HC Deb 21 February 1882 vol 266 cc1234-65

MR. LABOUCHERE moved— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the Election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, who, by the Resolutions of this House of the 26th April 1881, the 9th May 1881, and the 7th February 1882, respectively, has been prevented from taking and subscribing the Oath prescribed by Law, to be taken before a Member can sit and vote. I presume it will be necessary for me to give some reasons for my making this Motion, all the more that, in making it, there may be an apparent inconsistency with my previous course of action with regard to this matter. On this side of the House those Gentlemen who have voted against the action taken by Gentlemen opposite maintained that the elected Member has a right to take the Oath of Allegiance at the Table. If that view be correct, I admit that my Motion must fail. But the House has come collectively to the Resolution that Mr. Bradlaugh is not to be allowed to take the Oath. The consequence of this is that, for all practical purposes, Mr. Bradlaugh became disqualified from sitting and voting in this House; and. the result of this is that the borough of Northampton is deprived of its Constitutional rights. Now, my contention will be that the House may disqualify a Member of this House from sitting and voting; but that in order to disfranchise, or enfranchise, a borough requires the assent of the Three Estates of the Realm—that is, that no borough can be disfranchised or enfranchised without a special law passed here and in the other House. I think it will be found, on looking to precedents, that this is the rule that has always held good. I go back to 1571. In that year Mr. Walter Long was elected for the borough of Westbury. The House came to the conclusion that he was a very simple man, and disqualified him for being one. What was the next step? The House then issued a new Writ for the borough of Westbury. I take the next case, from the Long Parliament. There are two periods during which it sat; and the first was more Constitu- tional than the latter. During this time there were a considerable number of Members disqualified for malignancy, and in every case a new Writ was issued. In 1649 the House of Commons passed a Resolution that the House of Lords was useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished. Notwithstanding the Resolution of the Prime Minister last night, I speak those words of that august Assembly with almost bated breath. After this Resolution was passed, it was perfectly true that a considerable number of Members were disqualified, and Writs were not issued; but I hardly think that will be taken as a Constitutional precedent. The case of Wilkes is known to every Member of this House. When he was disqualified from sitting it was never contended for a moment that a new Writ ought not immediately to be issued for the constituency of Middlesex, and, as soon as he was disqualified, a new Writ was issued. It was argued that they had no right to elect Wilkes, but that they were entitled to elect some other person. With regard to the particular question of the Oath, hon. Members would remember that when Mr. Archdale refused to take the Oath he was disqualified, and a new Writ was immediately issued. The case of Mr. Pease, 1833, is sometimes brought forward; and although in that case a new Writ was not moved, Mr. Pease was not disqualified; and he was allowed to affirm instead of taking the Oath. Therefore, that ease has nothing to do with the present. In the case of Baron Rothschild, even at that time, it was thought that a new Writ ought immediately to have been moved. Sir Frederick Thesiger brought the subject before the House; and, as far as can be gathered, he was requested to withdraw his Motion for some time, in order that the Government might consider whether they should legislate in the matter. But the case of Baron Rothschild is not the same as that of Mr. Bradlaugh, because the Baron was not prepared to take the Oath as laid down by Statute; whereas the Courts of Law have decided that Mr. Bradlaugh is not a person who can affirm, and the House has stepped in and said he shall not take the Oath. Consequently, the only door by which Mr. Bradlaugh could enter, and sit and vote, is shut on him by the House; and it may fairly be said, therefore, that he is disqualified from sitting and voting in the House. It may be urged that there are seats deprived of their Representatives owing to bribery; but in these cases the boroughs have been peccant, which is not supposed to be the case with Northampton. Also, there is the special Act, passed by the last Parliament, to preclude the Speaker from issuing a Writ during the Recess until seven days after the House meets. If my contention is correct, the House of Commons have got no right—and never had any right—to prevent a Gentleman from sitting and voting here without giving the constituency the immediate opportunity, by issuing a new Writ, of electing someone else in his place. I do not suppose that hon. Members on this side of the House will vote for my Resolution; because they did not consider the House was right in its original action preventing Mr. Bradlaugh taking the Oath; but I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether they wish to do any injustice to the borough of Northampton? They have acted conscientiously, no doubt, on their view of the matter; they think they have acted legally; we on this side think differently; and maintain that there is no reason why the House should not follow former precedents, and allow a new Writ to be issued. I hope that my reasons will commend themselves to hon. Gentlemen opposite, on account of their thoroughly Constitutional character. I beg, Sir, to move the Resolution I have already read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the Election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, who, by the Resolutions of this House of the 26th April 1881, the 9th May 1881, and the 7th February 1882, respectively, has been prevented from taking and subscribing the Oath prescribed by Law, to be taken before a Member can sit and vote."—(Mr. Labouchere.)


said, he would venture to submit to the consideration of the House a slight Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. The Amendment might appear to be a merely verbal one; but it contained, as he thought he should be able to show, an important difference. The Motion of the hon. Member stated that Mr. Bradlaugh had been prevented by Resolution of the House from taking and subscribing the Oath prescribed by law. Now, he proposed to leave out that part of the Motion and to make it read that a new Writ be issued for the borough of Northampton in the room of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, who was disqualified by law from taking his seat in this House. The wording of the Motion of the hon. Member, the particular words he made use of, "by Resolution of this House," implied two things—first, that the House had acted in an arbitrary manner; that by a vote agreed to, perhaps after insufficient consideration with regard to the law, the House had resolved that Mr. Bradlaugh was not to take the Oath. That was altogether in opposition to the views which had been taken on that (the Opposition) side of the House. The Motion also seemed to imply that the disqualification of Mr. Bradlaugh was or might be a temporary disqualification, which might be reversed at any moment. He did not think that was the view of hon. Members who voted against Mr. Bradlaugh. They did not admit either that the House had acted in an arbitrary manner or without consideration as to the law, or that Mr. Bradlaugh's disqualification was in any way temporary. They asserted, on the contrary, that the House had merely interpreted the law of the land, and that Mr. Bradlaugh was ipso facto disqualified from taking the Oath prescribed by law. Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table of the House early in 1880, and claimed to make an Affirmation; and it was that claim, and nothing else, that instructed the House as to his peculiar religious opinions. It was not his letter in The Times. The House appointed a Committee, which reported that he could not legally affirm, and that Report was confirmed by a large majority of the House. A second Committee was appointed to inquire whether he could take the Oath—because he claimed to do so. That Committee reported that he could not take the Oath; and the House confirmed that decision. That decision rested on the broad ground that Atheists, by the law of England as laid down by Judges of the highest authority were incapable of taking an oath. The Evidence Amendment Act, passed to enable Atheists to give evidence in Courts of Justice, had never been held to apply to a promissory Oath. The result of the debates in the House was not arrived at after heated, tumultuous, or Party discussions, but after calm investigation in Committees and in the House; and those who opposed Mr. Bradlaugh's claim maintained that the decision which had been come to had been guided by nothing but the strict law of England. If that were so, then there were only two courses now open to the House. The one was to alter the law, and he had never been able to understand why the Government, having brought in a Bill through the Attorney General last (Session, had apparently abandoned that Bill. He did not know whether they had altogether abandoned that measure; but in the absence of any intention on their part to introduce it, the only other alternative was for the House to issue the Writ. The only other course for the House to adopt was to introduce a Bill dealing with the subject. He would refer to what happened in the case of Mr. O'Donovan Rossa. He—Mr. O'DonovanRossa—was declared by the House to be incapable of taking his seat. Certainly that was for a different reason; but he was declared to be absolutely disqualified, and a new Writ was immediately issued. If Mr. Bradlaugh, then, was disqualified by law from sitting and taking the Oath, they must follow the precedent he had mentioned and issue a new Writ for the borough of Northampton. He moved his Amendment, that those who supported these views might not be supposed to support the contention that Mr. Bradlaugh was prevented by the House from taking the Oath, whereas he was prevented from doing so by the law of the land.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "who," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "is disqualified by Law from taking his seat in this House."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)

