§ RESOLUTION. [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ MR. MACFARLANE
Sir, before the discussion commences upon the question of a new Writ for Northampton I wish to ask you, Sir, a Question upon a point of Order—namely, whether the signature in the Test Book is not essential to the completion of the taking of the Oath prescribed by law for Members of this House, such signature in the Test Book being the only record that the test of the Oath of Allegiance has been complied with?
§ MR. SPEAKER
According to the established custom of the House hon. Members, having affirmed or taken the Oath of Allegiance, are always called upon to sign the Test Book; but I am not prepared to say—it is a question for the House to decide—whether an hon. Member's not doing so, of itself, invalidates his return.
Order read, for resuming: Adjourned Debate on Question [21st February],
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."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
Sir, I have no right or title to express any opinion, or to make any Motion upon this subject, by the strict Forms of the House; but, as I stated last night, it would be the duty of the Government, at any rate, to consult together, and to state such opinions as they arrived at. I think the House would perhaps be of opinion that I ought to acquaint the House with the views which we are disposed to take at the present time in the difficult circumstances in which we are placed. But it must be understood that is entirely by the indulgence of the House, and, therefore, subject to the pleasure of the House. If that be so, Sir, I will proceed. There are some matters upon which, at any rate, I think it is quite plain that all must be agreed. The first is, that the scene which took place last night was painful, and even scandalous, in the highest degree. On one point, I may say that, quite apart from the case of Mr. Bradlaugh—this is an interpolated observation—it appears to me that there is a matter in which provision ought to be made for maintaining in future the Order of the House. It will be remembered, in the first place, that Mr. Bradlaugh last night—as I think he has done upon several former occasions—advanced from the Bar to the Table without any call from the Speaker in the Chair. Now, I admit fully that that has been done on former occasions, and therefore I only point to it as a question of general prudence. But the House will also bear in mind that, as a rule, no Member advances from the Bar to the Table when the Speaker is in the Chair for any purpose whatever without being called upon by the Speaker; and I own it appears to me, quite independently of what the House may think fit to do on this occasion, that it would be prudent 1316 that Mr. Speaker should be armed with authority to arrest the progress of anyone who advances from the Bar to the Table without being called by the Speaker. That I only mention incidentally and as a point of prudence, and it does not necessarily dispose of the grave case before us. The question before us, in the first place, presents itself in connection with the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill); and, as far as it has been possible to give consideration to the Motion of the noble Lord, I do not think it is our opinion that it relieves the House from the difficulty in which it is placed. The Motion of the noble Lord proposes—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.That Motion is open, I think the noble Lord himself will see, to various objections. The fact of having sat in the House does not of itself vacate the seat, or entail a penalty, unless he has sat in the House during debate, and therefore the Motion is insufficient, inasmuch it does not allege that Mr. Bradlaugh has sat in the House during debate, and it also determines—what is a pure point of law in which the noble Lord may be right—it is not for me to say that he is not—the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh has, or has not, taken the Oath in the sense of the Statute. The other remark which I have made—that the noble Lord only alleges his having sat in the House, whereas the Statute requires that he should sit in the House during debate—is in the nature of a strong practical objection to the Motion of the noble Lord, considering it as a mode of escape from the difficulty that we have to encounter. But the speech of the noble Lord and the speeches of other Members not unnaturally have referred to a matter quite distinct—that is, to the conduct of Mr. Bradlaugh, which is described in the Votes and Proceedings of the House last night, and printed under the authority of the Speaker, and which is no doubt described with all the care that the time permitted. After the division had taken 1317 place upon the question of issuing a new Writ for Northampton, and the numbers had been declared, the description runs thus—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. Mr. Speaker forthwith directed Mr. Bradlaugh to withdraw, in pursuance of the Resolution of the House of the 7th February last. 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. Mr. Speaker again directed Mr. Bradlaugh to withdraw below the Bar. And Mr. Bradlaugh, after stating that he had now taken the Oath required by Law, and had also taken his seat, again withdrew below the Bar.There are other circumstances; but this is, I apprehend, a very accurate description of "what took place, without any colouring of the matter whatever. But, Sir, I have taken a very strong view of this case from the first, and further examination has confirmed me in that view. While all those, I think, who are near me were strongly persuaded as to the impolicy and impropriety of the assumption of jurisdiction by the House, my view has been, and is, that the House was, in the course it has repeatedly adopted, acting beyond its powers. [Crits of "No!"] No! Well, I am stating what my view is, and I think that hon. Members opposite will find it very difficult to prove that that is not my opinion. That opinion has been frankly avowed from the first. I have been in a minority on every occasion except one with respect to this question—that the House was acting beyond its powers, and that whatever the means of fulfilling or giving effect to it might be, the law was against the action of the House. That has been the strange position in which I have been placed, finding myself, as Leader of the House, incapable on this important matter of discharging what is ordinarily the duty of the Leader of the House, and endeavouring to give effect to the will of the majority. Notwithstanding that, I wish to make a perfectly frank statement of the position of the case. Even upon the facts as I have read them from the Votes, it is quite evident that this is a case, first of all, of disobedience; secondly, of repeated disobedience; and, thirdly, it is 1318 a case of flagrant disobedience. Moreover, there is an additional matter of irritation and concern to the House—that the House was taken by surprise in a sense somewhat higher than that phrase is generally used, because the House was certainly not under the belief that any attempt of the kind was to be made by Mr. Bradlaugh. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), I think, disclaimed any intention of charging the hon. Member with a breach of parole, because he did not think there had been any engagement with him; and probably the noble Lord is right in that respect. At the same time, a surprise was practised upon the House, and the circumstances were painful and irritating in a high degree. Now, Sir, if I put myself in the position of the majority of the House—and that, for argument's sake, it is right to do—I cannot imagine that the majority is disposed to acquiesce in the state of things as it now exists. The proper course for me, perhaps, first of all, is to look at the case from their point of view, and then from the opposite point of view. The opposite point of view may be dismissed very briefly. Mr. Bradlaugh's doctrine is that he is defending the rights of his constituents, and that he is endeavouring to act upon the provisions of the law. That has been his point of view from the first; he has urged that again and again, and, knowing that, the Government have taken the course that they have actually pursued. Last night—and I have no authority to interpret his actions, for I have no connection, direct or indirect, with him or his Friends—but I assume tills—that my hon. Friend the sitting Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) made the Motion which he did make, in concert, in some sense, with Mr. Bradlaugh, or with the consent of Mr. Bradlaugh. That was an attempt to pass out of this difficulty in which we are involved by placing the constituency in a position to be fully represented in Parliament. I so understand it; the House having refused permission to Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat, the object of the Motion was to permit the constituency to supply the remedy of its own grievances by returning some person to Parliament. That Motion, however, was rejected by a large majority, and what appears on the face of the case is that 1319 Mr. Bradlaugh