§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I rise for the purpose of moving the second reading of a Bill the object of which is to amend the law relating to Parliamentary Oaths. My Lords, the amendment of the law which it proposes to effect is of so important a character, that I think it my duty to explain to your Lordships the grounds on which the Bill is based, and reasons by which it is supported. My Lords, a Bill was brought up from the other House of Parliament last Session by which it was proposed to alter the terms of the Roman Catholic oath. I think it was unwise to reject that Bill, more especially on the grounds then urged against it. But there was one opinion then expressed, in which I cordially concur—that inasmuch as the Bill proposed to make a considerable change in the settlement made by the Government of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel in 1829, it was the duty of the Government of the day to propose that change on their responsibility. I think that the Government ought to give their authority to that change, and that the Houses of Parliament ought to consider any such proposition upon the responsibility of the Government. In considering this question, I think it is desirable to refer not only to the oath that is proposed—an uniform oath to be taken by all persons—but also to the latter part of the Bill, by which a considerable number of ancient enactments are repealed, either wholly or in part, and also to the spirit in which those enactments were originally made—a spirit which I trust has passed away, and I trust we are entering upon a new era of moderation and mutual charity. In the year 1675, in the reign of Charles II., an attempt was made to impose an oath upon the Members of this and the other House of Parliament. It was an oath framed for the purpose of disqualifying that party to whom were attributed the civil war of the former reign and the execution of Charles I, It proposed that every Member of the two Houses of Parliament should swear to the doctrine that arms might be taken up by a Protestant king under certain circumstances, and that he was ready to maintain the constitution of this country in Church and State. 1323 That oath was afterwards, in order to conciliate the Protestant feeling, altered into a declaration that every Member of the two Houses should maintain the Protestant religion and the Protestant Government of this realm. But that Bill was vehemently opposed, and the oath then intended to be imposed was the subject of debate during sixteen days. It is recorded that the Earl of Salisbury was one of those who made the most vigorous opposition to that Bill. One noble Lord who took a prominent part in the debate—the Earl of Halifax—maintained that where the duty was plain and simple—such as that of allegiance to the Sovereign, or of speaking the truth in a court of justice—the taking of an oath added to the solemnity of the occasion, and gave some additional security; and he asked what additional security it would afford the community if every thief and burglar were required to make an oath that he would not commit theft or burglary. At length the measure was assented to by this House and sent down to the House of Commons, but owing to a quarrel between the two Houses, it never went through, and it soon became entirely forgotten. That oath was, as I have said, framed against the Puritans, who were supposed to be the principal authors of the civil war of the former reign. But there was at this time the most intense excitement against the Roman Catholics. It is well known now, and it is, in fact, a matter of history, that Charles II. and his brother, the Duke of York, had entered into an agreement with the King of France, the object of which was, in the first place, to make the King absolute; in the second place to change the religion of the State from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism; and in the third place, to make the king a pensioner on the King of Prance, so as to enable him to maintain his army and navy without the support of his subjects or the control of Parliament. Those were the objects of the Treaty of Dover. There being a suspicion in Parliament of the monarch's designs, a prejudice was created against the Roman Catholics, and it was proposed to exclude them from Parliament. It was the custom in those days, when religious animosity ran high, for those who were in the majority and had the power of passing Bills through Parliament to impose upon religious communities who differed from themselves, tests most repugnant to their feelings and consciences, and which they were bound to take under penalty of exclusion from Parliament. In 1324 this manner the Protestant Dissenters were required to take the Sacrament according to the form of the Church of England, it being supposed that such a condition would be contrary to their conscience, and would thereby secure their exclusion from Parliament. With regard to Roman Catholics, it was required that they should make a declaration against transubstantiation. A noble Lord a Member of this House (the Marquess of Westmeath) referred the other day to a Bill now passing through the other House, which proposes to do away with that declaration. The author of that Bill informed me that in proposing to abrogate a declaration which is very offensive to Roman Catholics—
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
If I am not mistaken the noble Marquess was called to order for referring to this Bill.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I shall not enter into the merits of that Bill, but I shall read to your Lordships the declaration to which I have referred. That declaration ran in these words—I, A B, do solemnly and sincerely, and in the presence of God, declare my belief that in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is no transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; and that what are called the sacrifices of the mass in the Church of Rome are superstitious and idolatrous.And by 30 Charles II. st. 2, and 1 Geo. I. c. 13, it is enacted—That no Member shall vote or sit in either House till he hath, in the presence of the House, taken the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and subscribed and repeated the declaration against Transubstantiation and Invocation of Saints and the sacrifice of the Mass.Now, I need not say that it was a very offensive thing to the Roman Catholics to pass an Act which would require them to make a declaration so opposed to their conscientious opinions. However, that Act was passed, and up to 1829 the Roman Catholics were excluded from Parliament. When William III. succeeded to the throne, though nothing could be more tolerant than his spirit and disposition, he found it was necessary for him to consent to the maintenance of the exclusion of the Roman Catholics from all situations and offices of responsibility. I am sorry to say that both Whigs and Tories of that day united in carrying to the greatest extreme the Acts which imposed disabilities upon Roman Catholics, depriving them equally of the rights of property and of all political power. Some of the Acts which imposed these disabilities were detailed in a speech 1325 which I had the pleasure of reading again the other day, having often read it before—I mean the speech of Mr. Burke at the election of Bristol. In that speech Mr. Burke described in detail the manner in which the two parties vied with each other in imposing unjust restrictions on the Roman Catholics, and said that it was provided by 30 Charles II., and 1 Geo. I. c. 13, that no Member shall take his seat in either House of Parliament until he shall have taken the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and subscribed the declaration against transubstantiation. I have heard more than once in this House speeches by Lord Eldon, marked by the utmost ingenuity, talent, and learning, in which ho argued that those laws of Charles II. had preserved the religious freedom of this country up to the time at which he was speaking, and lie warned your Lordships against the danger, by admitting Roman Catholics to Parliament, of raising again those lamentable dissensions which had taken place in the time of Charles II. But in the year 1829 (the Dissenters having in the meantime been relieved from their disabilities) the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, on grounds of political expediency—or rather, as the Duke of Wellington himself, speaking in this House, said, in order to avoid a civil war—proposed to give relief to the Roman Catholics by their admission to Parliament on taking an oath framed to afford security to the Protestant succession and religion. But, my