HL Deb 18 March 1842 vol 61 cc835-6
Lord Campbell

presented a petition from an individual, a Roman Catholic, who had a conscientious objection to taking an oath. The petitioner had been a merchant, and had become a bankrupt, but refused, on account of his scruples on the subject of oaths, to swear to his balance sheet. He offered to make a solemn affirmation, but being neither Quaker, Moravian, nor Separatist, that was insufficient, and he was sent to gaol, where he would be obliged to remain on the gaol allowance of 6d. a-day for the remainder of his life, unless Parliament passed a law of which he could take advantage. He prayed, therefore, that a law might be passed, giving individuals who had conscientious objections to the taking of oaths, the same exemptions which are enjoyed by Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists. The noble and learned Lord supported the prayer of the petition.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the foundation of all justice was truth, and the question was, how truth was to be ascertained. Before he could receive any application of this description, and before he should vote for the bill lately laid on their Lordships' Table, he would like to hear the opinion of some of those learned men who were at this moment engaged in the administration of the law, and who must have made up their minds as to the best means of ascertaining the truth. Hitherto it had been understood in this country that the best means was by administering oaths. He was aware that the Legislature had made certain exceptions. It might be very well to make these exceptions—and let further exceptions be made if they were expedient—but he did say, that they ought to have some solemn examination of the question, and some certainty that the new mode proposed was as good as the old one for ascertaining the truth, which, as he said, was the foundation of all justice.

Lord Campbell

quite agreed in what had fallen from the noble Duke, and he hoped the question would be subjected to a strict examination.

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