiar grounds as bad ever been presented to the House. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the only object he had in view was to protect the dignity of the House, and to insure decency and order in its proceedings. But were they to turn away from the course they thought rightand proper simply because they were threatened that a person would come forward and disturb the proceedings of the House? What would the right hon. Gentleman have done had he led the House in the celebrated Gordon matter? Were they to be frightened by the action of one man, or by the action of mobs? Was the House to change its course, deliberately taken, because it was frightened by some action which one man might take, or because it was frightened by the action of a mob in the streets? That would not be maintaining the order and decency of the House. It would be a question of what was to become of all government. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of precedents; but if they were asked to change their course because they could not maintain decency and order, owing to the improper conduct of one single man, that was a precedent he would never have expected to be recommended by any Minister of the Crown. Talk of dignity and order ! He could conceive no greater indignity imposed upon that House, upon the Government—or upon any Government—than to say that because they were frightened they were to change their course. He would have thought the only course to be followed would have been to bring in a Bill to solve the difficulty. The hon. and learned Gentlemen who had just sat down had said that this matter might have been left to be decided by Courts of Law; but he had not shown how the Courts of Law could deal with the question. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated very properly that no Resolution of the House could affect a decision of the Courts of Law; but if Mr. Bradlaugh were to come in by a Resolution of the House, make an Affirmation, and sign the Roll, would the Court of Law go behind that Roll to ascertain whether or not he ought to have been sworn? That was a very difficult point. But there was another difficulty which it would be equally difficult for the House to get out of. If the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) took his seat, any single Member might get up to move for the issue of a new Writ on the ground that the seat was vacant, as if the hon. Member were dead, because he had taken the Affirmation improperly. That question might be properly raised not only on one day, but on any day of the Session. The right hon. Gentlemen had said that there were three objections to legislation. He supposed that if there were more the right hon. Gentleman would have mentioned them. The first objection was that they could not discuss the matter in cold blood; but that objection applied precisely with the same force to the Resolution as to any Bill that might be brought forward. Another objection was that legislation on this subject would involve a great sacrifice of other measures. He must say he deeply sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman on the sacrifice of time; but they might depend upon it that, whatever the fate of this Resolution was, it would not settle the question. Legislation must be brought forward, whatever the sacrifice of time. Then came the third reason—namely, the dignity and decency of the House. "Was there the smallest security," said the right hon. Gentleman, "that the hon. Member for Northampton would not, day by day during the passing of the Bill, come forward and occasion such scenes as occurred on Wednesday week?" Timidity again! Twice over in the same speech the same point was pressed. He hoped they would hear no more of such arguments. If this Resolution were passed, the real effect of it would be as suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, to say to Mr. Bradlaugh, "You may come and take the Affirmation at your own peril, and we will shut our eyes." He said that was cowardly and unfair towards Mr. Bradlaugh, and it was a solution of the question which would inevitably bring the House of Commons into conflict with the Courts of Law. If, on the other hand, the effect of the Resolution was to protect Mr. Bradlaugh from an action for penal- ties, or from a Motion of any Member of the House that his seat was vacant, for that was the statutory right of the House, then he (Sir E. Assheton Cross) said that, by a Resolution of the House, they were endeavouring to do away with the Statute Law of the country. He hoped that the House would be cautious not to follow the right hon. Gentleman in that matter. He had led the House in the same way on former occasions. It was by the same kind of action that he had passed the Army Warrant, and it was by a similar course of proceeding that he had filled up the Ewelme Rectory. These were arbitrary acts, done by the Prerogative of the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister, and not by the action of the House of Commons. If this Resolution was to have any practical effect, it would be placing the act of the House of Commons above that of the other branches of the Legislature. Was the Prime Minister quite sure that he was gaining his object? Was he in the confidence of Mr. Bradlaugh or not? What did he offer to Mr. Bradlaugh?—"If you choose to come to the Table, and say, 'I want to make an Affirmation,' we will shut our eyes, and let you affirm." But the last action of Mr. Bradlaugh was to inform Mr. Speaker that he no longer wished to affirm. What he now said was that he wanted to take the Oath, and he insisted on that as his right, and he asked the Prime Minister what he should do? What would then become of the dignity of the House? What would become of the decency and the order of their proceedings, if, tomorrow, Mr. Bradlaugh came down and said he desired to take the Oath? Were they going to shut their eyes while they had a repetition of former scenes. So far as this Resolution went it would not get them out of the difficulty. This question would require legislation. At the present moment he admitted that legislation would be almost impossible. He agreed that it would take a long time; but it was not necessary to legislate this Session, or in a hurry. Legislation might be very good in itself, but it might be inopportune. They could have no stronger instance of inopportune legislation than that of the salutary law for preventing conspiracies to murder. It was, in the first instance, brought forward by one of the strongest and most popular Prime Ministers, and it had, when passed some years afterwards, worked great good; but it cost the Prime Minister loss of Office, because the country thought it was brought forward at the dictation of a foreign Power. If the right hon. Gentleman brought forward a Bill now, it would be felt in the House of Commons, and in the country, that he was doing it to let in an Atheist, and it was, therefore, not an opportune time to legislate. If in the course of time there were a class of persons who objected to take the Oath, and it were proposed to legislate alio intuitu, it might be fairly discussed; but let them take care, whether they proceeded by Resolution or by legislation, that they were not supposed by the country to be doing it for the purpose of letting in an Atheist, or because they were not strong enough to lay aside their timidity, or doubted their ability for preserving the dignity of the House and the order and decency of its proceedings.