Lords, though that measure was proposed as a measure of political necessity, it was one which the Government of the day knew would be opposed by many conscientious persons, Members of both Houses of Parliament, who professed the opinion which the Ministers up to that time had themselves professed, and it was also distasteful to the Sovereign then upon the throne. I remember perfectly well that proposals were laid before Sir Francis Burdett, who was then a leading Member of the Opposition, with a view of ascertaining whether he and those who acted with him would concur in the plan of relief as then proposed, and that there was some difference of opinion with respect to the abolition of the 40s. freeholders. After a time, however, we all concurred in the proposal for the abolition of the 40s, freeholders. With respect to one part of the Bill—I will not be sure what part—it was wished that some change should take place; and a deputation waited upon Sir Robert 1326 Peel to state the objections that were entertained and the modification that was desired; but Sir Robert Peel informed I them that the Government had at length been able to induce the King to give his assent to the Bill as it then stood, and that it would he hopeless to attempt to make any change. I mention this circumstance because it shows that in the opinion of Sir Robert Peel himself it was a matter of necessity to agree to the measure as it then stood, but that it was not to be concluded that the measure was then in a state of perfection, and that if everything had been perfectly tranquil, and Ministers had framed a measure according to their own views, they would have framed it in different terms. The measure was passed, and an essential part of it was the present oath, which does undoubtedly contain some, passages which are obnoxious to Roman Catholics, as imputing to them the possibility of their entertaining opinions which are dangerous to the State; and the oath is, moreover, objectionable, because it goes beyond any necessity. In order to enable your Lordships to judge of the passages to which I refer, I will read some of the engagements into which Roman Catholics are obliged to enter—I do further declare that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any other authority of the See of Rome may be deposed or murdered by; their subjects, or by any person whatsoever.Nothing can be more offensive to a Roman Catholic than to require him to say that this is not an article of his faith. The oath goes on to say—And I do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome or any other foreign Prince, Prelate, Person, State, or Potentate hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm. I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion or Protestant Government in this Kingdom.It seems to me that we may very reasonably ask a person taking his seat in Parliament to declare that he will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Queen, and maintain and support the succession to the Crown as the same stands limited and settled by the Act of Will. III.; and it is to be supposed that all loyal subjects of Her 1327 Majesty will be ready, without any difficulty or hesitation, to take that form of oath. But when you advance further, as you do in the present oath, you introduce subjects upon which Roman Catholics have the same feelings as other classes of Her Majesty's subjects have. There is this further disadvantage. It becomes a question how far Members of Parliament are bound by anything in the oath which goes beyond the declaration of allegiance to the Sovereign. When you do that, you might as well ask a man to declare that he will not disturb trial by jury, or the House of Lords, or the House of Commons. It is not unnatural that an Irish Roman Catholic who wishes to see the Irish Church Establishment subverted should shrink from the dilemma in which this oath places him. As a Member of Parliament, he ought to be free to vote according to his views and opinions; but if he is fettered by the oath, he is not on an equality with other Members of Parliament, On the other hand, if he votes according to his principles, he is taunted with having perjured himself and violated a solemn oath. It is a very great pity that any Member of either House of Parliament should be put in such a position, either that they must not act or vote according to their opinions—not religious opinions—but political opinions—with regard to a political institution, or that they should be subjected to the charge of having perjured themselves, and of having violated a solemn oath which they had taken. For this reason I think it is very desirable that, thirty-seven years having elapsed, and there being now an absence of that commotion which prevailed in 1829, we should endeavour to fix upon a sound principle for an oath which is to be taken by Members of Parliament, and that we should put an end to the discussions to which the present form of the oath gives rise. If you think it right that Roman Catholics, Protestants, Dissenters, and Jews should be allowed to take their seats in Parliament, you ought to put them on an equality with other Members, leave them to their own sense of duty, and not imply that they will not vote for what they, in their consciences, think most useful. At one time there was on this question much more feeling than now exists. It was then not a matter of doubt whether a Roman Catholic would act according to his opinion, and he was disqualified from sitting in Parliament. It was then that Mr. Burke pronounced this opinion— 1328Whenever I shall be convinced, which will be late and reluctantly, that the safety of the Church is utterly inconsistent with all the civil rights whatsoever of the far larger part of the inhabitants of our country, I shall be extremely sorry for it, because I shall think the Church to be truly in danger. It is putting things into the position of an ugly alternative, into which I hope to God they never will be put.I cannot but think you ought not to require a Member of Parliament to swear more than allegiance to the Crown, and that you ought not to make any distinction on the ground of religion. I think the time has arrived when it is possible to frame such a form of oath as will permit Members of the Church of England, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Dissenters, and Jews, to take their seats by subscribing the same uniform oath. If the House concurs in the principle laid down by Burke, it will assent to the second reading of the Bill, which I now move, trusting that no Amendment will be made in Committee which will impair the spirit of the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Earl Russell.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, the noble Earl (Earl Russell) has entered into an historical sketch of the various obligations and restrictions imposed from the time of King Charles II. downwards upon a certain portion of Her Majesty's subjects; I shall not follow the example of the noble Earl by alluding to the doctrine of transubstantiation, and I shall not refer to the 40s. freeholders of 1829, nor to the opinion of Blackstone as to the state of things which existed 100 years ago. Neither shall I go back to the time of William III. in order to consider what motives influenced the Government of that day. I shall be content to deal with the matter that we have in hand, without going back further than the period of 1829, when the oath which it is now proposed to repeal was imposed upon Roman Catholics for the purpose of inducing Parliament to allow them to become Members of the Legislature. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that last year a Bill, already referred to by the noble Earl, was passed by the other House of Parliament. That Bill dealt with the conditions of the Roman Catholic oath, and sought to relieve Roman Catholics from any conditions in that oath which might be deemed by them injurious and offensive. My Lords, that Bill was introduced by a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) who not very long 1329 ago abandoned the Church of England and embraced the Roman Catholic religion, and who had all the zeal in favour of his new faith which characterizes converts. That right hon. Gentleman brought forward his measure, it appears to me, as one of a series of attacks whereby it is sought, not openly to attack, but to weaken the barriers which Parliament has thought fit to interpose for the protection of the Protestant religion and the Protestant Government of this country. Now, I am of opinion—and I am happy to learn that the noble Earl concurs with me—that a Bill of such great importance, dealing with a subject of such magnitude, ought not to be introduced by a private Member of Parliament, but that the question ought to be taken up by the Government itself, on their own authority and responsibility. The noble Earl has referred to various portions of the oath taken by Roman Catholics. One is as follows:—And I do further declare that it is not an article of my faith, and that I do renounce, reject, and abjure the opinion that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any other authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or by any person whatsoever, And I do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome, or any other foreign Prince, Prelate, Person, State, or Potentate, hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm. I do swear that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm as established by the laws; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by law within this realm. And I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion or Protestant Government in this Kingdom; and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration and every part thereof in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever.Both in the other House and in your Lordships' House it was distinctly admitted on all sides that those portions of the oath which imputed to the Roman Catholics doctrines so offensive and injurious as those which they were called upon to abjure might properly and legitimately be struck out; but I did feel, and I feel now, that without the most serious consideration and discussion a measure ought not to be passed which had for its object the relief of Roman Catholics from the obligations which a little more than thirty years ago they voluntarily took upon themselves, and in 1330 consequence of which Parliament was induced to admit Roman Catholics to the Legislature. Such a measure Parliament ought not to consent to on the Motion of a simple Member unsupported by the authority of Her Majesty's Government, and just previous to a general election. I felt, therefore, that it was my duty to propose the retention of that portion of the oath which was designed—whatever protection it might afford—to protect the Established Church of England and Ireland. The Government refused to assent to an Amendment that was moved in the House of Commons whereby that portion of the oath would be retained, while all portions obnoxious to Roman Catholics would have been struck out, hi opposing that Bill I have been charged with having borrowed from a Member of the other House an expression not very complimentary to those affected by the oath. The expression was not mine—it was borrowed, and it was borrowed from a Member of the other House—and I regret that I used an expression capable of a construction which I never intended it to bear. But I must be permitted to say that the noble Earl, in seeking to relieve the Roman Catholics from the obligations of this oath has used a comparison or simile hardly more complimentary than that attributed to me. When arguing in favour of the remission of this oath the noble Earl referred to an expression of Lord Halifax to the effect that it would be no additional security to society if every thief and burglar were required to swear that he would not commit a robbery or a burglary,
§ EARL RUSSELL
interposed, and was understood to say that he did not intend the remark to apply to this particular question.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I certainly understood the noble Earl to apply it as an argument against the imposition of oaths. If, however, it did not refer to this oath, it may be interesting as a matter of history, but I do not see how it bears upon the debate in your Lordships' House. Well, I stated last year the grounds which made me feel reluctant to agree to the total abolition of the oath; but I cannot conceal from your Lordships that last year a strong desire was expressed in Parliament, not more on one side than the other, that all distinctions with regard to oaths should be done away with, and one uniform oath, to be taken by all Members without distinction to religious persuasion, adopted. 1331 That put the question on a very different footing. It was thus based on a broad and intelligible principle, and was brought forward with the authority and on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, instead of being left in the hands of a single independent Member. In taking that course the Government, I think, acted wisely and prudently. They showed that they did not intend to deal with the question by piecemeal legislation; and when any great political question arises it is much more statesmanlike to introduce a full and comprehensive measure, instead of dealing with it by piecemeal legislation, directed to single and subordinate branches. The intended change is of a most complete and decisive kind, because for all the obligations imposed upon Protestants as well as Roman Catholics the noble Earl proposes to substitute a single oath of personal allegiance to the reigning Sovereign. The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons, and the principle of a uniform oath was adopted by a majority of 380 to 5 or 6. Indeed, that majority spoke even more strongly in favour of the principle than if no division had taken place, and the Bill had passed sub silentio. Well, that principle having been adopted, it of course became requisite to consider what oath could be taken safely by all Members without excluding from it anything that was fundamentally necessary as a portion of the Constitution. How, it is obvious that if we have a uniform oath it would be impossible to call upon Members to take the one imposed on Roman Catholics by the Act of 1839; and in saying this I do not at all mean to say that there are not in Parliament Protestants against whom no precautions are taken, but from whom the Church has far more to apprehend than from the Roman Catholics. However, if a uniform oath is to be framed, it is clear that that portion of the present oath which is specially directed against Roman Catholics must be omitted. Then comes the question, what are the portions which ought to be retained as essential parts of the Constitution, and to which the solemn assent of every Member of Parliament ought to be required? For my part, I do not look upon the oath taken at the opening of Parliament as a means—though, perhaps, it was used for the purpose in former times—of excluding any person from Parliament; but I regard it as a solemn affirmation, on the occasion of the first meeting of the Legislature, of fundamental 1332 principles to which Parliament is pledged, and to which every individual Member pledges himself. It is of very great importance that Members of both Houses should be called upon to declare, and should have no scruple in declaring, allegiance to the Crown; and not only to the reigning Sovereign, but to the succession to the Crown, as regulated by the Act of Settlement—namely, to the descendants of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, being Protestants. That portion of the oath, however, was altogether omitted from the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, as the oath was originally drawn. No reference whatever is made to the Protestant succession. It was simply proposed that there should be an oath of allegiance to the reigning Sovereign, which might under some circumstances be contrary to the law of the land; for, though it is hardly reasonable to entertain the probability of the reigning Sovereign or her successors renouncing the Protestant religion and embracing the Roman Catholic faith, it is clear that were such an event to occur the law of the land would absolve the subjects of the Sovereign from their allegiance. Yet the oath as originally drawn was one of allegiance to the person of the Sovereign, and would be wholly inconsistent with the law. But, my Lords, an Amendment was proposed, and I am happy to say acquiesced in by the House of Commons, which makes the oath stand thus—I, A B, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria; and I do faithfully promise to maintain and support the Succession to the Crown, as the same stands limited and settled by an Act passed in the reign of King William III., intituled 'An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown, and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject,' so help me God.Now, my Lords, it is right to mention this, because many of those who have presented petitions against this Bill, seeing that the words "being Protestants" were omitted from the new oath, thought that no security had been taken for the Protestant succession. They were right in that impression as regards the oath as it stood when introduced by Her