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


said, he was unwilling to enter into a discussion upon the matter, which did not affect one side of the House more than the other; but he trusted the House would allow him to place before it a few conside- rations, which might serve to guide them in their determination of the subject. The Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, as he understood the view which he had presented to the House, proceeded upon the assumption that, inasmuch as Mr. Brad-laugh had been prevented by a vote of the House from taking the Oath prescribed by the Statute, the House should proceed by Resolution to expel him. Of course, the House would not take that step without, to some extent, considering whether there was any precedent for that course. Hon. Members would recollect, in respect to Oaths in former times, that there were three Oaths which had to be taken before a Member could enter the House—namely, the Oath of Supremacy, the Oath of Allegiance, under the Statute of 30 Charles II., and the Oath of Abjuration. As to the two former Oaths, they were imposed as tests of loyalty and religious opinion; and as to the two former, the practice of the House was not to wait until Members came to take the Oath, but to send for them, and, if they did not appear at the Table to prove their loyalty and adherence to the Protestant religion, they were summoned to the Bar, and then compelled to take the Oath, or told they were not fit to be Members of that House. When a Member was expelled for not taking an Oath, which he was bound to take, he was even liable to be sent to the Tower for this neglect. He was sure the House would see that precedents of such a nature were not binding upon them—the feelings which then existed having long since passed away. In the case of Mr. Archdale, in 1693, being a Quaker, he wrote to the House, saying that he could not take the Oath; whereupon, without explanation, and apparently without debate, a new Writ was immediately issued for the borough he represented. But that was in accordance with the spirit of that time, which was very different from that which now existed. In the case of Mr. Pease, in 1833, that Gentleman was allowed to make an Affirmation, and a new Writ was consequently not issued. Then, again, there was the case of Mr. O'Connell, in the year 1829, who had been elected before the passing of the Roman Catholic Disabilities Removal Act. After the passing of that Act he presented himself to the House, and sought to take the new Oath created by it; but the majority of the House resolved that he could not take advantage of that Act, inasmuch as he was elected before it came into operation. When called upon to take the Oath of Supremacy he refused to do so, stating that, to his knowledge, it asserted one thing that was false, and another that was not true. A new Writ was issued for County Clare, apparently without much objection, for Mr. O'Connell would have incurred a penalty of £500 for every time he sat and voted in the House. He was willing to go back to his constituents, and they elected him again. But Mr. Brougham protested that the House had no power to issue a new Writ unless a Member sat and voted without taking the Oath. The House would recollect that before the year 1850 Baron Rothschild was elected for the City of London. He appeared at the Table of the House, and took the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance, those Oaths not containing the words "upon the true faith of a Christian." But when he came to the Oath of Abjuration, he refused to use these words, and the question then arose whether he could be said to have taken "the Oath" as prescribed by the Statute. Immediately after his refusal, Sir Frederick Thesiger moved that a new Writ should be issued for the City of London. Sir John Romilly doubted whether that was the proper course, and after some debate time was given to the Law Officers for the consideration of the question; and after five days had elapsed the Attorney General expressed most strongly his certain conviction that the House had no power to issue a new Writ and declare the seat vacant. Sir John Romilly acquiesced in this, and Sir Frederick Thesiger's Motion was withdrawn, and there was no new Writ issued. Legislation on this question was never attempted to be carried out until 1858. He must confess that he could not distinguish between the case of Baron Rothschild and Mr. Bradlaugh, except in one particular, which seemed to strengthen the argument against this Motion. Baron Rothschild refused to take the Oath because it contained the words "upon the true faith of a Christian." Mr. Bradlaugh had done no such thing; he was willing to take the Oath. Therefore, the result of the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton was that Mr. Bradlaugh having come to that Table, and having said that he was willing to take the Oath, the House was about to expel him. Before that course was adopted, good cause ought to be shown for expulsion. In the case of Mr. Wilkes, the expulsion was carried out for reasons which seemed to satisfy the majority of the House. If it were thought that Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to take his seat in that House, let the matter be decided according to legal principles and by a legal tribunal. If hon. Members asserted that he could not legally sit and vote, what could be easier than to let Mr. Bradlaugh sit in that House, and so raise the question of his legal right so to do? Of course, he would not, by sitting, be relieved of the penalties imposed by the Act of 1866. If the noble Lord was right Mr. Bradlaugh never could be elected. If the electors of Northampton were wrong in electing Mr. Bradlaugh, that was a matter which should be tried on legal principles and by a legal tribunal. He had heard in the course of that debate that that was the result of the House refusing to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath, and that the constituency should have an opportunity of re-electing Mr. Bradlaugh, or of electing a fresh Member. But he would remind the House that the constituency had made no sign in this matter. They, with knowledge of the difficulty that had arisen, had elected him a second time. If there was any question between Mr. Bradlaugh and his constituents, there was the course that was pursued by Baron Rothschild in applying for the Chiltern Hundreds, so as to give his constituents an opportunity of re-electing or rejecting him. The House could take no notice of the fact that the Motion was made by Mr. Bradlaugh's Colleague. They must treat it in the same way as if it were a hostile Motion emanating from an ordinary Member. He hoped the House would not allow this matter to be entangled with the position of Mr. Bradlaugh. This was a precedent which would have to be considered; and he hoped that it would not be said that for the sake of a man's religion—for that was the object of the noble Lord—the House had proceeded to expel a duly elected Member. That disability, if it existed, ought to be declared much more distinctly, and ought to be a matter of legal decision. He had himself kept away from any consideration affecting the question of Mr. Bradlaugh's position; and he trusted that they would follow the example set in 1850, acting not in a narrow, bigoted spirit, and not punishing a man for his religious opinion or want of it. He hoped the House would come to the conclusion that neither the Motion nor the Amendment of the noble Lord ought to be adopted.