seems to have acted on the opinion that, inasmuch as the Statute does not make any mention of the administration of the Oath by the Officers of the House, but simply the taking of the Oath by the Member, in a certain state of the House, he was complying with the requirements in what he has done. He may have thought—though in flagrant disobedience of all the Orders of the House—as the House has refused to open its doors or declare the seat vacant—"If I proceed to the Table and take the Oath that may be the legal taking of the Oath." On the other hand, the House has again and again declared its view, and on the 7th of February it passed a Resolution excluding Mr. Brad-laugh, and literally in the teeth of this the act was done last night. He did go through the form of taking the Oath in disobedience of the House. That is the position of the case at the present moment as fairly as I can state it. Under these circumstances, I am obliged to consider what course has been taken up to the present time. It has been this—the Votes of the House may be said to have been consistent or inconsistent. I need not enter upon that now. In the main, the House has taken a line from which we have dissented, and, I believe, on three separate occasions, we have been compelled to witness the majority of the House proceeding in this matter in a sense entirely different to that which we presumed to recommend and advise. The House, of course, proceeded in the perfect exercise of its right. We had to consider, therefore, what course it was best for us to take under these circumstances; and the conclusion which we arrived at on former occasions, without, I think, any doubt or hesitation, was that, acting on the principle, which is an old-established principle in this House, that having been the minority—not endeavouring to direct the proceedings of the House in this matter for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the majority—we would leave it to the majority of the House of Commons, whether with a Leader or not, to take its own course, and that we would respectfully defer to, and on no account offer any needless obstruction to, the proceedings of the majority for the purpose of giving effect to its will. That is the practice well known in the proceedings of this House. I may illustrate it in this way. It is a 1320 common case, in which a Motion is submitted to the House by the Government or the Party opposite. An Amendment is moved. The Amendment is opposed by the Mover and his Friends. The Mover and his Friends are defeated upon a division, and the Amendment adopted; but it is only adopted as a part of the Main Question put from the Chair by the Speaker. Then the Mover and his Friends may carry on further opposition; but in general the House acts on the principle, and defers to the will of the majority. Now, that has been the course that we have endeavoured to take as consistently as we can, only with the distinction—and it is, perhaps, right to refer to it—that when the Executive of the House, when you, Sir, from the Chair, have been defied and directly disobeyed, which is not the case now before us—[Cries of "Oh!"] Not directly. [Renewed ones of "Oh, oh!"] I am by no means prepared to enter into the question whether full obedience was paid to the Speaker, or whether it was evasive. That may be another matter. Direct disobedience was not offered. ["Oh, oh!"] I only mention that, because whenever the Executive authority of the House has been disobeyed, then I apprehend on principle it is quite clear that, inasmuch as the Executive authority of the House cannot possibly rectify the errors of decisions of the House, the Executive authority must necessarily be carried through and supported. I do not wish to raise any point of difference in this state of the question. Perhaps I had better put it in this way—that no question arose of supporting the authority of the Chair. I think that is the fair and, I hope, a perfectly unexceptionable way of stating it. Now, upon these facts we cannot but suppose there is a disposition to require some very strong measure to be taken against Mr. Bradlaugh. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) has already given Notice of a Motion upon the subject which, perhaps, expresses the general and prevailing sense of the House. He proposes that Mr. Bradlaugh—Be and is hereby declared incapable of sitting in this Parliament; and that he be forthwith discharged from further attendance thereon.There may be a question whether that is the best mode in which to give effect 1321 to the feelings of the majority, and I only refer to it as an exhibition of the prevailing sense of the House. I have no doubt that some Motion will be made to give effect to those feelings; but, having considered for myself as well as I can the position in which we stand, I am perfectly persuaded, for the honour and dignity of the House, it is best that I should continue the course which has heretofore been adopted. ["Oh, oh!"] That is my view. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, hon. Gentlemen—one hon. Gentleman opposite, and many others in the same quarter of the House—dissent from me, and I receive that with regret; but I may say that I am afraid that the conclusions at which I arrive do not very frequently meet with approval from them. I intend, as far as I am concerned, to leave it to the majority to consider in what method they ought to give effect, if they think it necessary to give effect, to the Resolutions and repeated decisions of this House. I do not attempt to draw any fine distinctions in this matter. I have admitted to you frankly that there has been a flagrant disobedience of the Resolutions which many of us—a very large minority—considered to be impolitic and improper Resolutions. I have said that all along I have held that the House was exceeding its legal powers. But whore it is a matter of the amount of the disobedience that has been offered, I can make no apology or extenuation in regard to it. If the authority of the House be supreme, it is for those who believe it to be supreme to propose what they think necessary. For me, who do not believe it to be supreme, and who think such an authority does not belong to it, it would be an act of inconsistency were I to take into my hands the direction of the mode in which the feeling of the majority shall be given effect to. I shall regard with the same deference as I have hitherto done the proceedings which the House may adopt. I deeply lament the wide difference, the wide chasm of opinion, by which I have felt myself to be separated from the majority of the House in this matter. As respects the deplorable sentiments which possess the mind of Mr. Bradlaugh, these, I hope, have not, at any time, been the direct or avowed subject of discussion among us. I have felt it my duty on every occasion to exclude, not only from 1322 my discourse, but from my mind, all reference to them, for fear I should be biassed by one single hair's breadth from the strict path of justice. That is the course in which I still desire and shall endeavour to act. The deference that I have paid to the opinion of the majority I shall continue to pay. I think the majority is best qualified to perform the duty of judging in what manner, if it thinks fit—and it will not excite my surprise if it thinks fit—to proceed in this important matter. I cannot but say that I anticipate, before the close of this long controversy, many painful and embarrassing results. If I saw open to me a mode of relieving the House from embarrassment without disparagement to justice, I would at once avail myself of it; but I see no such mode, and I think I shall best discharge my duty in embarrassing and difficult circumstances—admitting that there is room for difference of opinion in impartial minds—by leaving it, as on a former occasion, on the majority which took a strong and decisive line, no doubt under conscientious convictions, against Mr. Bradlaugh, to devise the means by which they may think fit to give effect to their decision.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker, I only rise at this moment for the purpose of putting a question to you. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that there was no direct act of disobedience to your orders yesterday.
I did state that; but, at the same time, I said that I did not wish to raise any such point; it was quite unnecessary for my purpose to make that statement; and, therefore, when it was objected to, I followed it up by saying that I thought it would be generally admitted that there was no direct conflict with the Chair requiring any appeal from the Chair to the House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish. Sir, to ask you—was it not the case, although it is not distinctly mentioned in the Record of our proceedings, that at the time Mr. Bradlaugh advanced to the Table you were standing in your place and were ordering him to retire? That he disobeyed, and that during the time that he was going through the form which he went through at the Table you were actually calling his attention to the Resolution of the 1323 House passed on the 7th. of February, and ordering him to withdraw?