Majesty's Government but by the Amendment introduced in the House of Commons, and to which Her Majesty's Government agreed, the Protestant succession is as well secured as it was by the original oath. My Lords, there was a third difficulty in framing a 1333 uniform oath—one which was not by any means the least difficulty in the matter—namely, the supremacy of the Crown. There is no question on which the people of this country set a higher value. They would feel regret, and make heard their indignant denunciation, if the absolute supremacy of the Crown in alt matters ecclesiastical and civil in this country were not affirmed by Parliament. But it is quite true that the construction which has been put on the terms of the Oath of Supremacy has not only been a stumbling-block to Roman Catholics, but a great scruple—though I think an unnecessary and unfounded scruple—with some Protestant Members of your Lordships' House, The words to which I allude are—And I do declare that no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State, or Potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.In order to meet the objection of Roman Catholics, the words "ecclesiastical or spiritual" were left out of the oath required to be taken by Roman Catholics, and the words "temporal or civil" inserted in their stead; hut many Protestants have felt scruples in swearing to the words contained in the Protestant oath, because, as a matter of fact, though not of law or right, it is indisputable that in foro conscientiœ a foreign Prince or Potentate does exercise spiritual pre-eminence and authority over a large number of Her Majesty's subjects. As I said before, I think those scruples are not well founded; but, at the same time, as we recognize the status of Roman Catholics, and of the Roman Catholic bishops and clergy performing religious offices and invested with religious authority within this country, no doubt there has existed a certain ambiguity with respect to the true meaning of this declaration. And, my Lords, the difficulty remains as to what we really do mean by the assertion of the supremacy of the Crown. In attempting to frame a uniform oath, you had the declaration of the Protestant against all foreign authority, "ecclesiastical or spiritual," on the one hand; and you had that of the Roman Catholic, which was limited to "temporal or civil" authority, on the other. Now, how was this difficulty to be got over if you were to have a uniform oath, and still retain words relating to foreign jurisdiction or authority? Either you must call on the Roman Catholics to do that which they 1334 could not do, and which they have not been called upon to do for several years; or you must call on the Protestants to limit their declaration to "temporal or civil" authority. No doubt this was a difficulty; but it appeared to me that words might he framed, such as were framed to meet the scruples of the Roman Catholics in the time of Queen Elizabeth, in which the true meaning of the supremacy of the Crown might be explained, and to which Roman Catholics and Protestants might adhere. I had some reason to believe, from; private communications which I received, that if some such declaration were framed it would receive the support of the English Roman Catholic laity; but from some causes to which I need not refer, I found that the Members of the House of Commons who had favoured me with: their views on the subject were not prepared to give a deliberate judgment on the matter of the declaration. An Amendment was proposed in the House of Commons with the view of inserting in the; oath a declaration of the supremacy of the Crown, but that Amendment was rejected by a majority of eleven. I am bound to admit that some of those who voted against the Amendment did so on the ground that the restraining words which it was proposed to insert would have the effect of diminishing, as far as the declaration by oath, the scope of the authority of the Sovereign of this country. That view was urged on the high authority of Her Majesty's Attorney General, and I believe it was felt by others sincerely desirous of maintaining the supremacy of the Crown. That being so, I bow, though with considerable reluctance, to the decision at which the House of Commons arrived on the point. I do not propose on the present occasion to offer any opposition to the proposition of Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion; but I hope Her Majesty's Government will not object to incorporate in Committee in the Bill, though not in the oath, a declaration re-affirming and re-asserting the absolute and entire supremacy of the Crown, But passing from the declaration of supremacy, I must observe it is rather singular that the word "defend," contained in the oath as introduced originally, should have been struck; out in the House of Commons. Now, my Lords, I do not attach any great importance to this omission. The words "maintain, support, and uphold" certainly to my mind involve defence, but still there was 1335 something singular in the omission of the word "defend." My Lords, it did so occur—I must not say in the House of Commons, but in an assembly where the Bill was under discussion—that there happened to be present a member of the Society of Friends—a gentleman of a peculiarly meek and mild disposition—one who has nothing in his character approaching to pugnacity—one of those humble and meek Christians who if you smote them on one cheek would most certainly turn the other—one to whom, above all things, is utterly abhorent and repugnant to impart into political discussions anything like an exhibition or a demonstration of physical force. That hon. Gentleman, as I understand, having for twenty years very calmly acquiesced in the word "defend," was suddenly seized with a qualm of conscience lest, in consequence of the affirmation, he should be called on to take up arms and defend the Crown. Accordingly, he suggested that there should be no room left for doubt, and that the word should be omitted. Of course, it was impossible the Home Secretary could refuse to accede to such a suggestion, coming as it did from a gentleman to whom Her Majesty's Government are under such obligations for his large confidence and his enthusiastic support. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said there was not the slightest difficulty in complying in with so reasonable a request; the House of Commons laughed, and the offensive, or I should rather call it the "defensive" word was struck out. My Lords, I do not ask you to put yourselves at issue with the House of Commons on this point. I do not attach much importance to the word "defend." I should be sorry to think the security of the Crown depended in any degree for support on the defence it might receive from the hon. Gentleman; and I should be extremely sorry to call on that hon. Gentleman, or any other person who takes the same views, to so far violate his fixed principles and his fixed determination, as to promise under any circumstances to defend the person of his Sovereign or the Constitution of this country. I do not, then, propose to ask your Lordships to reintroduce the word "defend" which has been struck out. Indeed, I do not intend to ask you myself to make any alterations in the provisions of the Bill. The proposal may be regarded as somewhat hazardous, and not altogether free from objection, and to portions of the measure, if they could be 1336 separated from the rest, I retain the same objections which I felt it my duty to press upon your Lordships on a former occasion. But I will not for the sake of maintaining those objections, run the risk of making a serious question of discussion and difference between your Lordships' House and the House of Commons. The measure has been introduced on the authority of the Government; it was supported, in principle, at least, by an overwhelming and preponderating majority of the House of Commons; and, therefore, for my own part, as I have already informed the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government privately, I have no opposition to offer to the second reading; nor is it my intention to propose any Amendment in Committee that may have the effect of altering the conditions on which this Bill is framed, or of making any substantial difference in its provisions. I can only say, I earnestly hope and pray that these alterations and simplifications of the oath may lead to a better understanding and more harmony among all portions of Her Majesty's subjects, and with that hope—I will say earnest and confident hope—I willingly give my assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD RAVENSWORTH