said, bethought before coming to a vote on this question the House should be informed whether the Motion was made with the assent and consent of Mr. Bradlaugh himself. He could hardly imagine that the Motion was put forward for mere purpose of discussion. If it was not by his desire, he should be disposed to move that Mr. Bradlaugh should be entitled to be heard at the Bar by himself or counsel at his option before the House came to any determination on the subject; but if they did not have that information—if they were not informed that it was made with the consent of Mr. Bradlaugh himself—he should like to learn whether the Motion was seriously made, and intended to be pressed to a division with the object of carrying it, or whether it was simply made with the object of raising—he would not say a counterfeit debate, for that expression might not be strictly Parliamentary—but an unreal debate, and not for the purpose of deciding the question before them. He confessed he did not follow all the observations made by the Attorney General. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had slightly misstated the effect of the Rothschild precedent, because in that case. Sir Frederick Thesiger urged to the last that the proper course in the event of a Member refusing to take the Oath was to issue a new Writ; and he would challenge the Attorney General to show anything to the contrary. Ultimately the House in that case agreed to a Resolution pledging it, at the earliest opportunity in the following Session, To take into serious consideration the form of the Oath of Allegiance, with a view to the relief of those of Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said more than once that Mr. Bradlaugh had not refused to take the Oath. That involved this fallacy—that the Attorney General appeared to assume that the act of repeating certain words was taking the Oath. What happened in Baron Rothschild's case was this—that he did not refuse to take the Oath, and upon that turned the whole debate; but when he came to the words—"On the true faith of a Christian," instead of refusing to utter those words, he substituted the words "So help me God;" and what was maintained was that the substance and meaning of the Oath had been taken, and that the omitted words were not of the essence of the Oath, and that, therefore, Baron Rothschild was not affected, because he had, in effect, taken the Oath. In Mr. Bradlaugh's case what they had to consider was whether the mere repeating of certain words could properly be considered an Oath, which, according to the universally-accepted dictum of Lord Hardwicke, involved an appeal to the Supreme Being. Mr. Bradlaugh, on coming forward, said virtually—"I am an Atheist, and I seek to take the Oath provided for Atheists in Courts of Justice;" and from that hour he had never departed from that position. He said, though not in so many words—"Although I am an Atheist, I will repeat the words of the Oath which appeal to a Supreme Being." There was a difference between incapacity to sit and vote and incapacity to be elected. It was so in the previous cases. There was no disqualification; but the House had called upon them to show whether they were competent to sit and vote. Mr. Bradlaugh was originally competent to be elected; he had been elected; but then came the question what the Legislature had provided. Before he could sit and vote the Legislature had said—in perfectly unmistakable terms—that no person without religious belief should sit and vote in that House; and it had said, with respect to one class of persons who objected to the Oath on religious grounds, that they should make an Affirmation. If they were to understand that the Motion was made with Mr. Bradlaugh's assent, and at his desire, he should vote for the Amendment of his noble Friend. If, on the other hand, they were to understand that the Motion was adverse to Mr. Bradlaugh, he would invite the House not to come to any determination of the question until Mr. Bradlaugh had been heard at the Bar either in person or through counsel.


said, the Motion was not only made with the sanction of Mr. Bradlaugh, but at his desire. Mr. Bradlaugh had considered, rightly or wrongly, that it was a duty to his constituents, so long as he remained their Member, and so long as the constituency was not fully represented in the House, to ask the House to do what this Motion proposed. He (Mr. Labouchere) confessed that when this course was proposed to him he was rather 1oth to take it, as it appeared to be somewhat of a reflection upon Mr. Bradlaugh; but as it was a personal matter regarding his Colleague, he (Mr. Labouchere) thought it would be better to do what was asked of him. With regard to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, he need not say that he could not accept it. The noble Lord had said that his (Mr. Labouchere's) Resolution implied that the House had acted in an arbitrary manner towards Mr. Bradlaugh. Now, the Resolution implied nothing of the sort. It simply set forth the Resolutions which had been passed by that House, and did not imply that the House had acted in an unfair or an arbitrary manner. With respect to what had been said by the Attorney General, he could only point out that the effect of his argument was a reductio ad absurdum. Supposing in the next Parliament 40 Gentlemen were to come down to the House and take the Oath, they would constitute a House, and they might pass a Resolution stating that no other Member should be allowed to take his seat in the House; they might carry on the Business of Parliament and vote for or against any measures they liked. He did not wish to raise a Bradlaugh debate, and had, therefore, limited himself to the facts as they had occurred. He simply contended that the Constitutional doctrine was that although the House might disqualify a Member, and had disqualified a Member, it was bound, as soon as possible, to fill up his place by the issue of a new Writ.


said, he should support neither the Motion nor the Amendment. He did not infer from any of the Resolutions that had been passed by the House that the seat had been vacated; and it did not, therefore, seem to him to be Constitutional to issue a new Writ. If it were intended to expel Mr. Bradlaugh, that must be done by a direct Motion.