§ MR. SPEAKER
With regard to the question of disobedience to the order of the Chair, I have to say this—that when Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself at the Table I rose and I called, "Order, Order!" my intention being to stop him from taking the Oath. Of course, when the Speaker rises and calls "Order" it is the duty of every Member to resume his seat. As the House knows, that call was disregarded by Mr. Bradlaugh, and disregard of a call to "Order" from the Chair is an act of contempt; and the act of proceeding to take the Oath in the manner he did was done in disobedience of the order of the Chair. I think it right to say, further, that afterwards I directed Mr. Bradlaugh to retire below the Bar of the House, and he did so retire below the Bar, but he immediately afterwards came within the Bar; and I consider that also to have been a disobedience to the order of the Chair.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
After that statement, Sir, just now made, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether that statement in any way modifies the view which he has expressed?
No, Sir; it does not. I stated distinctly that, in my opinion, the disobedience to the House had been carried to the highest point. The disobedience to the Chair had not reached the point which made it necessary for the Speaker to appeal for the assistance of the House; but I did not in the least degree mention this as affecting the responsibility of Mr. Bradlaugh or the character of his acts. I mentioned it only that I might be quite accurate in describing the action of the Government; and I stated, as on former occasions, that I would be ready to support the Chair whenever the Chair found it necessary to appeal to the House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I can only say, Sir, that I think the House has great reason to complain of the conduct of its Leader. It is perfectly true that from the beginning of these proceedings the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues have taken a different view from that which has been taken by, I may say, all who sit on this side, and by no inconsiderable number of Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House. It is perfectly true that the 1324 right hon. Gentleman has been warranted in saying on many occasions that, as the decisions of the House were taken by a majority against the will and the advice of himself and his Colleagues, the majority must take a certain responsibility upon themselves with regard to the results which might arise from them. And when questions have been raised of a character which appear to be such as the majority has to consider and deal with as necessarily flowing from their action, undoubtedly the Government may have had a strong case for saying that—"You, the majority, decided that a certain step should be taken, and you must take the consequences of what you have done, and we must call on you to devise what course you will take as the result of what has arisen from your action." Those logical consequences, which involve, for instance, the question whether the seat is vacant, whether a new Writ should be issued, and various points of that sort, are matters which we may debate and dispute about; but there is one thing which I had always thought we were all agreed was not a matter to be discussed among us, and that is that it is the duty of the House to maintain the order of its proceedings; that we have a right to call on the Leader of the House to give us not only his advice, but his assistance in maintaining the Order of the House. The right hon. Gentleman admits this to a limited extent. He says that if the Speaker is in such a position as to be obliged to call upon the House for its assistance he is not unwilling to give that advice and assistance. But if matters stop short of the Speaker actually in so many words making that appeal, however gross may be the disobedience, however daring it may be, the right hon. Gentleman considers himself not to be at all bound to offer advice, and all he can say is that the matter is a very difficult one, and he would recommend us to take care what we are about, because the consequences may be awkward. If the recognized Leader of the House is to get up and make such observations as these, that, I say, is distinctly weakening the hands of the House. I feel, Sir, that it is not my duty, nor the duty of any of us who sit on this side, to take out of the hands of the Leader of the House that duty which lies, I think, entirely on him. I think that primarily it is his duty, when 1325 an act of this kind has been committed, to advise the House how that insult upon the House is to be met. I may say that when, on former occasions, I have more than once taken on myself to make recommendations to the House, I have always limited those recommendations as much as I could to the strict necessities of the case. When there has been disorder in the House, and the Leader of the House has not made any proposal with regard to such disorder, I have given such advice and proposed such courses to the House as appeared to be demanded by the necessities of the situation. I do not consider that it is necessary for me or advisable for me to offer the House counsel as to the mode in which it is to vindicate its honour against the conduct of Mr. Bradlaugh. I intend to propose that which the House has done before, and which I hope will again secure the House from the unseemly interruption of its proceedings. I am not going to propose the expulsion of Mr. Bradlaugh or his commitment. Either of those courses, if pursued, ought to be pursued with the general concurrence of the House. In a matter of this sort, where there is a very important step to be considered, the House ought not to act with a divided voice, still less with the voice of the Leader of the House given against such action. I shall, therefore, confine myself to moving that steps be taken to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from disturbing the proceedings of this House. [Murmurs.] Far be it from me to say that that is adequate to all the circumstances of the case; but I decline, in my position, to undertake a duty which belongs to the Leader of the House. And I must say that, of all the surprises which I have experienced in these later times, the greatest surprise which has come upon me has been the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. Last night, when the matter was first before us, the right hon. Gentleman proposed that there should be an adjournment in order to consider what was to be done; and I pointed out to the House that there were two questions before us—the first being whether Mr. Bradlaugh had not vacated the seat, and the second what was to be done to vindicate the honour of the House. I thoroughly understood that the right hon. Gentleman appreciated that distinction; and I expected that while he 1326 might not have been disposed to give advice in regard to the question of the seat, he would not fail to recognize the duty which lay upon him of making some proposal with regard to the dignity of the House. No communications had been made to me that he had, upon consideration, thought that that course ought not to be taken. I came down to the House, as did others, fully expecting that some course would be proposed. It would have been for us to consider whether it was an adequate course, or one which we could support, or whether we should propose any other. But if the matter is thrown upon us in this way, I say that we are not entitled, and that we are not bound, to accept the responsibility thrown upon us; and therefore I shall content myself by moving—That the Serjeant-at-Arms do take steps to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from coming within the precincts of the House.I would point out that there is a difference between this Motion and the one I proposed some time since upon the question, inasmuch as the word "precincts" will exclude Mr. Bradlaugh from the Lobby, where, last Session, he created a disturbance.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the House that the Question immediately before it is the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill).
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'the Serjeant-at-Arms do take steps to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from coming within the precinct a of the House,"—(Sir Stafford Northcote,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CALLAN
rose to Order. He said that on the previous night the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) had given Notice of an Amendment. By the indulgence of the House the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) both addressed the House, and immediately after the former Gentleman had spoken the hon. Member for the City of Dublin rose to 1327 move his Amendment. He wished to ask whether it was according to the usual procedure for one private Member to have priority over another, who had given Notice of a Motion directly affecting the Question before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
There is no Order of the House upon the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, on the occasion referred to by the hon. Member, was the first to catch my eye, and I therefore called upon him.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
rose to Order. He wished to point out that the hon. Member for the City of Dublin rose before the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out that I have already ruled upon this matter. I am quite aware that the hon. Member for the City of Dublin rose at the same time as the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon; but the right hon. Baronet was the first to catch my eye.