said, he doubtless owed an apology to their Lordships for rising after his noble Friend; but, regarding the change proposed by this Bill as a deliberate violation of a solemn compact entered into, at the time of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, between Parliament and the Roman Catholic section of the population, he could not regard it as a light or frivolous matter. Had it been possible thirty years ago—at the time of the Emancipation Bill—for anyone to have been so gifted with prophecy as to have been able to foretell that thirty years after every provision intended as a security and safeguard for the Protestant institutions of the country would have been abolished, his anticipations certainly would have shared the fate of those of the prophetess Cassandra; but had they been credited, he defied noble Lords to say that the Bill would ever have been passed. He had listened attentively to the arguments that had been brought forward by the noble Earl at the head of the Government in support of this Bill, but he confessed he had heard very little from him to vindicate the policy which he had adopted. The noble Earl had said that we had entered on a new era of mutual forbearance and 1337 mutual confidence; and in that he (Lord Ravensworth) was ready to agree with him. Great changes had taken place since these oaths were framed. The exiled family whose Members called forth such devoted loyalty in portions of the United Kingdom, and more particularly in Scotland and Ireland, had become extinct; and the strong affection felt for the House of Stuart was now transferred to the reigning family, those to whom their honours, titles, and estates, had been restored by the leniency of the Crown, now displayed an undoubted feeling of loyalty to the Queen, therefore, as regarded the English Roman Catholics, he had the fullest confidence in their loyalty to the Crown, whatever declaration they might be called upon to make. But he could not say that he entertained the same confidence in the Irish Roman Catholics, He blamed the Government for having brought forward this measure at the commencement of an untried Parliament, and he viewed it as a prelude to that assault which was about to be made upon the Protestant Established Church in Ireland. Whatever might be the views of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Irish Church, he apprehended that the boon they were about to confer on the Irish Roman Catholics would probably be repaid in their support of that attack that was about to be made on the Irish Church, But if that attack was made and carried by a majority of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, he felt certain it would cause a feeling of deep disgust, dissatisfaction, and dread in the minds of the Protestants in that country. He should he glad, however, to have these suspicions removed. The numerical support the measure had received in the other House induced him to agree with his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) that it would be injudicious to provoke a conflict between the two Houses of Parliament by a decided opposition to this Bill; but, at the same time, he entered his decided protest against the measure. The noble Earl at the head of the Government had referred to history in support of the course he was now pursuing with regard to this measure. He (Lord Ravensworth) would, however, remind (he noble Earl that although great changes had taken place in other matters the Church of the Vatican held the selfsame position with regard to all its claims and authorities which it had occupied at any previous period. To abandon these would 1338 be to relinquish the attitude essential to its stability. In support of his argument he would draw their Lordships' attention to some extracts from the writings of Voltaire with reference to the important questions of divided allegiance, and make some observations thereupon. Voltaire said—To swear allegiance to another than one's Sovereign is a crime of lese-majestié in the laity; in the cloister it is an act of religion. The difficulty of knowing to what point one should obey this foreign Sovereign, the facility of allowing oneself to be seduced, the pleasure of shaking off a natural yoke for one that is self-imposed, the spirit of turbulence, the misfortunes of the times have only too frequently induced whole orders of religionists to serve Rome against their native country.Voltaire then proceeded to define the powers and authority of the Pope, and his jurisdiction in France, as independent of the monarch. Continuing, he said—These advantages, regarded by many people as the suites of the greatest abuses, and by others as the relies of the most sacred rights, are always sustained with art. Rome manages her credit with as much policy as the Roman Republic employed to conquer half the world. No Court ever knew better how to conduct itself according to the character of the men and the spirit of the age. Most of our writers have argued with reason against the ambition of this Court, but I know of none who have rendered sufficient justice to its prudence. I doubt if any other nation could have preserved in Europe during so long a period I so many prerogatives always contested. Every other Court would probably have lost them, cither by its pride or by its feebleness, or by its indolence, or by its vivacity; but Rome by employing always à propos firmness and suppleness hath preserved all that, humanly speaking, she has been able to preserve. Some rights, many and great pretensions, policy and patience—these are what remain at this day to Rome of that ancient power which six centuries ago desired to submit the Empire and Europe to the triple Crown.He asked whether these observations were not still applicable to the question under consideration, and worthy of attention. He would also quote one more passage as follows:—His spiritual authority, always a little mixed with temporal, is destroyed and detested in half of Christendom, and if, in the other half, he is regarded as a father, he has children who resist him sometimes with reason and with success. The maxim of France is to regard him as a person sacred, but aggressive—of whom we kiss the feet, but sometimes tie the hands.If these extracts were the expressed belief of a Roman Catholic in a Roman Catholic Empire reigned over by a Sovereign of the same faith, how much more necessary was it in this country, the whole of whose institutions were Protestants, that security 1339 should be taken against those secret dangers from the spiritual authority of Rome which may become apparent in time to come? He had always been in favour of affording relief to those who differed from him in religion, but he objected to their being called upon so suddenly and unexpectedly to agree to a measure of this importance. He would conclude by observing that, although he would not move the rejection of the Bill, yet he could not permit it to pass without his protest.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in the discussion upon the Roman Catholic oath; but, by way of preface to some few observations upon the matter, I would express my opinion that those who oppose the Bill before your Lordships are prompted much more by feeling than weighed by logical argument; and I am not ashamed to confess, my Lords, that as far as mere feeling is concerned, I had, and have now, a considerable amount of sympathy with the noble Lords opposite. But I cannot help pointing out to those who have the feeling without the convictions which I have upon the subject, that the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) will hardly be satisfactory, because your Lordships will observe that he dealt entirely with the resistance which he made last Session, and with the concession which he makes this. Insisting entirely upon what may be called the accidents of the question, the noble Earl defended his resistance and justified his concession simply on the ground of the difference of form between the Bills of last year and this. The noble Earl must, however, be aware that the objections raised by those who have strong feelings upon the matter will not be met by this difference of form; nor will the objections of the noble Lord who last addressed us be met by it. Looking at the question, then, from a point of view somewhat different from that presented on this side the House, I do not deny, and I think it cannot be denied, that it is perfectly plain that the oath which we are now proposing to abolish was a part, and no insignificant part, of the settlement of the Roman Catholic question in 1829. This is still more apparent from a debate which took place some five years afterwards upon a Motion made by Mr. Daniel O'Connell in the House of Commons for the appointment of a Committee to