said, he should, if necessary, vote against the original Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, and against the Amendment of the noble Lord. The original Motion practically amounted to an expulsion of Mr. Bradlaugh. He could not agree that there was any grievance in the matter, because if Mr. Bradlaugh were aggrieved by his present position, he could accept the Chiltern Hundreds, and if the borough of Northampton were aggrieved, they could petition that House to issue a new Writ. He, for one, could not give up the hope that there would be legislation on this matter. He could never understand why Her Majesty's Government had taken the line they had done when Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table to take the Oath. It would have been very much better had Her Majesty's Government left this matter of controversy outside their conscience, and had dealt with it by Bill. There was a considerable number of Members in that House, who, while they objected to what they regarded as the profanation of the Oath by its being taken by Mr. Bradlaugh, would willingly consent to pass a measure to enable hon. Members to either take the Oath or make an Affirmation at their option. He believed that the proper course for Mr. Bradlaugh to take was to remain in the House while a hope of such legislation being carried was entertained, and that he ought to sit under the Gallery, as he was then doing, and ought not to attempt to come up to the Table to take the Oath, because he had ascertained that there was a strong feeling in the House against that course. He suggested to the Government that they should pass some general measure on the subject. Unless the Government met this matter boldly, they would be only leading the House from one difficulty into another. It was idle to say they had no time for it, for they were continually losing time on this question which would be saved if they disposed of it once and for ever.


said, there were only two cases in which the House could declare the seat vacant—when the House held the Member disqualified by Statute or by Law of Parliament, and when the Member had himself petitioned on the ground of disqualification. Neither of these things had happened; and it was, therefore, not in the power of the House to issue a new Writ.


said, that he would never consent to the expulsion of a Member because of the views which he entertained with regard to religion. He thought that the House committed an error when Mr. Bradlaugh came back, after his second election, in interposing between him and the Oath. There was a Member who was not legally disqualified, and yet they refused to allow him to go through the form incumbent upon him by law before taking his seat. This was unfair to the constituency, as well as the Member, and some steps ought to be taken to relieve that constituency from the position in which it was placed. The House did not take upon itself to declare the seat vacant in the case of Baron Rothschild, because it had no right to do so, and à fortiori it had no right to do so in the present case, when the Member had come forward and claimed to take the Oath. The House had taken a false position in the matter, and he could not, therefore, support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.


, on a point of Order, asked the Speaker whether there was anything in the Resolutions quoted by the hon. Member which created a vacancy in the representation of Northampton; and, if not, whether it was possible to move for a new Writ?


The hon. Member asks me my opinion upon a point which seems to me to be rather a matter for the House than for the Chair to decide.


said, that, in his opinion, the Motion proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton had for its object the defeat of the course which the House had by Resolution adopted for testing the legality of Mr. Bradlaugh's sitting and voting in the House. The House had by Resolution referred this matter to the Courts of Law. The case under which Mr. Bradlaugh was being sued for penalties was still before the Courts of Law, and the House had intimated that it would be bound by the decision of the Courts of Law. He understood that the Courts of Law had declared that Mr. Bradlaugh's sitting and voting in the House was illegal; but no penalty had yet been recovered. He believed, however, that a penalty would be recovered the following day, unless Mr. Bradlaugh pursued his vexatious and collusive course of litigation still further, for the purpose of delay, by appealing to the House of Lords. But if Mr. Bradlaugh came and sat and voted in the House, he would expose himself on every occasion that he did so to a fresh penalty. The difficulty which had been encountered by those who endeavoured to exact the penalties would be found in an attempt to defeat the penalty by collusion, for Mr. Bradlaugh had admitted that many of the penalties for which he was sued were sought by a friend of his, a Mr. Swaagman, whose action was collusive. In fact, the Courts of Law were delayed by collusive litigation on the part of Mr. Bradlaugh; but if he came afresh to this House there were those, he (Mr. Newdegate) had no doubt, who would make it very difficult for Mr. Bradlaugh any longer to delay the decision of the Courts of Law by means of collusive actions. The Motion now made was clearly an attempt to defeat the Resolution of the House, which had referred the case of Mr. Bradlaugh to the Courts of Law. He (Mr. Newdegate) had not the slightest doubt of the illegality of Mr. Bradlaugh's attempt to take the Oath; and what had been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General (Sir Hardinge Giffard) was to his mind conclusive, to the effect that Mr. Bradlaugh was legally disqualified from sitting and voting in the House. That was his (Mr. Newdegate's) clear conviction; but he should be guided by the course which his hon. and learned Friend described, although he ventured to express a hope that the House would not allow itself to be entrapped into the adoption of the now proposed Resolution, which seemed to him futile in every sense, except that it was expressly intended to extract a decision from the House, which would be directly contradictory to the course the House had adopted as a means for referring the case of Mr. Bradlaugh to the Courts of Law.


said, that the hon. Member for Northampton must be aware that the Motion would not be carried by the majority. He must know that the chances of a return of a Conservative for the borough were exceedingly favourable if the seat were declared vacant; and, as every vote was important at the present time, of course the Resolution. could not be accepted. He suggested to the hon. Member that he would consult the convenience of the House, and would only be acting up to his own previous declarations, if he desisted from the course he was pursuing, and considering the penalties in store for taking unnecessary divisions, decide to go no further.