§ DR. LYONS
said, he was glad to yield to the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon, as a matter of courtesy; but he presumed that, in the event of the proposal of the right hon. Baronet being put as a substantive Motion, it would be open to him to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thought the House was much indebted to the hon. Member for the City of Dublin for the Amendment he had placed on the Paper; but it was his (Mr. Newdegate's) desire to support the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon in the difficult task which was cast upon him—that of maintaining the Order of the House. He (Mr. Newdegate) should be Very sorry to be compelled to perform that which he considered it to be an act of duty to the House in such a manner as to appear intentionally to contravene the proposal of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin for the expulsion and incapacitation of Mr. Bradlaugh. He only rose, therefore, to say that he hoped the hon. Member for the City of Dublin would withdraw his Amendment, and that the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) would also withdraw his Motion; because the first duty incumbent upon the House clearly 1328 was to guard its proceedings from unseemly, and, perhaps, tumultuous interruption.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he desired to offer one or two words of explanation as to the course which he proposed to take with respect to this most painful controversy. He did not shrink from the expressions of opinion he had given, vent to in regard to the views he had held all along as to the policy the House was pursuing in relation to the question; nor did he abate one iota from his expression that the House was acting unwisely, even if it were not acting beyond its powers. But the question was now, to his mind, of a totally different character. It was not now a question of allowing, or of not allowing, Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath; but simply one of disobedience to the Orders of the House. The House had of late years taken strong measures with regard to the question of disobedience to the Orders of the Chair, and Members had been suspended for infractions of the Rules which had been drawn up on the matter. Those infractions had sometimes been the result of heated debate, of anger, or of a momentary loss of temper; but that was not the nature of the case now under consideration. The Orders which Mr. Bradlaugh had received were given to him by the Speaker, in the most solemn form, after having been directed to do so by a vote of the House. Mr. Bradlaugh's violation of those Orders did not spring up on a sudden; it was a violation deliberate, flagrant, and prepared. Under these circumstances, in his opinion, the original question between the House and Mr. Bradlaugh had passed out of sight. The House must maintain the authority of the Chair and its own dignity. As far as he was able to form an opinion, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite expressed the least that could be done in vindication of that authority. He could not himself allow the question of the decision of the majority to be violated simply because they were not agreed upon all points. He could not consent to do that any more than he could consent to question the decision of a Court of Law, because that decision might, perhaps, have been come to wrongly. The decision of the House had been solemnly arrived at more than once, and must be maintained if they meant to 1329 uphold Order in their midst. He desired, however, that they should err, if they erred at all, on the side of leniency; but he would not hesitate to say that even a stronger Motion than that of the right hon. Gentleman might have been justifiable. Feeling that that Motion was the least that could be done under the circumstances to vindicate the authority of the House, he should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he quite agreed with the Prime Minister that the House was in a position of great difficulty. He further agreed with him in thinking that those who placed the House in this difficulty should get it out of it. He had, he was sorry to say, had to intrude himself very frequently in this debate; but when he had done so he had not used any strong language, and he had not imputed any unfair motives to Gentlemen on the other side with whom he disagreed. He thought, therefore, the House would allow him to state what might be said in favour of Mr. Bradlaugh, and he presumed to do so as his Colleague. The fact was this—Mr. Bradlaugh's defence lay in the circumstances of the case. There were circumstances which sometimes occurred that rendered it exceedingly difficult for anyone to take an absolutely right course. He had had a choice of two evils, and he had had to choose the course which presented the fewest evils, and not to choose a course absolutely without evils. When Mr. Bradlaugh was first elected to this Parliament, it would be in the recollection of the House that, after two Committees had sat, and after great differences of opinion existed in the House, Mr. Bradlaugh was told that he might affirm at his risk and peril. At his risk and peril meant that if he could not prove that he had a right to affirm before a Court of Justice, he would be liable to very severe fines, and liable also to the loss of his seat. Well, he (Mr. Labouchere) confessed he did not think it a very generous decision of the House of Commons. He thought the House might have taken upon itself to say whether Mr. Bradlaugh should affirm or not. However, the House took that course, and Mr. Bradlaugh did affirm, and the Courts of Justice decided against him. Mr. Bradlaugh was again elected, and Mr. Bradlaugh again came forward, to take the Oath of Al- 1330 legiance. It was stated, as the Prime Minister had himself stated that evening, that the House in passing its Resolution not to permit Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm, was acting against the law, and that the House was acting beyond its powers. Mr. Bradlaugh was, therefore, placed in this difficult position. He owed two allegiances. He owed one allegiance to the law and the Constitution, as defined by the Prime Minister and the Law Officers of the Crown, and he owed another allegiance to the Rules, Regulations, and Orders of this House. It must be remembered that Mr. Brad-laugh's contention, rightly or wrongly, always was this—that he had a right to walk up to the Table from the time of his election, and that the assertion of the powers of the House came after he had expressed a wish to take the Oath, and that the Sessional Orders of the House did not affect him until he had become an active Member of the House by having taken the Oath at the Table. Another point might have confused Mr. Bradlaugh's mind. By the Parliamentary Oaths Act it was stated that—The Oath hereby appointed shall in every Parliament be made and subscribed by every Member of the House of Commons at the Table in the Middle of the said House, and whilst a full House of Commons is there duly sitting, with the Speaker in his Chair, at such hours and according to such regulations as each House may by its Standing Orders direct.Now, let them see what were the Standing Orders. The only Standing Order that affected the matter was that of April 30, 1866—That Members may take and subscribe the Oath required by Law at any time during the Sitting of the House before the Orders of the Bay and Notices of Motion have been entered upon, or after they have been disposed of, but no debate or business shall be interrupted for that purpose.Therefore, there was nothing in the Standing Orders compelling Mr. Bradlaugh to have the Oath administered to him. His contention was that they had passed this Standing Order in obedience to the requirements of the Statute. They had now passed a Sessional Order which militated against their Standing Order. Mr. Bradlaugh considered they ought first to have rescinded their Standing Order. At present he thought he was justified by law in taking the Oath of Allegiance at the Table, and that he was also justified in thinking their Standing 1331 Order superior to their Sessional Order. He had stated these facts for the purpose of showing that there was a good deal to be said in favour of Mr. Brad-laugh, though he fully admitted that House must maintain its authority in the difficulty in which it was placed through what he considered the original error of hon. Gentlemen on the other side. He had now three courses to choose from. In the first place, there was the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). So far as the first part of the noble Lord's Resolution was concerned, he should be in favour of it; but he could not accept the second portion, because he thought Mr. Bradlaugh had taken the Oath of Allegiance at the Table. The next proposal, that of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons), was preposterous, because it would do what Parliament had never done, except in the case of Wilkes—it would disfranchise Mr. Bradlaugh from being in the future elected a Member of the House. The other proposal was that of the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition. He should have been very glad if that proposal had not been made, or if it had been of a weaker character; but he did not think there was any probability of the House accepting any Amendment from him, and, as a choice of evils, he should not oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
