§ Order of the Day for Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
, in moving the second reading of this Bill said, that at that hour, and in that state of the House, he would not enter into any detailed statement. He did not, indeed, expect any opposition to the object he had in view; for, although the object which it was designed to effect would have been attained by a measure which was under consideration on the preceding evening, their Lordships had rejected that measure because it contained another proposal of which they had repeatedly expressed their disapproval. The present Bill, strictly limited as it was to the Amendment of the statute imposing the oath of abjuration, was not liable to any such objection, and deserved to be received with favour. Although some time ago he had come across a book in which it was stated that certain descendants of the Pretender were still alive and had been recently visiting their dominions in Scotland, he had no apprehension that those persons 1897 would presume to put forward any claim to the Crown of these realms. They were beings who had no other than a visionary existence. It was matter of notoriety that all the legitimate descendants of the Pretender were now defunct; and, this being so, to abjure them was a mockery. The oath being no longer necessary, it was desirable that it should be got rid of as soon as possible, and the more so, as many of their Lordships conscientiously objected to it, on the ground that it was not only superfluous but blasphemous.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a
said, he should not object to the second reading of the Bill, and offered his assistance to the noble Lord in making certain alterations necessary to its perfection. There could be no doubt that for a long time this oath had been a disgrace to the Statute-book, and he had been a painful sufferer in having to administer it, and even Judges had been affected by it. The Act required that the oath should be repeated aloud; and in the appointment last year of an eminent Judge to the bench (Mr. Justice Willes), on his being sworn in, when he came to the words in the abjuration oath requiring his abjuration of the descendants of the Pretender, that learned personage stopped short, and on his admonishing him, as in duty bound, he replied that he was abjuring the descendants of the Pretender in his heart; but the learned Judge was obliged to repeat the words audibly, or he would not have properly taken the oath, and would not legally have been able to exercise the functions of a Judge. He (Lord Campbell) desired to see this oath abolished, believing no oath was necessary beyond the oath of allegiance; but the Bill of the noble Earl in its present state was so botched an affair as had never before been sent down by that to the other House of Parliament. The noble and learned Lord criticised the construction of the Bill, and said it would be far better to enact the oath in the precise form in which it was to be taken, than to enact that certain words should be added to, and certain words omitted from the existing oath. Unless that was done, much inconvenience might arise on administering it. The House of Commons would be more inclined to entertain the question in that form than in the form prescribed in the Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
thought that, considering sthe circumstances of the moment at which this Bill was in- 1898 introduced, and the result of the debate of the previous evening, it would place that House in most offensive antagonism with the other House of Parliament. Unless the measure were materially altered in Committee, he should at some future stage move its rejection.
THE EARL OF WICKLOW
opposed the Bill; but, he said, on different grounds from those taken by the two noble Lords who had just spoken.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that he had been induced to put his Bill in its present shape, by a desire to avoid a conflict with the other House of Parliament. Had he adopted the course recommended by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Campbell) the words "on the true faith of a Christian" would, in all probability, not have been re-enacted by the House of Commons, and the Bill would have been lost. The course which he had taken would effect the abrogation of an unnecessary and, therefore, improper oath without calling attention to those special words with which their Lordships were not disposed to part; and he hoped that the House of Commons would not seek an unnecessary conflict, by rejecting a Bill which effected an object which all desired, because it did not make other changes upon which there was a difference of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a, accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Friday next.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.