consider the Roman Catholic Oath. That Motion was opposed by the Government of that time under Lord Althorp. It was 1340 vigorously opposed also by Sir Robert Peel; who, in the course of his speech on that occasion, said distinctly, that if it had not been for the oaths imposed by the Act of 1829 (which, after being carefully drawn up, was accepted by the heads of the Roman Catholic party) he did not believe he should have been able to carry the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill through the House of Commons, and certainly not through the House of Lords. Therefore, my Lords, I think we are giving up a part of what was then looked upon as the security of the Bill of 1829. Not that I think Sir Robert Peel felt this was any real security; he, no doubt, trusted to the same securities as the noble Earl at the head of the Government depends upon. He relied upon the abolition of the Catholic Association, and the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland. We have therefore every right to hold the Roman Catholics to their bargain. But is it worth while to do so? In the first place, if it be thought worth while, in opposition to this Bill, to take the same ground as Sir Robert Peel, can we say that we represent the Parliament of 1829, in the sense of approaching this question, in the same principle and with the same spirit that they did. Clearly not. It is evident that the differences between this Parliament and the Parliament of 1829 utterly destroy that ground, for hardly a Member of the present House of Commons would need any security such as the oath we propose to abolish in order to grant emancipation to the Roman Catholics. I have heard some former Members of your Lordships House, and especially the late Earl of Winchilsea, express their regret that these concessions were made, and there may possibly still survive some of your Lordships who regret that they were ever granted. But I apprehend the real question before us now is—are these so-called securities any securities in the real sense of the word, and whether they do not do harm rather than good? I have no doubt that the maintenance of an oath that is offensive to Roman Catholic feeling does a great deal of harm as regards the spirit and temper of the Roman Catholic community. Why is the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) giving way as he is wisely doing on this occasion? Is it not because his speech of last year, and his reluctance to allow of the abolition or alteration of the oath, gave serious offence to many gentlemen who might otherwise have been friends and 1341 supporters of his policy? I am not imputing anything wrong in the motives of the noble Earl if I say he has been influenced by the course taken by the Roman Catholics who disliked the opposition which he formerly offered to a proposal to change the oath. As to the words used by the noble Earl last year which were said to have given offence, after all they described exactly what had been the very intention of Parliament in imposing this oath on the Roman Catholics. The noble Earl said they were intended to "muzzle" the Roman Catholics and prevent them from biting; and it is perfectly true that they were meant to prevent, Roman Catholics from taking part in discussions affecting the Established Church. As a matter of fact, can any of us say that: these oaths have the slightest effect in preventing Roman Catholics from exercising a free discretion on all subjects brought before them relating to ecclesiastical endowments? I greatly doubt whether the late Sir Robert Peel ever intended or desired that they should operate in that way, for when it was proposed that Roman Catholic Members should be disabled from voting on any question affecting the Church, he protested against it on the ground that all Members ought to be on an equal footing to speak or vote on any question that came before Parliament, and Mr. O'Connell, in the debate in 1834 to which I have referred, held himself to be perfectly free to deal, like any other Member of Parliament, with any question affecting the endowment of the Established Church. As to the construction which has been put upon these oaths I do not wish to defend it; and there can be no doubt—and, I believe, conscientious Roman Catholics will adroit—that they constitute at least an impediment in their way, and that it is more or less by a process of sophistical reasoning which has been defended by no less an authority than Mr. Hallam that they are enabled to hold themselves free as legislators to vote against the very Establishment which they have professed themselves bound not to injure. These oaths, then, afford no practical security whatever as regards the Established Church in Ireland, or any other institution. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) also made a remark on a matter of more importance—namely, the oath of supremacy—he said that the new oath would amount to a total abrogation of the oath of supremacy. I entirely agree with him as to the immense importance of 1342 the Royal supremacy in connection with the Constitution of this country. It is the very foundation stone of the Reformation in England. I believe the noble Earl is perfectly correct in saying that there is no one principle to which the people of this country arc more attached than to the Royal supremacy, and that the popular apprehension has perhaps been more directed against that part of this Bill than against any other portion of it But the noble Earl has omitted to notice that the oath now taken docs not affirm the supremacy of the Crown. As originally drawn up in the reign of Elizabeth, the oath of supremacy was both affirmative and negative; in the first place, it affirmatively claimed all civil and ecclesiastical authority for the Crown; and next, it negatived all such authority in the Pope, In the reign of William III., the first part of the oath was abolished in deference to the conscientious objections taken by the Presbyterians and the Dissenters; and the affirmative portion was entirely struck out; and up to 1829 nothing remained but the negative declaration that the Pope had no ecclesiastical or civil jurisdiction in this country. Still, as the oath stood from the reign of William III. down to 1829, the Roman Catholics were excluded from Parliament. But since 1829 the question of the Royal supremacy has been in utter and hopeless confusion. The Protestant is asked to abjure a tenet which he is not suspected of entertaining—he is asked to declare that the Pope has no ecclesiastical or civil authority in this realm, which he never asserted he had. Then there are the words affirming that the Pope "ought not to have" such authority; and the Roman Catholics need not take those words. The Protestant is thus asked to renounce a doctrine which he does not hold; and the Roman Catholic is allowed to conic in, although he holds that very doctrine, Thus the matter is in utter confusion. Surely, then, the oath is no security whatever to the Protestant Church or Constitution. It appears to me that whatever danger there is in Roman Catholicism comes from a totally different direction. The noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Ravens worth) has referred to the pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church, and said that there is no difference in doctrines and pretensions of the Church of Rome from what they were in former times, and it may be that if we look to the writings of some living divines of that Church we 1343 shall find no change in those pretensions. 