said, he felt that the House was placed in a certain difficulty with regard to this Motion. With regard to the particular question which was before them-namely, whether, if the Motion was to be made and entertained by the House, it should rest the issue of a Writ on the grounds stated in the original Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, or whether it should rest the case for the issue of a Writ on the words suggested by his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock, he felt no doubt whatever. His opinion was that, if a Writ was to be issued, it should be done in the words suggested by his noble Friend; because he was entirely of opinion that, as matters now stood, Mr. Bradlaugh was disqualified by law from sitting and voting in the House, and it was upon that ground alone that the Writ should be issued. At the same time, he would point out that although it might be the case that Mr. Bradlaugh was at this moment disqualified by law from sitting in the House, it had been admitted that he was not disqualified by law from being elected. There was no question about that; and, therefore, it rested with the House whether it would at the present time, and under the present circumstances, and upon the application of the hon. Member, proceed to issue a Writ for filling up the vacancy. He apprehended, although the case had been argued by the lawyers on both sides, that the House would be within its rights in issuing a Writ under the circumstances, although considerable doubt had been thrown by the Attorney General on the legal position of the case. But it did not, of course, follow because the House had the right to issue a new Writ that it was necessary they should do so. The course that had been taken with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh had been one of a very simple and decisive character. They had stood upon this ground—When the hon. Gen- tleman came to the Table and asked to affirm a Committee was appointed which came to the conclusion that he ought not to be allowed to affirm. That Committee assented to the position which Mr. Bradlaugh claimed to have—namely, that he was not a person upon whose conscience an Oath would be binding; but, while admitting that, they did not admit that he was covered by the Statute which had been passed for enabling persons in that position to substitute a declaration for an Oath. Subsequently the Courts of Law confirmed that judgment, and said he was not a proper person to come within the benefit of the Statute, although they admitted that he was a person of such opinions that he was not capable of taking an Oath. That being the case, the question again came before the House in respect to Mr. Bradlaugh having, by his own confession or statement, shown that he was a person not competent to take the Oath when he came to the House and proposed to go through the form of taking the Oath. The House thereupon took the position which was perfectly simple and intelligible, and he was perfectly satisfied that it had done right—that it would not permit the form of the Oath to be gone through by a person who could not conscientiously take an Oath. It was upon that that they took their stand, and they went no further. As he understood the question, a new Writ might, of course, have been moved for, and Mr. Bradlaugh would, under those circumstances, have been naturally called to the Bar, and have been allowed an opportunity of stating his reasons against the proposal. The House would then have decided whether or not they would do that which they supposed it was within their discretion to do—to issue a Writ. Mr. Bradlaugh had not done that; but, instead, had taken the course of requesting his Colleague to come there and on his behalf, and, he supposed, on that of the constituency also, to move that a now Writ might be issued. The obvious remark that occurred to one in such a matter was, that that was a very strange proceeding to take. If the constituency of Northampton desired that a new Writ should be issued, he should have thought that there would have been some Petitions to the House on the subject; and if Mr. Bradlaugh, on his part, desired to be relieved from the position in which he at present stood, there was nothing in the world to prevent his accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, and in that way vacating his seat. He felt very much at a loss to understand upon what ground it was that the present step was taken, or what was the object of the hon. Member for Northampton in the step he had taken. He confessed that, coming from the quarter which it did, and considering the views which the hon. Gentleman had always expressed with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh, he looked upon the move with some suspicion. The hon. Member, he believed, had given Notice of his intention to introduce a Bill which, in all probability, from what they had heard, would, if it was passed into law, remove the difficulty altogether; and he could not understand why at the present moment the hon. Member was disposed to press on this particular solution of the question in the form he now proposed it. Of course there had been private intimations, and statements had been made in newspapers that it was likely that the Motion would he made; but the Motion being now brought forward without Notice, the House was to a great extent taken by surprise.


I could not give Notice of the Motion without losing its priority as a question of Privilege.


said, he did not for a moment mean to blame the hon. Member for not having given Notice; all he intended to say was that the House, in its corporate character, had been taken by surprise. Under the circumstances, therefore, he did not think that they should, without further explanation of the grounds on which Mr. Bradlaugh took this step, instead of himself either taking the Chiltern Hundreds, or instead of his constituency coming forward and presenting a Petition on the subject, exercise their discretion in the sense of issuing a Writ at the present time. As far as he could make out, it was a matter upon which the House had a perfect right to exercise its discretion, and he did not see sufficient grounds for issuing a Writ at the present time.

Question put, and negatived.

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


I must point out that the House has negatived the latter part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton, and also the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. The words of the Resolution which is now before the House are these— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the Election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament, in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, who.


Might I be allowed to add the words, "who has been twice prevented from taking the Oath prescribed by law?"


Does the hon. Member propose that the Question should be put to the House?


Yes, Sir, without the word "who."


The only course that I can adopt is to put the Question to the House as it stands. The House can say "Aye" or "No."

Main Question, as amended, put.

The House divided:—Ayes 18; Noes 307: Majority 289.—(Div. List, No. 15.)

[Upon the numbers being declared, Mr. BRADLAUGH suddenly advanced to the Table, and read from a Paper, in his hand, the words of the Oath, and having kissed a Copy of the New Testament which he had brought with him, signed the said Paper.]


I have to remind the hon. Member of the Resolution of this House of the 7th of February, and in pursuance of that Resolution, I have now to order the hon. Member to withdraw below the Bar.


I obey your direction, Sir, and withdraw below the Bar; but I have now taken the Oath, and shall now take my seat.

[Mr. BRADLAUGH thereupon withdrew below the Bar, leaving the said Paper and Copy of the New Testament upon the Table, but immediately re-entered the House, and took a seat within the Bar.]


The hon. Member has not carried out my directions, which were that he should withdraw below the Bar.


I did obey your directions, Sir; and now, having, in pursuance of the law, taken and subscribed the Oath, according to law, I have taken my seat.


In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 7th of February, I must call upon the hon. Member now to withdraw below the Bar, and to remain there.


I obey your directions, Sir, having taken my seat according to law and claiming my right to take it.

[Mr. BRADLAUGH then again withdrew below the Bar.]


On a Question of Privilege, Sir, I beg to submit to the House that the seat for Northampton has now been vacated. The hon. Member for Northampton having taken his seat in this House without having taken and subscribed the Oath provided by law in the manner and in accordance with the Statute, his seat has been vacated, in the words of the Statute, "as if he were dead." I therefore, Sir, beg to move— That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the election of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Northampton, in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, who, since his election, has sat in the House without having taken and subscribed the Oath according to Law.


I am sure the House will fully understand the importance of this question, and enter with deliberation into it, and not hastily, under the excitement produced by the hon. Member for Northampton having taken the course he has done. I have to ask the House whether it will not take time for further consideration. I am not overstating it at this present moment; but I think the House will see that a very grave matter indeed has to be considered before going forward with this Motion. The House will not, perhaps, bear in mind the exact words of the Statute on which alone the noble Lord can found his Motion, and perhaps they will forgive me if I read them. It first deals with the case of the House of Lords— If any Member of the House of Peers votes by himself or his Proxy in the House of Peers, or sits as a Peer during any debate in the said House, without having made and subscribed the Oath hereby appointed, he shall for every such offence he subject to a Penalty of Five hundred Pounds. The section then proceeds to the Members of the House of Commons— And if any Member of the House of Commons votes as such in the said House, or sits during any debate after the Speaker has been chosen, without having made and subscribed the Oath hereby appointed, he shall be subject to a like Penalty for every such offence, and in addition to such Penalty his Seat shall be vacated in the same manner as if he were dead. The words to which I would draw attention are—"Or sits during any debate after the Speaker has been chosen"—[Cries of "Finish!"]—and "in addition to such penalty his seat shall be vacated." Of course, I thought the House was aware of that. The noble Lord has drawn the Motion, which he has put into the Speaker's hands, omitting the words "or sits during any debate." There are several questions before this House. There is, first, the question, on which I have expressed no opinion whatever, whether what the hon. Member has done has been a taking of the Oath at all. The House has prescribed 110 manner in which the Oath shall be taken, except that it should be taken at the Table. ["Oh, oh!"] I say that I express no opinion upon that point, especially in face of the Resolution arrived at that he should not take it. I do not commit myself to saying that is a taking of the Oath. But I do say that if the hon. Member has been advised to take this course, and has been advised that thereby he has fulfilled the necessity imposed upon him by the 3rd section of the Act, this House ought not to deprive him by immediate Resolution of taking the course of trying the validity of his claim. If he be wrong in what he is doing, he has subjected himself to a penalty of £500, which can be recovered in a Court of Law, and he can be prevented sitting again, and his seat will become vacant. But there is another very grave question involved. Has the hon. Member "sat" in this House during any debate? On that point also I must not express any opinion; but the impression on my mind is that the hon. Member has not sat during any debate. There was no Question before the House; and I ask you, Sir, whether it can be said—I am not cavilling with technicalities—there was any Question before the House, or that he can be said to have "sat" during any debate? I admit this is a new point; but is the House now about to act upon the construction of the Statute upon the spur of the moment, and without consideration? If the hon. Member has sat during the debate, that legal question can be tested in a Court of Law, and he can be made to suffer the penalty of £500; and in. consequence of that the seat will become vacant. I appeal to the House whether they think it right, these grave questions being involved, to accept off-hand the Motion of the noble Lord, and to set aside a judicial question which can be decided most properly in a Court of Law.


