§ The Duke of Richmond
moved the first reading of a Bill for the Abolition of Oaths and Affidavits, taken and made in various departments of the State, and to substitute declarations in lieu thereof. If he got the first reading of the Bill, he should move that it be referred to a Committee up stairs; and as that was his intention, it was probably advisable that he should shortly state the nature of the bill. Some apology was perhaps due from him for undertaking a subject of such importance, but having last Session moved for a Committee, and having been appointed Chairman of that Committee, he felt that he ought to embody in the Bill their unanimous opinion, especially as he agreed with them upon it. The first object of the Bill was to enable the Lords of the Treasury to dispense with oaths, and to substitute declarations in all the departments under their control. Every man who read the statement he was about to make, would be convinced of the necessity of the alteration, and would see that there were thousands of oaths taken in the course of the year that were useless. In the Army Pay-office there were 86,000 persons, who are obliged to take oaths five times in one year. There were 47,000 who were obliged to take oaths to obtain their half-pay. Some of these oaths were clearly unnecessary, for when a general officer receives his half-pay, he may take it with- 416 out an oath, but if he has lost an arm he must swear four times a year that he has lost it. The oaths administered to trustees of turnpikes and to churchwardens were likewise unnecessary; and if the change only went to abolish the oaths taken by churchwardens, it would not be undeserving of their Lordships' attention. Churchwardens were called on every year to appear before the Ordinary, and swear to obey the canons, and some of these canons obliged them to swear that before the Ordinary they would present every person who was guilty of adultery and drunkenness, and among other things one which the Catholic Relief Bill had by some accident omitted to abolish: they swore to present to the Ordinary every person who was a defender of Popish and Romish doctrines. It was not his intention to legislate with regard to oaths taken in courts of justice, though he believed that some of these, especially those taken at the Judges' Chambers, were not taken as they ought to be. He should not propose, however, to touch them, because he was quite sure that those learned and respectable persons; the Judges, would, when their attention was called to the matter, make some rules of Court for the remedy of the evil.
The Marquess of Lansdown expressed his approbation of the course pursued by the noble Duke.
Bill read a first time, and referred to a Select Committee.