said, the observations he was about to make were in no way calculated unnecessarily to prolong the discussion. He ventured to think, however, that from the action which he had taken on former stages of the question then before the House, and from the remarks which had in many quarters been passed upon that action, he had some claim briefly to explain himself. He did not propose to go into any lengthy argumentative statement. In his opinion, the speech to which they had just listened had completely disposed of the legal position on which the Government, to his regret, had rested their case. At the same time, he was bound to say that he opposed the Resolution of the Government because it was an open attempt to substitute legislation by convention for legislation by Parliament. It was as distinctly a revolutionary procedure as could be carried through in any simple House, without any division into estates of the Realm, upon which the institutions of this country were founded. He would not stop to consider whether that revolutionary procedure deserved the applause of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The proceeding dictated by the Government deprived hon. Members of all their right of examining this question at due length, and of properly consulting the opinion of the country on that most grave and fundamental alteration. The humblest and most insignificant Bill upon the most trivial subject would necessarily have more opportunity for the full discussion of the petty details which it involved, than had been afforded to the House, and, above all, to the country at large, by the manner in which the Government had chosen to deal with this Resolution. It was objected against the opponents of the Resolution that they had endeavoured to punish a man for his speculative opinions, that they had endeavoured to turn cheap speculative Atheism out of the House. The manner in which the House had been forced to consider the sort of side issue presented to them prevented them from examining whether or not it was true that they were trying to keep out speculative Atheism, or whether speculative Atheism ought to be kept out or not. He ventured to say that it was at least open to question whether such Atheism as this was speculative—"Christianity is an eating cancer." He was not going even to answer the question which he had raised; but he thought it right to put it before hon. Members opposite who had accused the opponents of the Government proposal of intolerance of opinion. He altogether declined to approach the consideration of the subject from any Party standpoint; but ventured to appeal alike to Dissenters, who held in reverence, as all did, the pure zeal of Wesley and Whitfield, and to members of the Church of England, the history of whose Church contained so many names of men whom the members of his (Mr. O'Donnell's) own Church honoured, as defenders of Christianity. Was it speculative Atheism to teach that Christianity was an eating cancer, poisoning the whole lifeblood of the world; that it was blasphemy against humanity? Was it speculative Atheism to teach that Christianity was a natural production like typhus fever? Was it speculative Atheism to teach that Christ's mission was a sham, and that Christ himself was a coward and a craven, and that the atonement stamped God as an inhuman monster, and a foul and bloody-minded being? [Murmurs.] He took those sounds from the opposite Benches to be expressive of horror at the sentiments expressed by Mr. Bradlaugh. If, then, such grave matters were involved as were included in the question which he had asked, he held it to be the duty of the Government to a Christian people to offer them every opportunity for examining whether or not it was mild speculative Atheism which was being attempted to be brought into the House, or whether it was an active and corrupting Atheism disseminating the seeds of the worst principles amongst the people. It might be that both speculative Atheism and practical Atheism were entitled to entrance into the Legislature; but he held that Her Majesty's Government—whether the Cabinet were Liberal or Conservative—were bound to give full opportunity for considering the question whether or not men who claimed to be merely animals—he could use a grosser word, and one that would be much more applicable—had a right to sit in legislation over a Christian community recognizing moral responsibilities. He complained that it was not the Bradlaugh question or the Northampton question which was before the House. He complained that it was a question relating to the justly-honoured Head of Her Majesty's Government. It was the impulsive and generous action of that man, himself religious, most widely revered and honoured—by no one more than himself (Mr. O'Donnell)—that distinguished statesman, which had made the question what it was. The whole action of the right hon. Gentleman, doubtless proceeding from conscientious motives, had been calculated to stir up every possible opposition throughout the country to the solemn decision of the House of Commons; and it must be remembered that the solemn decision referred to had not been arrived at under any pressure of Party terrors. No threat had been held out to Members on that occasion to vote under pain of Dissolution. It had been the distinguishing feature of the former debate that there was perfect freedom in the formation of the opinion at which the House arrived. He was afraid they could not conceal from themselves that since the House had expressed itself deliberately and freely, an element of dictatorship, so far as dictatorship could exist there, had been introduced into the House. Whether that dictatorship was founded on the esteem and reverence for the eminent man who exercised it was quite beside the question. The vast influence of that statesman, and all the forces of his Government, had been thrown into the scale, in order to obtain the virtual rescinding of a Resolution passed by the free and unconstrained judgment of that House. If they looked to the public outside, was there a man, through the length and breadth of the country, who would