I wish, Sir, to make a suggestion. The question can be referred to a judicial tribunal if any person takes action against Mr. Bradlaugh. We may assume that someone who agrees with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock that Mr. Brad-laugh has sat in this House and taken the Oath will do so. I have just been to Mr. Bradlaugh to ask him whether he agrees to this. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members say "Oh, oh!" but surely this is a judicial question, and I must ask hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to look at it fairly. The allegation of the noble Lord on the other side is that Mr. Bradlaugh has sat in this House without taking the Oath prescribed by law. Mr. Brad-laugh's contention, on the other hand is that he has taken the Oath as prescribed by law, and, consequently, that he has a legal right to sit. I suggested to Mr. Bradlaugh just now that the question might be at once decided by a Court of Law if any Gentleman will—and I presume that course will be taken at once—take action against Mr. Bradlaugh. It might be decided in 10 or 12 days. At the same time, as the point has been raised whether Mr. Bradlaugh did sit during the debate, Mr. Bradlaugh agrees that he will not raise that point, but will accept the view of the noble Lord that he has sat, and during those 10 or 12 days, or any reasonable time that may be necessary, Mr. Bradlaugh will not sit and vote in this House, but will keep outside the Bar. I think that is a fair and reasonable proposal to make; and I appeal to the hon. Gentle- men opposite whether it is not one that ought to be accepted?


I venture to suggest, in reply to the observations of the hon. and learned Attorney General and of the hon. Member for Northampton, that the House has only one course to pursue. Mr. Bradlaugh has deliberately, with intention, and, I may almost say, of malice aforethought, offered a wanton insult to the House of Commons. This is not the first time that the House of Commons has been deliberately insulted by Mr. Bradlaugh. We have not forgotten the disgraceful scenes that took place last Session—the riot stimulated in the Lobby by Mr. Bradlaugh endeavouring to force his way into the House by sheer muscular force. There will not be any Member of the House who does not severely blame Mr. Bradlaugh for the course and conduct he adopted that day. ["No, no!"] An hon. Member dissents; but I venture to think that they are in a very small minority, and a minority not worthy of very high consideration, who are of opinion that Mr. Bradlaugh's conduct on that occasion was not deserving of the utmost censure. Well, the House of Commons, after a deliberate discussion—a discussion without the slightest passion on one side or the other—arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Bradlaugh was incapable of taking the Oath. [Cries of "Order" and "Spoke!"] I think I have the right to reply. This Resolution of the House Mr. Bradlaugh has deliberately contemned, and in a manner, perhaps, the most insulting that could be imagined. He, an avowed Atheist, advances to this Table, pulls out of his pocket a Testament, or what purports to be a Testament—for we have not the slightest guarantee that it was not The Fruits of Philosophy——


Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. The noble Lord has moved a Resolution; but, as I understand, no Amendment has been moved since. Has the noble Lord a right to address the House?


The noble Lord has submitted to the House a substantive Motion, and he is entitled to reply.


I was saying that the House has no guarantee whatever that the book which Mr. Bradlaugh produced was a New Testament. I was not in the House at the time; but I understand that Mr. Bradlaugh went to the Table and signed a piece of paper, which he found at the Table, or which he produced out of his pocket. And he has the extraordinary—what shall I say?—the insanity to imagine that such a course of conduct as that—such a pretence of complying with a most sacred and solemn form, is not the most deliberate insult which could be offered to the House. May I point out what is the conduct of the Government under these circumstances? The Attorney General—the learned Attorney General—gets up in his place, and contends that legally that may have been a taking of the Oath prescribed by law. He carefully guarded himself from saying it was not so. This book—this piece of paper—the learned Attorney General will not affirm did not constitute a legal taking of the Oath. Really, I do submit to the House that we have tolerated enough of the insults and violence and threats of force from Mr. Bradlaugh. It is high time that the House should assert its dignity, and the only way in which it can do so is by taking prompt and decisive action. The words of the Statute declare that a Member having sat in the House without having taken the Oath prescribed by law vacates his seat as if he were dead. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: In a Court of Law.] These matters have nothing to do with a Court of Law. It is matter within the competence of the House itself; and I do not think hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will care to relegate the question to the decision of the Courts of Law. I therefore implore the House to act promptly in this matter, and take instant notice of the insulting action that Mr. Bradlaugh, in defiance of your orders, Mr. Speaker, to him, has taken, and to declare instantly that the seat for Northampton is vacant.