1 In the interesting Apologia of Dr. New-man, a divine who had had an English training and had been a minister of the Church of England before he went over to the Church of Rome, this paragraph appears:—It (the Church of Rome) could act in its own province, unless it had a right to act out of it. The Catholic Church claims, not only to judge infallibly on religious questions, but to animadvert on opinions in secular matters which bear upon religion, on matters of philosophy, of science, of literature, of history, and it demands our submission to her claim. It claims to censure books, to silence authors, and to forbid discussions. It must, of course, be obeyed without a word.Again, a Roman Catholic Quarterly Review was published by a gentleman nearly connected with my noble Friend the President of the Council, and one of the most learned Roman Catholics in Europe, and also a man distinguished for his liberal opinions. Yet we know—for it is no secret—that on account of the disapprobation of the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church that periodical has in some measure to be given up, and that eminent layman, acting on the principle laid down by Dr. Newman, thought it necessary to stop it. I certainly do not pretend to think that the pretensions of the Court of Rome are altered in any respect from what they were in former times, nor do I doubt that they are admitted by many men who might have been thought to be more independent in their views. But what has that to do with the question of these oaths? You cannot by Act of Parliament prevent men from holding these views; you ought to trust these matters to free discussion absolutely. I am not quite sure that some distinguished divines and members of the Church of England would be willing to take the affirmative part of the Elizabethan oath of supremacy. I know that very lately Dr. Pusey, a man possessing high office in one of the principal seminaries of learning connected with the Church of England, and which is supposed to be endowed mainly to support the interests of that Church, has published a letter in which he avows, not only his wish to have communion with the Church of Rome in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, but he has gone further, and said that he would be willing to acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope in these matters. That being the case, the danger arises not merely from the Church of Rome, but comes from 1344 within the Church of England itself. I conceive these oaths are of no effect whatever—absolutely none—in affording security to the Church of England against such views as I have mentioned. I believe these oaths are worse than useless, because they tend to lead men to think they have a real security when they have none; and the resistance to these dangers, if it is to be successful, must be conducted in quite a different manner. I can well understand the reluctance with which many conscientious persons regard the rubbing out from the oath of those words which are the fruits of the great constitutional contests of the 17th century. It wa3 impossible that those contests could be carried on without much harshness, and without a sense of injustice on the part of those upon whom these oaths were sought to be imposed; but I believe we are now in the secure enjoyment of the fruits of those contests, and there can be no greater triumph of Protestant principle than for us to say that the time has come when we can give that freedom to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects for which we have contended for them, and which they never would have conquered for themselves.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
My Lords, when the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) rose I expected to have heard some powerful arguments advanced in favour of the Bill; but I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that what he said tended very strongly to prejudice the measure; and I think the noble Duke's colleagues have reason to complain that when things were going on smoothly he should think proper to throw impediments in the way. Having on former occasions taken an active part in opposing alterations of the oaths taken by Members of Parliament, your Lordships will, I trust, bear with me while I explain the course which I intend to pursue with regard to the present question. I am not, my Lords, afraid of the risk of being charged with clinging to prejudices which it is the prevalent practice of the day to discard. I confess I should have preferred to retain the present distinction between the Protestant and the Catholic oath, removing from the latter everything which is felt to be offensive, and therefore may be reasonably objected to by Roman Catholics. But I am compelled to say that this ground of objection to the oath, that part of it is offensive, is of recent discovery. When the oath was framed as part of the settlement of 1829, 1345 it received the cordial assent [...] woman Catholic prelates, and was, indeed, framed on a prior oath contained in an Act passed in 1793. At the time when the settlement of 1829 was proposed Sir Robert Peel stated, and I agree with him, that no Roman Catholic could entertain any valid or conscientious objection to the oath. It is true that one noble Lord did then express his objections to those portions of the oath to which the attention of our Lordships has been directed; but he was immediately checked by the observation of Lord Lyndhurst, that the words against which he felt an objection were in the oath of 1793, and had been taken for forty years without any objection. Now, to this period of forty or, to speak more correctly, thirty-six years, thirty years must now be added, and during the whole of that time no one has heard the slightest whisper of objection to any part of the oath, or any suggestion that any part of it could be considered an insult by Roman Catholics. In 1849 the noble Earl, now at the head of the Government (Earl Russell), introduced the first of a series of Bills for the admission of Jews into Parliament; and for that purpose he proposed an alteration of the oath; but said that he did not think it expedient to propose any alteration of the Roman Catholic oath, which was settled in 1829, and for his forbearance on that occasion the noble Earl received the approbation of Sir Robert Peel. In 1852 the noble Earl introduced the first of a series of Reform Bills, and in that Bill ho proposed an alteration of the Roman Catholic oath; but he only sought to omit the words "or murdered" after the word "deposed," because he said he considered these words to be offensive to the Roman Catholics; but he thereby proposed to retain the remainder of the oaths; and this showed that he could not have considered it insulting to the Roman Catholics to call upon them to renounce, as an article of their faith, the doctrine that ex communicated princes might be deposed by their subjects. In 1854, in the Bill for the admission of the Jews, the noble Karl for the first time tried his hand at one uniform oath; and this was the only occasion on which I had the good fortune to procure the rejection of a Bill brought in for this object by the noble Earl. But on that occasion the noble Earl stated that he had received no application from the Roman Catholics, nor had he consulted them, nor was he aware that they 1346 required any change in the oath. So that your Lordships will observe I have established the proposition that for thirty-six years during which the oath, or a similar one, has been taken, there has not been the slightest objection on the part of the Roman Catholics. These little details afford an interesting history of the advancing views of the noble Earl on this subject, as we have lately had an instance of his dissolving views upon another subject. It might be thought that the passages complained of were peculiar to the Roman Catholic oath; but this fact is too often lost sight of—that down to 1858 all these objectionable parts of the Roman Catholic oath were contained in the oath taken by Protestants. [EARL RUSSELL: It was then that I altered it.] Yes; but they were required to renounce and abjure as impious and heretical that damnable doctrine that princes excommunicated by the Pope or any authority of the See of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, and also to declare that they took the oath without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation. When the Act of 1858, changing the oath with regard to the Protestants, and converting the three oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration into one oath, and eliminating all that is now considered objectionable was under discussion, I thought it was not desirable to keep up an invidious distinction between the oaths taken by Roman Catholics and by Protestants, and I stated that I was willing to omit these portions of the Roman Catholic oath, Nor was that an idea which I took up for the day; for in 1854 I expressed a similar opinion that these portions of the oath might very well be dispensed with. But I confess that I regret the loss of that part of the Protestant oath by which the person taking it is called upon to deny that any foreign Prince, Person, State, or Potentate, hath or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, supremacy, or authority, spiritual or ecclesiastical, within these realms; and also the portion of the oath taken by the Roman Catholics, which requires the person taking it to disclaim any intention to interfere with the Church Establishments. Some ridicule has been cast upon the notion that oaths can offer any security, or be any barrier against any inroad on our constitution. I admit that they were no barrier, except in regard to the words "on the true faith of a Christian" which, until they were indirectly repealed, barred the doors of the Legislature 