As the right hon. Baronet who leads the Opposition has proposed an Amendment to the Motion which I moved last night, I am entitled, if the House will allow me, to make one or two remarks before the question is settled. I think in this matter we go from surprise to surprise. The declaration of the Prime Minister was, to a certain extent, surprising; but still, on reflection, I am bound to admit that it was in the line of the action he has taken in this matter from first to last. Though I regret that such a line of action should have been taken by him, I cannot think his action to-day has been inconsistent with that line of action. But I am bound to say that the proposal made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North. Devon is the most surprising of all. I have only to ask the House to recollect what took place last night. The right hon. and 1332 learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) and the right hon. Baronet got up at the Table, and, with every mark of indignation, denounced the conduct of Mr. Bradlaugh, as being an open and outrageous insult to the House of Commons. After a night's reflection as to how the House should meet this open and outrageous insult—such an insult as Mr. Bradlaugh never offered to the House before—the right hon. Baronet can only suggest a Motion similar to that which he made last Session, when Mr. Bradlaugh certainly did not offer an open and outrageous insult to the House of Commons. It appears to me that, after the conferences which must have taken place between the Members of the Government, and also between the Members of the ex-Government, the position can be best described by the Latin line—Parturmnt monies; nascitur ridieulus mus. Sir, I want to point out to the House that what we have to consider is the peculiar feature of the circumstances, the scandalous and profane mummery which Mr. Bradlaugh went through at the Table—a feature, I think, exceeding in its outrageous character anything within the living memory of any Member of Parliament. I think the right hon. Gentleman should have properly marked the sense which the House entertains of its scandalous character. It seemed to me that the only course open was at once to set the law in motion, and to declare that the law had been violated and that the seat was vacant. I will not detain the House by giving reasons why I think this Motion of mine is a strictly legal one. I believe that no one will dispute that the House was in debate when Mr. Bradlaugh took his seat, and no one in his senses could assert that this ridiculous mummery could, by any stretch of imagination, be construed into a taking of the Oath; and, therefore, the moment Mr. Bradlaugh took his seat on the Bench, as far as his Parliamentary life is concerned he was dead, and the House might at once have passed a Motion declaring the seat vacant. Still, I am not going to press that view, particularly as the Law Officers of the Crown seem to consider that there is a doubt on the subject. With respect to the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet—which I can only denominate as milk 1333 and water—I shall certainly, if I have the opportunity, record my vote against that Resolution; and to any other Resolution, which has the purpose of inflicting on Mr. Bradlaugh punishment for the outrageous insult he has offered to the House I shall give my cordial support.
§ MR. WILLIS
said, that, while dissenting from the view of Mr. Bradlaugh's conduct taken by the noble Lord, he thought that, with the opinions entertained by the Opposition, the proper course would be to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat while the House was in debate, and then for the majority to declare his seat vacant. In his opinion, the noble Lord's censure of the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Baronet, was perfectly justified. That Resolution would in no way meet the case as regarded by the opponents of Mr. Bradlaugh. He did not think that it was right to try and prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from coming within the precincts of the House, and yet permit him to remain a Member. He believed that the course for the Opposition to adopt, under the peculiar circumstances in which they were placed, was to declare Mr. Brad-laugh's seat vacant, and to prevent him from taking his seat in the House.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ DR. LYONS,
in rising to move the following Amendment:—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 he forthwith discharged from further attendance thereon,said, he took that course in the discharge of what he believed was a conscientious duty. What had occurred yesterday in that House was altogether unprecedented; and therefore he thought that some steps should be taken to express to the country the sense of the House on the subject of the insult that had been offered to its dignity. He regretted that the Prime Minister had not considered it to be his duty to propose any step for the House to take, although he fully recognized that the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in reference to this unfortunate question had been entirely 1334 consistent from the beginning to the end of the controversy. He had also listened with extreme surprise and with the deepest regret to what fallen from, the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon on this subject. He had expected that the right hon. Gentleman, as the champion in that House of the Conservative Party, who usually put themselves forward as the vindicators of public virtue, would have proposed to the House some course that would have enabled it to assert its dignity. He begged leave to remind the Conservative Party that many hon. Members sitting on the Liberal Benches had given them their cordial and hearty support in this matter from conscientious motives, regardless of the claims of Party. He desired to remind the country that but for the assistance afforded them from the Liberal Benches the Conservative Party would have been powerless to have effected their object. He thought that was a point which had not been sufficiently and fully put before the House and the country; and if these Gentlemen put themselves forward as champions of St. George and the Dragon, in the circumstances he thought Liberal Members who had assisted them might claim a share of the credit. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to be consistent with the attitude they had heretofore maintained, and to support him in carrying the Amendment he now put forward, and in visiting with condign punishment the insult which had been offered to the House. When Mr. Bradlaugh forced himself through the throng of hon. Members at the Bar and walked to the Table, the Serjeant-at- Arms had no opportunity of observing what he was doing. With a procedure never before witnessed in a civilized Assembly, Mr. Bradlaugh endeavoured to go through the form of taking the Oath. Mr. Bradlaugh, by thus entering the House, practically broke the parole which he gave to the House during the last Session. There was an understanding that he should not enter the House; and but for that understanding, given last Session and broken now, the House would have re-enacted the Standing Order forbidding him to come within the precincts of the House. He forced his way to the Table, and went through the mockery and sacrilege of attempting to take the Oath. It was a mockery and an 1335 insult; for in his letter to The Times of 20th May, 1880, he stated, in effect, that although the Oath contained words which were regarded by many of his fellow-countrymen as an appeal to the Deity, t he repetition of them in his mouth would be an act of hypocrisy, and yet he had pretended to take it yesterday. He asserted that the sacrilege which Mr. Brad-laugh had gone through yesterday did not amount, in either a moral or a technical sense, to a taking of the Oath; but he (Dr. Lyons) left it to others to say whether, by any forced construction, it was in a legal sense a taking of the Oath. He further maintained that that House possessed ample power to deal with its Members when they outraged its dignity, and that they could at any time declare a seat vacant for good cause. They had had no instance on any former occasion of such conduct as Mr. Bradlaugh's being passed over by the House; and after what had taken place in its presence on the previous day, it ought to award adequate punishment for the outrage that had been perpetrated. [The hon. Member then quoted a number of precedents, from the cases of Hall in 1572, of Sir Robert Floyd, and of Sir Robert Walpole, down to those of John Mitchel and O'Donovan Rossa, to justify his Amendment.] In all these cases the House had declared the Member "to be severed and cut off," "to be unworthy and incapable of sitting in the Parliament;" and to the distinction carefully held in view in the principal precedents, between the right of the House to declare a Member incapable of sitting, and that of the constituency to elect, he would draw attention at a more fitting time. The battle in this particular case had been narrowed down to a single issue. They had been obliged to contend with Mr. Bradlaugh on the single point of the Oath. But he asked every hon. Member in that House if he were not fully aware that over and above and behind that question there lay a great moral question? And he believed that with a great many Members that question had fully as large and important a bearing in this case as that of the Oath. In these circumstances, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out to the hon. Member that he proposes an Amendment on a proposed Amendment, and it is necessary to leave out certain 1336 words of the Amendment. If his Amendment were to run in these words, I could put it—to leave out the words after the word "the," in order to insert the words—"that the Member for Northampton, Charles Bradlaugh," it would answer his purpose, I think.