I shall endeavour to discuss the matter which is before us in the spirit of calmness in which my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has approached it, and in which, so far as I can judge, it will be approached, if approached at all, by the great majority of the more responsible Members of this House. I make this observation on the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill)— that it is hardly relevant, so far as I can understand, to the Motion which he has submitted to the House. ["Oh!"] I am sorry to hear an observation from the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett). He should restrain the enthusiasm of his soul. This is a matter which, it appears to me, we ought to argue in the driest possible manner, and with an absolute determination to restrain every excess of feeling which might possibly divert us from the strict path of duty. Now, the inconsistency which I perceived in the speech of the noble Lord is this—that it was entirely addressed to the point that Mr. Bradlaugh had deliberately insulted the House of Commons. That, I consider, might very properly be made a subject of a Motion to that effect; and if made the subject of a Motion to that effect, and the House of Commons adopts that judgment, then unquestionably I, for one, am not prepared for an instant to contest the proposition that the House of Commons is competent—morally as well as Constitutionally—to punish by expulsion a Member so insulting the House. But that is not the Motion of the noble Lord. The Motion of the noble Lord purported to be based on a purely legal foundation; and when I heard the first speech of the noble Lord, what I regretted was that his exposition of his case was insufficient. I did not feel the slightest disposition to treat his argument as one obviously idle and futile; but I did feel that that argument had no development given to it so as to enable us to judge whether it was one on which we ought immediately to act. Thereupon my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General rose and suggested to the House that the case was an exceedingly novel one. We very often hear of the House being taken by surprise; but I do not imagine that there has ever been, in the matter of delicacy and difficulty, a case of a surprise so complete. [Mr. O'DONNELL: There was no surprise at all.] I do not speak of what may have happened to the hon. Member, who, as usual, salutes me with communications of his opinions while I am endeavouring to impart my own; and, so far as I am myself concerned, and so far as those sitting near me are concerned, we had not the emotest idea of the course Mr. Bradlaugh was about to take, either before he began to march up the floor, or even when he arrived at the Table and produced from his pocket the paper he has since deposited in its place. Now, that being the ease, what has my hon. and learned Friend done? He has not asked the House to produce an opinion; he has not endeavoured to renew the proposal made at the beginning of the Session. The House having determined to seize itself the jurisdiction in this matter, we were disposed, in perfect good faith, to conform to that judgment as far as we consistently can, and we do not dream at this moment of proposing or asking anything that is inconsistent with it. What my hon. and learned Friend has felt—and I confess I entirely share his feeling, and so do those who sit near me—is, that the points raised are points of great nicety. The question before us is not the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh ought to be punished for insult offered' to the House. That question, if it be' thought fit, should be discussed and decided on its own merits. The question is, whether by the act he has done he has now deliberately vacated his seat. Now, my hon. and learned Friend has adverted to two points; there is the question whether, under the terms of the Statute, this proceeding through which Mr. Bradlaugh has passed is a taking of the Oath or not. My hon. and learned Friend carefully guarded himself against the asserting or even implying that those proceedings were the taking of the Oath. He only mentioned that as a point to be raised. He has adverted to another point as a point of very great nicety, upon which he is most reluctant to be committed either to an affirmative or a negative, and that is that the point arising under the words of the Statute would subject a Member who is to be brought under liability to penalty, under the punishment also of vacating his seat should he sit in this House during a debate. The question arises—Has Mr. Bradlaugh sat in the House "during a debate?" It is plain that by the mere attempt, or, if you like, the pretence of taking the Oath, he would not be held to have vacated his seat. But he has also disobeyed the ruling of the Chair. The House, then, may proceed in consequence of that disobedience to the punishment of Mr. Bradlaugh. But let the House con-eider its course. The circumstances are entirely novel. Primâ facie I venture to say that it appears to me that Mr. Bradlaugh has not sat during a debate. At the time when Mr. Bradlaugh appeared before us—came to this Table and tittered the words in the Act which he has thought fit to do—the act of the House which had immediately preceded those acts of his was the determination of the question of a division on which you made an announcement from the Chair, and no new Question had been put, for there was no new point before the House, and therefore there was neither debate, nor the possibility of a debate. Now, Sir, having said this, I sit down, and I really submit it with great confidence to the House. I think I have spoken of this matter in a manner without prejudice, which might have been used with perfect consistency by any Gentleman who had taken the opposite view of this case at the early stages. All I ask the House is, let us have the advantage of taking a little time to consider our course. It will be free to the noble Lord to raise the question of Mr. Bradlaugh's disobedience in any form he pleases. That is not the question now. What I am speaking of is that we should not, with a haste altogether unnecessary, run the risk of committing ourselves to steps of which we might have afterwards to repent. At the same time, although I am inclined with my hon. and learned Friend to ask for time, I would suggest that the time should be as brief as possible, and therefore I will propose to move the adjournment of the debate, and if the Motion is agreed to I will suggest that the debate be taken at the Sitting of to-morrow. I move that this debate be now adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


Sir, I think the course suggested by the Prime Minister is one well worthy of the acceptance of the House. It is obvious that there are many topics which require and demand consideration before we can come to any vote on the question. I am not surprised at the vigour and warmth with which my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) has spoken; and I will venture to say that if this serious incident had taken place before, instead of after, the Motion on which we recently divided, the result might have been largely affected. What has taken place this evening? Mr. Bradlaugh walks down strongly and resolutely to the Bar of the House, and past the Bar of the House, and defiantly and knowingly violates the Rules and Orders made in this House, and before he can be stopped, and before the House can well know what he is doing, gabbles through a form from a book, and then lays the book upon the Table and hands some paper to the Officer. Is that a course of conduct calculated to commend the hon. Member for Northampton to the favourable notice or sympathy of the House? I venture to say that whatever may be the decision of the House to-morrow, or at some later time, that proceeding was an outrage and a scandal to the House. And I think we might have at least expected this from the Attorney General, when he rose to speak, that he would say something to indicate that he dissented from the mode of action adopted by the hon. Member for Northampton—that he would express his strong censure of the course adopted by the hon. Member for Northampton. Instead of that, the Attorney General most unquestionably indicated that he thought that the action which I call an outrage might very well be submitted to a Court of Law. That was the sole criticism made by the Attorney General on the acts of the hon. Member for Northampton, and therefore I am gratified that the Prime Minister has been enabled to state distinctly and authoritatively to the House that the action of the hon. Member for Northampton had neither been foreseen nor anticipated by anyone on the Government Bench. Another question which was raised by the Motion of my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock was whether the sitting of the hon. Member for Northampton on those Benches in the House meant a sitting during a debate. That is another question to be decided upon somewhat different considerations. Of course, we shall have to be guided very largely by the Leader of the House as to when the adjourned debate should be resumed. I think it is desirable in the interests of discussion that the debate should be adjourned, and I am glad that the Prime Minister has made the Motion for adjournment.


said, he had witnessed with surprise and horror the approach of Mr. Bradlaugh to the Table of the House, and he considered that by what he had done the hon. Member had distinctly broken his parole. He was admitted to take a seat below the Bar on the honourable understanding that he would not take any steps to put himself at that Table to do what he could only call snatching the Oath. For when he has previously obtruded himself upon the House, he was by special Resolution excluded from its precincts. He had no hesitation in saying that the action of the hon. Member for Northampton was a scandalous outrage on the House. Though what the hon. Member had done was not in any strict and moral sense the taking of the Oath, yet it possibly might be held to be a legal fulfilment of the Statute, and if that was the case the noble Lord's position would be upset. He therefore gave Notice that, as an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, he would move— That Charles Bradlaugh, in tendering himself to take an Oath which he declared to include words to him of an idle and meaningless character, was guilty of profanation; and that he be and is hereby declared incapable of sitting in this Parliament; and that he be forthwith discharged from further attendance thereon.