for a moment weigh in the balance, and judge to be of equal weight, the unconstrained votes of the other day, and the constrained vote which the Government sought to wring by their Party majority that evening? He claimed to know something of the workings of public opinion among various classes in the country. He had had to deal with Englishmen in many towns, and of many classes of society, in the course of several years; and on many occasions, he believed, he had gone as near to a just estimate of public opinion in this country as some of his Colleagues. He paused, for a moment, to suggest to hon. Members that if they wished to add weight to the decision they were about to come to, they would do well not to suppress the opinions of a Colleague who never flinched from openly expressing his views. He strongly protested against the idea and assertion that there was any agitation in the country in favour of the course which the Government had adopted worthy to be taken into the consideration of that House. The people of England had not spoken. It was only the wirepullers who had done so. The word had gone out from the central officers, and all the local officers had taken up the cry. The more respected leaders of the working classes entertained no manner of doubt as to the real character of the issue which the elect of Northampton had sought to force upon the House, but which could never have been put forward without the assistance of hon. Gentlemen. There was no leader of the working classes in England more widely respected than George J. Holyoake. In mentioning his name, he mentioned one who had worked in the cause of the working man's emancipation, and was the sympathetic historian of the co-operative movement—a man for whose declining years his fellows, the working classes, had raised a sum sufficient to provide him with a pension. Mr. Holyoake had, then, expressed his opinions, which, as a representative of the working classes, had the greatest weight— The reason why the elect of Northampton did not seek to affirm, and did not seek to swear right away, without forcing his peculiar opinions on the House, and endeavouring to make us accomplices in these opinions, was that there would have been no scene, and no Bradlaugh Committee, and no discussion in which the constituency of Northampton would have been engaged with regard to the personal opinions which the Members might hold. If any Members of the House had raised an objection to Mr. Bradlaugh making an Affirmation, the country would have been with him, as a person who was being persecuted for his opinions. But when he challenged the opinion of the House to his views, he provoked discussion upon them. Again, Mr. Holyoake said— I agree that when Mr. Bradlaugh proposed taking the Oath he was justified in giving the House the information. He was, so far, acting honourably; but he must have known that it was impossible for the House to allow him to take the Oath; that would be to make the whole thing into a farce, and convert the House into a company of spectators to witness it. How could he stand up, and utter the closing words and kiss the Bible in the presence of hundreds of English gentlemen who have a regard for self-respect? The House would never forget a scone like this, and there were many gentlemen in the House, although their actions might not always be of the most creditable character. Such was the speech of a man whose name would be honoured by the working classes of the country long after the names of the wire-pullers who had climbed up on their shoulders had been forgotten. Mr. Holyoake went on to say— Mr. Bradlaugh lost prestige in the House as soon as he proposed to take the Oath. An oath, and the formal 'So help me, God,' means nothing to him. He has always protested against it; and yet, now finding that it stands in his way, he offers to swallow it. The opinion thus expressed was certainly not that of a Conservative working man, or of a warm defender of the Church of England; but of a man who deserved to be called the representative leader of the working classes. The Prime Minister had declared the other day that nothing could be interposed between Mr. Bradlaugh and the Oath; but he was not quite sure that Affirmation was the correct way to approach the question. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman had been marked with vacillation and indecision; and the distinguishing mark of his policy had been an attempt which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell) described as actuated by prudence, and which had been characterized on that side of the House as actuated by cowardice. But, whether or not that was so, his policy had been to keep the main and particular issues from the consideration of the Chamber. Leaving aside altogether the argumentative questions, which had been sufficiently discussed and made quite clear to the mind of the House, he (Mr. O'Donnell) ventured to add a few words of what might be called a personal explanation. He had been in a special manner singled out as a bigot by the supporters of the Government proposals. The leading organs of the Government had gone so far as to describe him as a bigot of the Spanish type. But he desired to state that he was not actuated by any sectarian considerations as a Catholic in the action which he had taken. Had he acted as a sectarian Catholic, he would have been carrying out the policy of the Church of Rome, and as it were the narrow policy which some hon. Members inaugurated, by supporting the proposal to destroy the Christian character of the Parliament of Protestant England. But, believing as he, and as multitudes outside the House did, that they were on the very verge of the blackest act of public apostacy, had he been a mere narrow Catholic he might well have contented himself with taunting the supporters of such a proposal by telling them to go to their meetings for the propagation of the Gospel, to assemble in their May Meetings and denounce the corruptions of Rome. He might have said that, as a Catholic, he could not regret the course adopted by the Government of that great Protestant England, whose