Amendment proposed, to the said proposed Amendment,
To leave out all the words after the first word "the," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words '' Member for Northampton, 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,"—(Dr. Lyons,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
Sir, I do not purpose to take up the time of the House on the question as to what is the punishment to be awarded to Mr. Bradlaugh for the contempt he has shown of this House. My only object in trespassing on the attention of hon. Members is to point out that a portion of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) cannot properly be accepted; and I would suggest that, if it were to be accepted, the House would be passing beyond its powers, and that there is no precedent for such a Resolution. The words in the Amendment to which I refer as being objectionable are—"That Mr. Bradlaugh be and is hereby declared incapable of sitting in this Parliament." I am not for one moment disputing—because that is accepted by everyone, I think—the legal power of this House to expel a Member for contempt. I only desire to point out to the House that it has no power to declare that a Member is incapable of sitting in Parliament. ["No, no!"] Sir, I differ from those notes of dissent, and I will give the House my reasons. You can, of course, expel a Member, and punish him; but you cannot tell all the constituencies of this country that they shall not be able to elect him. 1337 That is depriving the constituencies of their right to elect a particular individual. You may prevent a class of individuals sitting in this House; but it is the law that must deal with a constituency's right to elect an individual. You cannot, by a Resolution of the House, forbid constituencies from electing certain persons individually, because they have been guilty of insult to, or contempt of, this House. This question is determined by Resolution of this House in an instance which must be familiar to almost every hon. Member. I am referring to Wilkes' case. Wilkes was elected to a Parliament previous to 1763. He was thereupon expelled from the House for having published certain libels. He was re-elected, and a Resolution was passed—That Mr. Wilkes be expelled from this House; and having been expelled from this House, was and is incapable of being elected a Member to serve in this present Parliament.That was the Resolution the House came to. Everyone will be familiar with the debates that arose year after year on this subject; and the greatest authorities, including Lord Camden and Lord Chatham, laid down the principle that the House had exceeded its authority, contending that there was no power in the House of Commons by Resolution to control the power of a constituency to elect a Member. That was a power which lay in Parliament alone. The House is aware of the contention from that time until 1782. Eventually, the arguments to which I have alluded prevailed; and the House will find it recorded upon its own Journals, in the year 1782, that the previous Resolution had exceeded the power of the House, and that it should be expunged from the Journals accordingly. There are many Members of the House who are acquainted with this subject. Unless we are about now to enter into a conflict with the constituencies which will go far beyond any consideration of Mr. Bradlaugh's position, and thus to take from them the right of electing any person they may think proper, who is not disqualified by law, who labours under no disability, either by Statute or Common Law, and unless we deal by Resolution and dictate to constituencies within what area they shall have the power to elect, the words of the Amendment I have specified cannot be accepted 1338 by the House. I think it would be unwise to enter into a controversy in which. this House would be defeated; and I am sure no one would wish that, after 100 years have passed, we should go through a controversy of the same description that took place then. I trust the House will not accept an Amendment of this kind.
§ SIR HARDINGE GIFFARD
I wish to say a few words to the House on this subject. I believe the hon. and learned Gentleman's exposition of what took place as a matter of fact is undoubted; and, applying myself to the word "Parliament" in the Amendment, I concur with him that it would be going beyond the power of this House to prescribe what should be done by this or any other constituency. At the same time, I am bound to add that in my judgment the majority in the case of Mr. Wilkes, obtained after several ineffectual attempts to expunge the entry from the Journals of the House, was as completely a Party majority as the one by which it was originally placed there. I only wish to say this because it has been referred to more than once as if it were an absolute Constitutional verity which could not be disputed or questioned. Undoubtedly, however, it is beyond the power of a particular House of Commons to prescribe to the constituencies of the country what person they should elect or refrain from electing, unless that person was disqualified by law. I only thought it right to make these observations, as the hon. and learned Attorney General rather intimated that he challenged contradiction on this side of the House. I will only say on the question now before us that I did not understand the Attorney General to controvert for a moment the statement that for a grave insult offered in the face of the House it was competent for a particular House of Commons to expel a Member.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
As the Motion and Amendment call in question the conduct of Mr. Bradlaugh, he has requested me to ask the House whether he will be allowed to be heard at the Bar. ["No, no!" and "Yes, yes!"] This is the first time, I believe, that ever the conduct of a Member—at any rate, a passive Member—has been questioned in this House, and a Resolution passed upon it, without his being allowed 1339 to be heard in his own defence. As a matter of justice, I beg to move that Mr. Bradlaugh be heard at the Bar. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Yes, yes!"]
§ MR. MONTAGUE GUEST
I wish to ask the hon. Member for Northampton whether, by the remarks he has just now made, Mr. Bradlaugh, implies that he did not take his seat in the House on the previous night? As I understood it, Mr. Bradlaugh claimed to have taken his seat in the House on the previous night; and now I understand my hon. Friend to ask that Mr. Bradlaugh be allowed to be heard at the Bar. I therefore wish to know whether we are to infer from this proposal that Mr. Bradlaugh. does not now claim to have taken his seat?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Northampton is at liberty to make a Motion that Mr. Bradlaugh be heard if it should be the pleasure of the House. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Yes!"]
