HL Deb 09 August 1833 vol 20 cc447-8

The Earl of Gosford moved the second reading of this Bill.

The Bishop of Hereford

did not oppose the principle of the measure, but feared that, as it at present stood, it would afford an escape from the oath to other than conscientious persons.

The Bishop of Chichester

thought, that a general measure of exemption from taking oaths on account of religious scruples would be better than one merely exempting a particular sect. He conceived, however, that affirmations should be placed in the same predicament as oaths in respect to the penalty for making them falsely.

Lord Wynford

thought, that in its present shape, the Bill was objectionable, as any one might say, that he was a Separatist, whether he was so or not. Something certainly ought to be done for those persons, whom he believed to be very respectable and conscientious; and he would, therefore, support the Bill, if a clause were introduced by which it could be proved that persons claiming exemption from the oath were really Separatists. He did not think that there was any proof that this sect objected to the taking of an oath; and he would suggest that a clause should be added, by which persons claiming exemption should declare, by their affirmation, that they were Separatists, and that it was one of the tenets of that sect that they should not take an oath. If such a clause were added, he did not see that there could be any objection to the Bill.

Lord Plunkett

said, that the conscientious feeling regarding the taking of an oath was one not to be trifled with, and he considered that this sect was entitled to relief. They did not deny the propriety of binding themselves to speak the truth. He had had a good deal of conversation upon the subject, and among those persons was one who had given up a very lucrative situation in a bank in Dublin, on account of some scruples regarding an oath. He recollected that this gentleman objected to the words "so help me God!" because he considered it as calling down Divine vengeance upon him, and that it staked his salvation. He confessed that it was difficult to answer this species of argument. He thought that the clause suggested by the noble and learned Lord was a very proper one, and that it might be added in Committee.

Lord Suffield

concurred in thinking, that the clause might be added in Committee. He did not believe that it would be difficult to prove whether persons claiming exemption from the oath were Separatists, because the number of Separatists was very small, and they were all obliged to record their names in their chapels. These records could always be referred to.

Bill read a second time.