Missions trod so closely upon the Missions of the Catholic Church throughout the world; and he could have warned them that no long time would be allowed to elapse before the most distant tribes and people learned that a deliberate vote of the House of Commons had erased England from the list of Christian Kingdoms. But he had been actuated by no Catholic sectarianism, if such a word were applicable. He had preferred to act legally with his Colleagues of every faith, and had chosen, and still chose, to raise and reap whatever odium might be thrown upon him for his action in this matter. He believed no one could more bitterly regret than the Prime Minister the conclusion to which he was forcing the House. As for the particular individual sought to be introduced, he sank into insignificance compared with the vast- ness of the principle involved. But if the Resolution of the Government were passed, England would be stripped of every right to be considered a Christian country, and the little seed that was sown to-day would be found to attain to vast proportions before many years had passed away.


said, that he had no intention of trespassing long upon the time of the House at that hour. But he had risen on four or five occasions in the course of the debate, and had not been fortunate enough to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker. His reason for rising was that many hon. Members, who thought as he did, had requested him to state their views upon this matter. The question upon which they were going to vote was widely different from that upon which they had voted before. This Resolution affirmed a broad and sound principle—it affirmed that the House had no right to put any question to any Member desirous of taking the Oath or Affirmation, in regard to his religious opinions, and upon that broad principle he should record his vote in favour of the Resolution. That was a broad principle widely differing from anything which was included in the narrow and miserable Resolution upon which they were called on to vote the other night. If that Resolution had been passed, they would have resolved that Mr. Bradlaugh had a right to affirm. He should be very sorry indeed to have voted for a Resolution which was personal to Mr. Bradlaugh and sanctioned his right to affirm. Of course, he admitted that this Resolution included Mr. Bradlaugh; but it was a broad and general Resolution, and laid down the principle that the House had no right to question any hon. Member upon his religious belief. In the House there was no presiding Judge as in the Courts of Law. Mr. Speaker was not in the position of presiding Judge, and the Clerk at the Table was the servant of the House. The presiding Judge in the case of the House was the conscience of every hon. Member who came to the Table to take the Oath. If any man came to that Table to take the Oath improperly, he rightly subjected himself to the pains and penalties which followed if he were prosecuted and proved guilty. While approving of the Resolution, he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that there was no danger of the Order of the House being disturbed. His impression was that the House was quite strong enough to preserve its own Order. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. O'Donnell), he (Mr. Hussey Vivian) could state that no pressure direct or indirect had been brought to bear upon him. Did hon. Members opposite doubt what he said? He most distinctly stated that no pressure had been brought to bear upon him. He entirely agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, that legislation must follow upon this subject. The other day he gave Notice of a Motion that the Oath should be repealed, and that hon. Members should make one common Affirmation. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had stated that legislation of this kind at the present moment was impossible. They must, therefore, deal with the question as it now stood, and upon the broad principle that the House had no right to ask any man questions as to his religious belief.


It has been asked what the State has to do with religion, and why should it interfere with the direction of men's consciences? The State has no concern with religion where religion has no concern with the State. But are we, in the laws and customs of this religious country, to exclude all consideration of religion; are we, the trustees for the time being of this august Assembly, to suffer God to be blasphemed by a blasphemer, and to call in the assistance of an avowed Atheist to maintain and frame laws for believers in a Supreme Being? The voice of this Assembly has already decided this important issue, and I have heard no fresh arguments adduced within the House to alter that decision; whilst, outside it, I read and hear of numbers without end who support that decision and regard with horror the idea of proposing to rescind it. It so happens that, under the Administration of Lord Palmerston, I was employed on special service in Syria for the purpose of bringing justice to Christian, Druse, Jew, and Greek; and, in the fulfilment of those duties, I was naturally brought amongst religious communities, and have since mixed freely among those of my own country, a circumstance which led me to obtain opinions from various religious authorities upon the matter at issue. An eminent Moravian has written to me, to say that— The action being taken to introduce an avowed Atheistin to the House of Commons has not his sanction or approval. The Bishop of London writes to say, that— He could not give any sanction to the attempt to force an avowed Atheist upon Parliament. I was also desirous to obtain the opinion of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and therefore appealed to several. The Bishop of Ossory says that—"The people of Ireland are quite indignant at the attempt to instal Atheism in Parliament;" adding, that it was an old saying that "the man that is not true to God will not be true to his country." Next, what did the Bishop of Raphoe say? He stated that—"He had no sympathy with hon. Members who supported Mr. Bradlaugh."