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, I would respectfully submit to the House that on a former occasion there had been a departure from the custom and usage of the House. When one of its Members has been desired to retire below the Bar, and then requests to be allowed to address the House from the Bar, it has always been the custom that such Member should address the House at once, and not as taking part in any debate. A debate, after the Member has so addressed the House, may arise; but no Member ought to be allowed to take part in it from below the Bar. On the 7th of this month I waited some time to see whether Mr. Bradlaugh meant to avail himself of the leave of the House to address the House from the Bar. But he manifested no such intention. I then rose in my place and ventured to address the House. The effect of that was, that Mr. Bradlaugh spoke from below the Bar after I had spoken, instead of in the usual manner of a Member permitted to address the House from below the Bar. Mr. Bradlaugh on that occasion took part in the debate from below the Bar, and I wish to point this out as needing the attention of the House and of Mr. Speaker, for to my mind it was clearly a departure from the custom of the House. On the present 1340 occasion, again, Mr. Bradlaugh asks to be permitted to address the House from below the Bar; but I submit that Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to be allowed to take part in the debate from below the Bar, for it is generally understood that when a Member takes part in a debate, he rises in his place from his seat in this House, his right to occupy which is undisputed. I trust that the House, subject to your authority, Sir, will not fall into the novel, and, I think, dangerous system of allowing a Member, whose right to sit in the House is not only contested, but whose right to sit in the House has been denied by the House, to take part in debate as if nothing had happened. I hope I shall be excused for pointing this out to the House. I have no wish to oppose Mr. Bradlaugh's being heard at the Bar, if the House so thinks fit; but that is a totally different thing from allowing a Member to take part in a debate from below the Bar, which, I am confident, is contrary to the established custom and usage of the House. With reference to what has fallen from the Attorney General, I would observe that the hon. and learned Gentleman appears to have founded his opinion upon the unhappy precedent, as I hold it to be, of the House having been induced by Party considerations to expunge its proceedings in the case of Mr. Wilkes. I would point out that there is a much more modern instance of the action of the House, and of judgment pronounced by the House, cited in a work, which we all admit to be of high authority, and the author of which is one of the most distinguished officers of the House. I mean Sir Thomas Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice. I find in that work the following reference at page 62—But on the 25th of July, 1877, it was laid down from the Chair that any Member guilty of contempt would be liable to such punishment, whether by censure, by suspension from the service of the House, or by commitment as the House may adjudge.That is the last precedent, and it is taken from the Journals of the House. I regret that the hon. Member for the City of Dublin should have been placed in the position of having to propose his Amendment, which I conceive to be reconcilable with the precedent I have cited, at a time when I cannot vote for it; because I am of opinion that the 1341 first duty of this House to the constituencies and to the country is to maintain its Order by such means as are necessary thereunto; and afterwards, if any Member, or person pretending to be a Member, shall have committed a grave offence, to judge that matter separately, deliberately, and finally.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
On the question of Procedure I do not quite gather from you, Sir, whether it would require the universal assent of the House that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to speak at the Bar, or whether it would require merely the assent of the majority. because in the latter case I should venture to suggest that a division be taken. [Cries of "No!" and "Yes!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "No!" on the other side of the House, and "Yes!" on this side of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is only by the indulgence of the House that a Member can be heard in such circumstances as the present If the House should think proper to give the hon. Member leave to address the House I will call upon him to do so. [Cries of "Yes!" and "No!"] I gather, however, that it is not the pleasure of the House that he should do so.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that Mr. Bradlaugh is sitting in the House on the third Bench below the Gangway on the other side of the House. He has taken his seat during the debate.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Yes, Sir; I am within the Bar, and I desire to ask the indulgence of the House. [Loud cries of "Order!"] As Member for Northampton I rise to claim my right. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have again to call the attention of the House to the repeated acts of disobedience of the hon. Member for Northampton. He has disobeyed the Orders of the House and the directions of the Chair in coming within the Bar. By the Order of the 7th of February last, the hon. Member was ordered to take his seat below the Bar; and on every occasion since, when the hon. Member has passed within the Bar, I consider he has been guilty of disobedience to the Order of this House; 1342 and I have now again to call the attention of the House to that circumstance.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
having resumed the Chair, there were loud cries for Mr. GLADSTONE. After a short interval the right hon. Gentleman rose, but——
§ MR. SPEAKER, interposing, said: Before the right hon. Gentleman addresses the House I must call upon the hon. Member for Northampton to withdraw below the Bar.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I will do that, Sir, in obedience to your order; but I claim the indulgence of this House—[Loud cries of "Order!" from all parts of the House.] I claim my right to sit within the Bar.
§ [Mr. BRADLAUGH accordingly withdrew.]
As I understand the case, Sir, there is no question at the present moment of resistance to your direction. ["Oh, oh!"] If any Gentleman will kindly point out to me that there is such a case of disobedience to your directions at the present moment—'[LOUD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Reiterated insult.] The noble Lord says there is reiterated insult. That is not the question immediately before us. The question immediately before us is that of sustaining the authority of the Chair. Especially after what I have said to-day, it is expected that I should say something on the subject of supporting the authority of the Speaker as the Executive of the House. I stated that, as I understood it, the obedience had been yielded—although slowly and reluctantly yielded—to your instructions; and we have before us a Resolution which, as I understand it, will supply the House with a perfect defence against the repetition of that which is unquestionably a disturbance of the order and peace of the House. I do not think it incumbent upon me to make any other proposal.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker, I have hitherto endeavoured, as far as possible, to follow a very moderate line in all that I have advised the House to do, because I have felt that as long as there was any hope that the Leader of the House would take such steps as might be necessary or proper to vindicate the honour of the House, I ought either to abstain from making any pro- 1343 posals, or, if I made any, I ought to make the narrowest possible proposals for the preservation of the peace and order of the House. But I must say there is a limit, and I feel that the conduct pursued by Mr. Bradlaugh in now at the very moment when the House is engaged upon the consideration of this case—when we are considering what is the proper action that we should take after the insult which he offered to the House yesterday—coming forward and again insisting upon claiming his seat and his right to appear in the House, puts us in a position in which it is impossible for us to evade our responsibilities. I had hoped it would be sufficient, by adopting a Resolution such as that I have submitted to the House, to preserve the House from the scenes that we are exposed to; but the hon. Gentleman has forced our hand. I consider that matters are no longer where they were at the beginning of this morning's Sitting. I therefore request the permission of the House to withdraw the Amendment which I have submitted to them, and, in place of it, to submit a Motion for the expulsion of the hon. Member.
Under the circumstances described by the right hon. Baronet, I should certainly feel it quite improper to use any power belonging to me as a Member of the House for the purpose of preventing the withdrawal of the Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out to the hon. Member for Dublin (Dr. Lyons) that the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet cannot be withdrawn unless he himself consents to withdraw his Amendment. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ DR. LYONS
If it be the feeling of the House I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment. May I be allowed one word of explanation in regard to what fell from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General? I wish to cite the case of O'Donovan Rossa, in which it was moved by the present Prime Minister that O'Donovan Rossa had become and was incapable of sitting in this House. On another occasion I will take leave to draw the attention of the House to the important question of the right of the House, on the one hand, to declare what Member is or is not entitled to sit herein, and the right of the constituency to elect whom they please, 1344 within the limits of fitness and legal ability—a Constitutional point of the most vital importance, and to which I beg leave to say the attention of the House has not been sufficiently directed hitherto, and to which the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman in no manner applies.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and negatived.