Sir, I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that this is a question on which we should speak and act with care and consideration, and with as much preservation of our tempers as is possible; but, at the same time, I wish to point out that it is a matter on which a grave insult has been offered to the House. I earnestly trust the House will not allow its command of itself to go so far as in any way to make light of or pass by that insult. There are two distinct questions—one is whether the hon. Member, by taking a seat for a moment on that Bench, has or has not vacated the seat under the terms of the Statute? That is the question raised by my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock, and it is one well worthy of consideration. But the other, and, as it seems to me, the more important question, is what we have to do in respect of the insult which the hon. Gentleman has certainly offered to the House. I do not go so far as to say he has broken any parole, because I do not understand that he gave any parole. But I wish to point out that three times over this House has adopted, by considerable majorities, a Resolution that the hon. Gentleman shall not be permitted to take the Oath, and that the hon. Member, in defiance of these repeated orders, and in defiance of the precautions given to him by the Speaker in the Chair to withdraw below the Bar, has done the very thing which the House ordered should not be done. Under these circumstances, the dignity of the House is greatly concerned. I quite see the point which is raised by the Attorney General with regard to the construction of the Statute. It may be, but I would not pronounce any opinion on such a matter myself, that we might come to the conclusion that he has not come exactly within the terms of the Statute; but it would be unfortunate that we should, in considering that question, allow the grave offence, of which there is no doubt whatever, to pass unchallenged and untouched. Now, I want to know, and this is principally my object in rising, whether it is the intention of the Government to make any proposal with regard to the insult that has been offered to the House? I think, myself, it is the duty of those who are responsible for the dignity of this House to take some stop or other—and I am far from asking anything to be done in any hot haste, or in an unseemly way—but I wish to know whether the Government will be prepared, when this debate is resumed, or when the House next meets, to submit any proposal to the House upon the subject? I think it cannot be left as it is, and it is so grave that I am unwilling to specify at the present moment, or to ask anyone else to specify, the precise measure that ought to be taken. All I ask is—Will the Government, between this time and to-morrow, if the debate be adjourned till to-morrow, decide on taking some step to vindicate the outrage on the House? If that cannot be done to-morrow, it would be necessary to ask for an adjournment till Thursday. But I am quite sure that when the House is insulted it ought to act with as much promptitude as is consistent with the Rules of the House.


said, he thought it would suggest itself to every Member of the House that the book or books, paper or papers, which the hon. Member for Northampton had deposited under the Table of the House should not by any means be allowed to pass into the custody of the responsible Officers of the House, because the House did not know what further legal quibble might be raised in such an event. They did not at present know whether the book which, he believed, had temporarily passed into the possession of the Prime Minister, was a pocket-book or a copy of Secular Songs and Ceremonies, once favourably referred to by an eminent personage; and it was not the business of the House to inquire. He was, as he believed hon. Members from Ireland around him were, quite in favour of the Motion for adjourning the consideration of this most important question. In his opinion, Mr. Bradlaugh was at that moment just in the same position as he was two hours ago. He had really committed a most grave and shocking offence against the House, and against the conscience and honour of all honourable men. Therefore, though it was very probable that the House, interpreting most conscientiously the words "sitting during a debate," might consider that the condition of disqualification had not been entirely fulfilled, he was quite satisfied with regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) and the Resolution referred to by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote). He could not exaggerate the enormity of the offence which the House had just witnessed. He was sure he need only conclude by expressing his sorrow and regret that those who were responsible for the maintenance of the order of the House, and those who proposed special Rules for the maintenance of order and decorum in the House, had not felt it incumbent upon them to utter a single word of honest regret at the outrage that had been perpetrated upon Parliament.


said, he must express his regret that the Government was inefficiently served by its Whips—that it was not communicated to the Prime Minister that this pre-arranged outrage was about to take place. As he (Mr. Callan) was about to leave the House after the last division, he was informed that Mr. Bradlaugh was to take the Oath and his seat, and he came back to see if that was the case. He could hardly believe that if an outrage of that sort was known beforehand to Members who did not belong to Mr. Bradlaugh's peculiar sect, it could have been kept from the ears of some Members of Her Majesty's Government. He could only express the hope that the House would not adjourn the debate till Thursday. To-morrow was the most fitting day for the discussion of this subject. They would be in a better spirit to enter into it. Last night they had the humiliation of hearing the introduction of a measure to gag them. To-morrow, being Ash Wednesday, was a day, according to the Christion religion, for putting on sackcloth and ashes, and the House could not be more fittingly engaged on that day than in discussing, in such humiliating garb, the insult offered to it by a blasphemous infidel.


said, he rose to express his assent to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and further to ask the Prime Minister whether he would not give some answer to the appeal that had been made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. There were two questions now before the House. One was the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) as to whether the hon. Member for Northampton had, by his recent action, vacated his seat, which was reserved for discussion to-morrow; and the other was the far more important question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, which brooked no delay, and which should, when the House sat to-morrow, be the first Business brought before it—whether the Prime Minister was prepared to recommend to the House some means by which the House could assert its own dignity and punish the gross insult which had just been offered to it. He hoped that before the Motion for the adjournment of the debate was agreed to, the House would have some assurance from the Prime Minister on these points.


said, that undoubtedly it was the intention of the Government to utilize the time, if any should be left at their disposal, between the present moment and the meeting of the House to-morrow, for the purpose of considering what course it would be their duty to take with reference to the whole matter.


gave Notice that tomorrow he should move the following Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock:— That the conduct of Charles Bradlaugh in pretending to take and to subscribe to the Oath is a wanton insult to the House and a defiance of the Resolution of the 7th of February, 1882, and that for such conduct he be committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

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