said, that he desired to point out to hon. and gallant Member that he was not entitled to read his speech.


said, he rose to Order. He wished to ask whether it was not competent for the hon. and gallant Member (General Burnaby) to read extracts from telegrams or letters addressed to him by other persons? The hon. and gallant Member was not reading his speech.


said, that he had not a single word written down except quotations. He was reading from replies which he had received to letters and telegrams. Therefore, with the permission of Mr. Speaker, he would continue to read some of the replies which he had received. The Bishop of Raphoe went on to say that— Mr. Bradlaugh was endeavouring to make his entry into Parliament a protest against God, and that supporting him in that course was to abandon every Catholic principle. The Archbishop of Dublin said that the hon. Gentlemen who voted for Mr. Bradlaugh could not be Catholics. The Bishop of Galway was also opposed to the admission of Atheists into Parliament, and said that— He utterly reprobated the conduct of hon. Members who attempted to force an avowed Atheist upon Parliament. Such conduct, "he added," was very reprehensible. The Bishop of Downe and Connor says, that his opinion is—"That some security should be had to preserve the Christian Parliament." The Bishop of Ardagh's opinion is— That an Assembly of Christian gentlemen ought to be able to exclude from their body a person objectionable to their sense of religion and decency. His Holiness the Pope "gives no sanction to such a proceeding." He had also endeavoured to obtain the opinion of an eminent Baptist—Mr. Spurgeon—who, unfortunately, was not at home; but the person fulfilling his duties had written to state he should certainly think that Mr. Spurgeon would be opposed to any attempt to introduce an Atheist into Parliament. The Chief Rabbi said that— He did not deem it advisable to interfere in political questions however strongly he felt on the subject. The Superior of the Greek Orthodox Church said that, as a minister of a Christian Church, "he could not but deeply regret every Atheistical proselytism." Amongst others, a letter which I have received, is one from a Presbyterian, who said— I deplore the election of one holding avowed Atheistical opinions, and sympathize so far in that he should not be a Member of the Legislature. But men do not sit there on the ground of their religious or irreligious views; and having already adopted, as I think this country has done, the position that religious belief should not be a condition of Membership, it seems to me the elect of Northampton has a clear constitutional right to his seat. And he adds his further opinion that— The present conflict is not only most unseemly, but is actually such an advertisement of Mr. Bradlaugh in the guise of a martyr, as is really scandalous. While I agree with the first and the latter portions of this Presbyterian's views, I do not with the other portion, and will contrast it with the words that fell from the lips of the Bishop of Peterborough in his Cathedral on the occasion of the Queen's Accesion, his text being, "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," His Lordship said— The one sentence was the strength of authority, the other was the defence, of liberty; and on these words of Christ the claims of peace and order, and, on the other hand, of liberty of religion and worship, had always rested, and must rest, to the very end. They saw of what preciousness religion was to a nation's life, to a life that was peaceful and settled, to a life of righteous and well regulated liberty. They could see and understand, then, what an immense meaning the Oath of Allegiance so frequently administered to Her Majesty's subjects in various capacities possessed, not merely as regarded the authority of the Sovereign, but involving also the liberty and rights of the subject. When a man who was to make the laws of his country took the Book in his hand and promised allegiance to England's Caesar, he did it in the name of God; and when he said' So help me God,' he invoked as the witness of the compact between him and his Sovereign the common Judge of both. Alas for our liberty and order, if from the public acts and deeds of the nation we thereby blotted out the recognition of the name of God! Sir, I have completed my purpose, and would remind hon. Members of the Prime Minister's words after the House had patiently, in the exercise of its generous indulgence, heard Mr. Bradlaugh, when the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) moved that the Resolution of the previous day, not to permit Mr. Bradlaugh to make an Affirmation or Declaration instead of the Oath required by law, be rescinded. The right hon. Gentleman then said—"There cannot be the smallest possible hope that the House will rescind the Resolution. If it did, it would be a loss of dignity which he did not desire under the circumstances." I also am of the latter opinion. I believe that by rescinding that Resolution the House would not do the smallest good, but would entail upon itself a loss of dignity and consistency which would be greatly to be deplored in this moral and religious country.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 303; Noes 249: Majority, 54.