After the word "That," to add the words "Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, one of the Members for the Borough of Northampton, having disobeyed the Orders of the House, and having, in contempt of the authority of this House, irregularly and contumaciously pretended to take and subscribe the Oath required by Law, be expelled this House."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
The right hon. Gentleman has, not at all to my surprise, submitted this Motion without a speech, and it is quite unnecessary for me to do more than occupy the House for a single minute. My endeavour, at every stage of this business, has been to take, as far as I could, a dispassionate view of the facts, independently of my own interest in the matter, or my own position in regard to it. I at once make the right hon. Gentleman the admission that this Motion, after all that has occurred down to the present time, is a Motion strictly consequential upon the previous Resolutions and proceedings of the House, taken in conjunction with the action of Mr. Bradlaugh in regard to them. That being so, Sir, I at once recognize the principle which, as I think, binds minorities in this House to pay due deference to the expressed opinion of the 1345 majority in proceedings of a consequential character; and I certainly shall not think it any part of my duty to offer opposition, under the circumstances I have stated, to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I have always observed, Sir, that when this House takes upon itself judicial functions it gets into a very unjudicial state of mind. There is no foundation for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford North-cote). I would point out to him that up to within half an hour ago he was of opinion that the exigencies of the position were met by the Resolution of which he gave Notice at the commencement of to-day's Sitting. Allow me to call the attention of the House to what has occurred since. The right hon. Gentleman says the House has been insulted again by Mr. Bradlaugh. There can be no insult where no insult is intended. ["Oh, oh!"] I will tell you what I think is the object of Mr. Bradlaugh—and I think any hon. Gentleman opposite will agree that it is not to insult the House of Commons. Mr. Bradlaugh's object has been, from yesterday, to obtain a case at law and to carry it before the judicial tribunals. Mr. Bradlaugh was under the impression that yesterday he had sat whilst there was a debate. That position was denied by hon. Gentlemen opposite. ["No!"] Well, the Attorney General denied it, and, in fact, it was questioned; and in order that the case might be complete, and that he might be able to submit the question of whether he had or had not taken the Oath—a most important question, which the House declines to decide—he came in for one moment, and I need not say, Sir, as soon as you noticed him and called upon him to withdraw, he did immediately withdraw. I would, therefore, most respectfully submit to the House whether, in fair and honest terms, that can be called an insult to the House?
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 291; Noes 83.
§ And the Numbers having been reported by the Tellers—
§ MR. SPEAKER
As it has been reported by the Tellers that Mr. Bradlaugh has voted in the Division, it is for the House to consider what course shall be done with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh'a Vote. [Cries of "Gladstone!" and "Northcote!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The situation in. which this House is placed is this. The Tellers have reported the numbers in the late Division, and they have reported that in this Division Mr. Bradlaugh voted. It is for the House to take what course they think proper with regard to the report of the Tellers. If the House should take no action in the matter, I shall report the numbers to the House as reported to me by the Tellers. If the House should think proper to disallow that Vote, of course the numbers will be corrected accordingly.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I apprehend, after what you have said, Sir, that it is not incumbent on the House to take any particular notice of the Vote; and, as any Motion for disallowing the Vote would only lead to a prolonged debate, I do not intend to take any notice of it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER thereupon declared the Numbers:—Ayes 291; Noes 83: Majority 208.—(Div. List, No. 19.)
§ [At this point, Mr. BRADLAUGH left the House.]
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed.
§ MR. STOREY
I beg to ask you a question, Sir. I want to ask you whether, during the whole history of Parliament, there has been an instance of an hon. Member of this House having been expelled without first having been heard in his own defence? I would further ask, if it be impossible for me to move, as I understand you to state, that the hon. Member be heard, whether you can instruct me as to what means I shall take to enable the hon. Member to have justice now—["Oh, oh!"]—to have justice and fair play, now that we have departed from the milk-and-water policy which up to this time has been adopted?
§ MR. SPEAKER
As I have already stated, if it should be the pleasure of the House that Mr. Bradlaugh be heard, and the House should signify its pleasure to that effect, I should call upon him to address the House. But I quite understood it is not the pleasure of the House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I would ask you, Sir, to submit to the House, whether it be their pleasure that Mr. Brad-laugh be now heard?
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
May I put to you one more question? Is it regular that this Motion should be put to the House without Notice being given? My position is this. Not knowing that this particular Motion was to be put, I have not heard the arguments on either side. I am suddenly called upon to give a vote; and I venture to ask you whether it is regular that a Motion on so important and grave an occasion should be put to the House without previous Notice being given?
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 297; Noes 80: Majority 217.—(Div. List, No. 20.)
§ Resolved, That Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, one of the Members for the Borough of Northampton, having disobeyed the Orders of the House, and having, in contempt of the authority of this House, irregularly and contumaciously pretended to take and subscribe the Oath required by Law, be expelled this House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I move—That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Northampton, in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, expelled this House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
Of course, Sir, I do not wish for one moment to oppose this Motion. It is the natural result of the Vote of Expulsion; but what I would wish to point out to the House, and especially to the right hon. Gentleman, is the effect 1348 of such a Motion being made at this time. The practice of late has always been to allow some short time to elapse between the occurrence of a vacancy and the Motion for a new Writ—I refer especially to Sadleir's case—in order to afford the constituency time to select a candidate, otherwise the election must take the constituency by surprise. ["No, no!"] I suggest to the House that it would be well to take that course. Of course, the expulsion will take the constituency by surprise, as it has taken us all by surprise; but I suggest that the right hon. Baronet should allow 48 hours to elapse. It is entirely a question for the House to determine, and I leave the matter in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman; but I ask if the Writ goes by post to-night to Northampton, it would be fair to the constituency? I only make this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, and ask him to consider whether the precedents that have prevailed should not be followed now?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
After the words which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, nothing which the House does can surprise the constituency of Northampton. I really am not aware whether the Conservative portion of the constituency intend to put forward a candidate; but I must state that the Liberal Party of that constituency have already decided what in any contingency they will do, and their candidate will be "Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, expelled this House." Therefore, Sir, I hope no opposition will be raised to the issue of a new Writ.
Motion agreed to.
Ordered, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Northampton, in the room of Charles Bradlaugh, esquire, expelled this House.