Acland, Sir T. D. Arnold, A.
Adam, rt. hon. W. V. Ashley, hon. E. M.
Agnew, W. Balfour, Sir G.
Ainsworth, D. Balfour, J. S.
Allen, H. G. Barclay, J. W.
Allen, W. S. Baring, Viscount
Amory, Sir J. H. Barnes, A.
Anderson, G. Barran, J.
Armitage, B. Barry, J.
Armitstead, G. Bass, A.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Egerton. Adm. hon. F.
Beaumont, W. B. Evans, T. W.
Biddulph, M. Fairbairn, Sir A.
Biggar, J. G. Farquharson, Dr. R.
Bolton, J. C. Fawcett, rt. hon. H.
Borlase, W. C. Fay, C. J.
Brand, H. E. Ferguson, R.
Brassey, H. A. Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.
Brassey, T. Finigan, J. L.
Brett, R. B. Firth, J. F. B.
Briggs, W. E. Fitzwilliam, hn. H. W.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Flower, C.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Brinton, J. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Broadhurst, H. Forster, Sir C.
Brogden, A. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Brown, A. H. Fort, R.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C. Fowler, H. H.
Bruce, hon. B. P. Fowler, W.
Bryce, J. Fry, L.
Burt, T. Fry, T.
Buszard, M. C. Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.
Butt, C. P. Gladstone, H. J.
Buxton, F. W. Gladstone, W. H.
Caine, W. S. Glyn, hon. S. C.
Cameron, C. Gordon, Sir A.
Campbell, Sir G. Gordon, Lord D.
Campbell, R. F. F. Gourley, E. T.
Campbell -Bannerman, H. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Grant, A.
Carbutt, E. H. Grant, D.
Carington, hon. R. Grant, Sir G. M.
Carington.hon. Col.W. H. P. Gray, E. D.
Grey, A. H. G.
Cartwright, W. C. Hamilton, J. G. C.
Causton, R. K. Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.
Cavendish, Lord E.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hardcastle, J. A.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Hartington, Marq. of
Chambers, Sir T. Havelock-Allan, Sir H.
Cheetham, J. F. Hayter, Sir A. D.
Childers,rt.hn.H.C.E. Henderson, F.
Chitty, J. W. Heneage, E.
Clarke, J. C. Herschell, Sir F.
Cohen, A. Hibbert, J. T.
Collings, J. Hill, T. R.
Colman, J. J. Holland, S.
Corbett, J. Hollond, J. R.
Cotes, C. C. Holms, J.
Courtauld, G. Hopwood, C. H.
Courtney, L. H. Howard, E. S.
Cowan, J. Howard, J.
Cowen, J. Hughes, W. B.
Craig, W. Y. Hutchinson, J. D.
Creyke, R. Illingworth, A.
Cross, J. K. Inderwiek, F. A.
Cunliffe, Sir R. A. Ingram, W. J.
Currie, D. Jackson, Sir H. M.
Davey, H. James, C.
Davies, D. James, Sir H.
Davies, R. James, W. H.
Davies, W. Jardine, R.
De Ferrieres, Baron Jenkins, D. J.
Dilke. A. W. Johnson, E.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Johnson, W. M.
Dillwyn, L. L. Johnstone, Sir H.
Dodds, J. Joicey, Colonel J,
Dodson, rt. hon. J. G. Kingscote, Col. R.N.F.
Duff, rt. hon. M. E. G Labouchere, H.
Dundas. hon. J. C. Laing, S.
Earp, T. Lambton, hon. F. W.
Edwards, H. Law, rt. hon. H.
Edwards, P. Lawley, hon. B.
Lawrance, Sir J. C Pulley, J.
Lawrence, W. Ralli, P.
Lawson, Sir W. Ramsay, Lord
Laycock, R. Ramsden, Sir J.
Leake, R. Reed, Sir C.
Leatham, E. A. Reed, E. J.
Leatham, W. Reid, R. T.
Lee, H. Rendel, S.
Leeman, J. J. Richard, H.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Richardson, T.
Leigh, hon. G. H. C. Roberts, J.
Litton, E. F. Robertson, H.
Lloyd, M. Rogers, J. E. T.
Lubbock, Sir J. Rothschild, Sir N.M.de
Lusk, Sir A. Roundell, C. S.
Lymington, Viscount Russell, G. W. E.
Macdonald, A. Russell, Lord A.
Mackie, R. B. Rylands, P.
Mackintosh, C. F. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Macliver, P. S. Samuelson, B.
M'Arthur, A. Samuelson, H.
M'Arthur, W. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
M'Carthy, J. Sheridan, H. B.
M'Intyre, Æ. J. Shield, H.
M'Laren, C. B. B. Simon, Serjeant J.
M'Laren, D. Slagg, J.
M'Minnies, J. G. Smith, E.
Magniac, C. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Maitland, W. F. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Mappin, F. T. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Marjoribanks, Sir D. C. Stanton, W. J.
Marjoribanks, E. Stevenson, J. C.
Marriott, W. T. Stewart, J.
Mason, H. Story-Maskelyne,M.H.
Massey, rt. hon. W. N. Summers, W.
Maxwell, J. H. M. Talbot, C. R. M.
Mellor, J. W. Taylor, P. A.
Metge, R. H. Tennant, C.
Middleton, R. T. Thomasson, J. P.
Milbank, F. A. Thompson, Sir H. M.
Monk, C. J. Thompson, T. C.
Moreton, Lord Tillett, J. H.
Morgan, rt. hon. G. O. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Morley, A.
Mundella, rt. hon. A.J. Trevelyan, G. O.
Noel, E. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Nolan, Major J. P. Vivian, H. H.
Norwood, C. M. Walter, J.
O'Beirne, Major F. Waugh, E.
O'Connor, T.P. Webster, Dr. J.
O'Gorman Mahon, Col. Wedderburn, Sir D.
The Whalley, G. H.
O' Kelly, J. Whitbread, S.
Otway, A. Whitwell, J.
Paget, T. T. Whitworth, B.
Palmer, C. M. Wiggin, H.
Palmer, G. Williams, B. T.
Palmer, J. H. Williams, S. C. E.
Parker, C. S. Williams, W.
Parnell, C. S. Williamson, S.
Pease, A. Willis, W.
Pease, J. W. Wills, W. H.
Peddie, J. D. Willyams, E. W. B.
Peel, A. W. Wilson, C. H.
Pennington, F. Wilson, I.
Philips, R. N. Wilson, Sir M.
Playfair, rt. hon. L. Wodehouse, E. R.
Portman, hn. W. H. B Woodall, W.
Potter, T. B. Woolff, S.
Powell, W. R. H.
Power, J. O'C. TELLERS.
Price, Sir R. G. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Pugh, L. P, Kensington, Lord
Alexander, Colonel Elcho, Lord
Amherst, W. A. T. Elliot, G. W.
Archdale, W. H. Errington, G.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Estcourt, G. S.
Aylmer, J. E. F. Ewart, W.
Bailey, Sir J. B. Ewing, A. O.
Balfour, A. J. Feilden, Maj -Gen. R. J.
Baring, T. C. Fellowes, W. H.
Barne, F. St. J. N. Fenwick-Bisset, M.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Filmer, Sir E.
Bateson, Sir T. Finch, G. H.
Beach, rt. hon. Sir M.H. Fitzpatrick, hn. B.E.B.
Beach, W. W. B. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Bellingham, A. H.
Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C. Fletcher, Sir H.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Floyer, J.
Beresford, G. do la P. Foley, J. W.
Biddell, W. Folkestone, Viscount
Birkbeck, E. Forester, C. T. W.
Birley, H. Foster, W. H.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Fowler, B. N.
Blake, J. A. Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Boord, T. W. Gabbett, D. F.
Bourke, right hon. R. Galway, Viscount
Brise, S. R. Garfit, T.
Broadley, W. H. H. Gardner, R. Richardson-
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Garnier, J. C.
Brooke, Lord Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Brooks, W. C. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Goldney, Sir G.
Brymer, W. E. Gooch, Sir D.
Burghley, Lord Gore-Langton, W. S.
Burnaby, General E. S. Gorst, J. E.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Grantham, W.
Buxton, Sir R. J. Greene, E.
Byrne, G. M. Greer, T.
Callan, P. Gregory, G. B.
Cameron, D. Hall, A. W.
Campbell, J. A. Halsey, T. F.
Carden, Sir R. W. Hamilton, I. T.
Castlereagh, Viscount Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.
Chaine, J. Harcourt, E. W.
Chaplin, H. Harvey, Sir B. B.
Christie, W. L. Helmsley, Viscount
Churchill, Lord B. Herbert, hon. S.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Hermon, E.
Close, M. C. Hicks, E.
Cobbold, T. C. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Coddington, W. Hill, Lord A. W.
Cole, Viscount Hill, A. S.
Coope, O. E. Hinchingbrook, Visc.
Corbet, W. J. Holker, Sir J.
Corry, J. P. Holland, Sir H. T.
Cotton, W. J. R. Hope,rt,hn.A.J.B.B.
Crompton-Roberts, C. Hubbard, rt. hon. J.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Jackson, W. L.
Cubitt, rt. hon. G. Johnstone, Sir F.
Daly, J. Kennard, Col. E. H.
Davenport, H. T. Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P. Knight, F. W.
De Worms, Baron H. Knightley, Sir R.
Dickson, Major A. G. Knowles, T.
Digby, Col. hon. E. Lawrance, J. C.
Donaldson-Hudson, C. Lawrence, Sir T.
Douglas, A. Akers- Leamy, E.
Dyke,rt.hn. Sir W.H. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Dyott, Colonel R. Lee, Major V.
Egerton, Sir P. G. Legh, W. J.
Egerton, hon. W. Leigh, R.
Leighton, Sir B. Puleston, J. H.
Leighton, S. Rankin, J.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Redmond, W. A.
Lever, J. O. Rendlesham, Lord
Lewis, C. E. Repton, G. W.
Lewisham, Viscount Ridley, Sir M. W.
Lindsay, Col. B. L. Ritchie, C. T.
Lindsay, Lord Rodwell, B. B. H.
Loder, R. Bolls, J. A.
Long, W. H. Boss, A. H.
Lopes, Sir M. Round, J.
Lowther, hon. W. Russell, Sir C.
Lyons, B. D. St. Aubyn, W. M;
Macartney, J. W. E. Sandon, Viscount
Mac Iver, D. Schreiber, C.
Macnaghten, E. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
M'Coan, J. C. Scott, Lord H.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Scott, M. D.
Makins, Colonel W. T. Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
March, Earl of Severne, J. E.
Martin, P. Smith, A.
Marum, E. M. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Master, T. W. C. Smyth, P. J.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Stanhope, hon. E.
Miles, Sir P. J. W. Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.
Mills, Sir C. H. Stewart, M. J.
Monckton, F. Storer, G.
Moore, A. Stuart, H. V.
Morgan, hon. F. Sullivan, A. M.
Moss, B. Sykes, C.
Mowbray, rt. hn. Sir J.B, Talbot, J. G.
Mulholland, J. Taylor, rt. hn. Col. T.E.
Murray, C. J. Thomson, H.
Musgrave, Sir R. C. Thornhill, T.
Newdegate, C. N. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Newport, Viscount Tollemache, hon. W. F.
Nicholson, W. N. Tottenham, A. L.
Noel, rt. hon. G. J. Tyler, Sir H. W.
North, Colonel J. S. Wallace, Sir B.
Northcote, H. S. Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Warburton, P. E.
O'Connor, A. Warton, C. N.
O' Donnell, F. H. Watkin, Sir E. W.
O'Donoghue, The Watney, J.
Onslow, D. Welby-Gregory, Sir W.
Palliser, Sir W. Whitley, E.
Patrick, B. W. C. Wilmot, Sir H.
Peek, Sir H. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Pell, A. Wolff, Sir H. D.
Pemberton, E. L. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Percy, Earl Wroughton, P.
Phipps, C. N. P. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Plunket, hon. D. R. Yorke, J. R.
Powell, W. TELLERS.
Power, B. Crichton, Viscount
Price, Captain G. E. Winn, R.

Main Question proposed, That every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to he a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath, shall henceforth (notwithstanding so much of the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd day of June last as relates to Affirmation) be permitted, without question, to make and subscribe a solemn Affirmation in the form prescribed by 'The Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866,' as altered by 'The Promissory Oaths Act, 1868,' subject to any liability by statute."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, he rose to move in the only form which he could move it, in accordance with the Rules of the House, the Amendment which stood in his name, and which had for its object that the rule should be prospective and not retrospective.

Amendment proposed, To add the words "Provided always, That this Resolution shall apply to persons hereafter returned as Members of this House."—(Mr. A. M. Sullivan.)

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes 236; Noes 274: Majority 38.—(Div. List, No. 35.)

Main Question put.

Resolved, That every person returned as a Member of this House, who may claim to be a person for the time being by Law permitted to make a solemn Affirmation or Declaration instead of taking an Oath, shall henceforth (notwithstanding so much of the Resolution adopted by this House on the 22nd day of June last as relates to Affirmation) be permitted, without question, to make and subscribe a solemn Affirmation in the form prescribed by "The Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866," as altered by "The Promissory Oaths Act, 1868," subject to any liability by statute.


moved that the Resolution become a Standing Order of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Resolution be a Standing Order of the House."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, that he would not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon his Amendment, which was to the effect that instead of a Standing Order there should be legislation on the subject.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this Resolution be a Standing Order of the House.

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