1347 against the Jews. With regard to the question of security, I cannot see but that the part which requires the Roman Catholic Member to declare that he has no intention to weaken the Church Establishment must have some security in it; for the very argument is used on the other side, that conscientious Roman Catholics feel themselves in a difficulty owing to these words, which shows that the oath is considered binding as an obligation to debar conscientious Roman Catholics from any interference in any measure which affects the Church Establishment. It is perfectly idle to imagine that any case may arise in which an intelligent and conscientious Roman Catholic would have any difficulty in knowing whether a measure is or is not hostile to the Church Establishment. If there is any doubt in his mind on the subject, then, the rule of practical morality is, that he should abstain from action. The oath which is now proposed, my Lords, sweeps away those securities to which I have been adverting, and also the barrier which prevented the admission of any Jew to Parliament. It has been stated by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Derby) that the original proposal of the Government was that there should be merely an oath of personal allegiance to the Sovereign. I do not know whether the noble Earl at the head of the Government was influenced by an opinion which I have heard him cite with approbation on more than one occasion—the opinion of Lord Eldon, that the oath of supremacy was virtually contained in the oath of allegiance; but with all respect for the profound sagacity of that noble and learned Lord, I never did understand that proposition. If it be true that the oath of supremacy is involved in the oath of allegiance, the Roman Catholics have been caught in a snare; for while they have been innocently supposing, in subscribing to the oath of allegiance, that they were merely swearing fidelity and loyalty to the Crown, they have been entrapped into an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Crown in all its integrity, which includes the ecclesiastical as well as the civil jurisdiction. My Lords, the observations which were made when there was an attempt made to add to the oath certain portions which have been since introduced would go very far—as, indeed, the statement of the noble Earl opposite tonight has done—to prove the absolute inutility of all promissory oaths whatever. 1348 It may be asked—and this seemed to be almost the argument of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll)—why should we be called upon to recognize the supremacy of the Crown when it is an essential and vital part of the Constitution? Why should we be called upon to acknowledge the Act of Settlement, as if it had not the internal strength necessary to maintain itself without the support of an oath? It may be asked, why should we have any oath of allegiance at all, inasmuch as allegiance is connate with every subject of this realm? It may also be asked, why should it be necessary at the coronation to propose any oath to the Sovereign since the coronation oath does not make the person crowned more Sovereign than the oath of allegiance makes the subject more loyal? The reciprocal obligations of the two necessarily arise out of the relation which exists between them. These arguments, which we have heard raised, go very far to abolish the necessity for any oaths of office whatever, I know there are many persons who entertain the notion that oaths are unnecessary. I do not know whether that is the opinion of the noble Earl (Earl Russell), but I almost gathered that it was from his quoting the opinion of Lord Halifax. Certainly the observation of Lord Halifax might be good as a ludicrous illustration, but as an argument it is worth nothing at all. I do not know whether the Government, or the noble Earl at the head of the Government, are of opinion that oaths of this description are unnecessary, but I can only say that if he is I am of an entirely different opinion, and a most distinguished Member—shall I say the most distinguished Member—of the present Government is, or rather was, in 1854, of a different opinion also. In the debate at that time to which I am referring the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—I know there are some Gentlemen here who think we should come to the discharge of our duties without any oath. I do not happen to be one of that opinion. I revere the principle of the oath. I think it tends to maintain that serious and reverential temper with which men ought to address themselves to solemn duties."—[8 Hansard, cxxxiii. 900.]My Lords, I entirely agree with that observation. I apprehend the real question is, to what extent we should recognize those principles—those essential principles—of the Constitution which are to be the limits within which our legislative functions are to be exercised. It appears that the original notion of the Government was that 1349 this matter might be performed by merely a personal oath of allegiance, though they agreed afterwards to the Amendment to which my noble Friend behind has alluded with regard to the settlement of the Crown. As to any acknowledgment, even a modified acknowledgment of supremacy, that was resisted by the Government, and their resistance was successful to the extent of their obtaining a majority. The oath is stripped of all acknowledgment of the supremacy which has been contained in every oath for more than 300 years, and the words "upon the true faith of a Christian," which have prevented any person not of the Christian religion from sitting in Parliament, are also omitted. My Lords, I entertain now precisely the same opinions which I always have entertained with regard to the importance of recognizing the supremacy in the oath, and also with regard to preventing any person who is not a Christian from sitting in our Christian Legislature. It might, therefore, be expected that retaining these sentiments I should pursue a consistent course by voting against the second reading of this Bill. But, my Lords, I feel myself compelled to take a different course, and I am most anxious to explain the reason of it, in order that it may not be supposed I have departed from any of those principles which I have always most strenuously upheld. With regard to the omission of the words "upon the true faith of a Christian," I have always contended against the admission of Jews to Parliament as a matter of principle, I have never thought that there was the slightest danger to the State in admitting a few Jews to the Legislature; but upon principle, and upon principle alone, I have maintained my opposition. Now, in the year 1858 an Act was passed which involved a compromise upon this long-vexed question; and it was enacted that either House of Parliament might by a Resolution dispense in the case of a Jew with those words of the oath which declares it to be taken "upon the true faith of a Christian." Now, my Lords, it appears to me that the principle is as much violated by admitting a Jew by the side door of a Resolution as it would be if you admitted him by throwing open the principal door, and giving him a seat in Parliament by the express word of the Act itself. Therefore, in my view, there really is on this subject nothing left worth contending for, and I am not at all disposed, having certainly failed in maintain- 1350 ing the principle which I defended, to take any further part in resisting the complete admission of the Jew to his seat in the Legislature. Then, with regard to the acknowledgment of the supremacy, for which I have always contended, the noble Earl may perfectly well recollect that when in 1854 he tried to establish a uniform oath, the principal ground of objection which I urged was that, as it was to be taken by Roman Catholics, there necessarily could be no recognition of supremacy, and it was principally upon that ground, as the noble Earl will also remember, that the House, by a small majority, rejected the Bill. I consider, however, that the current has now set so strongly in favour of a uniform oath that it is impossible any longer to struggle against it. The House of Commons, by an almost unanimous decision, has established that, in their opinion, there ought to be a uniform oath, and I think the division itself in that House was infinitely more striking than if there had been merely a silent unanimity upon the subject. Of course, there can be no uniform oath without the absence of all recognition of supremacy. If I were to vote against this Bill, and even if I could hope to obtain a majority of your Lordships' House—of which I entertain some doubt—though I might succeed in throwing out the Bill, I do not think it would be desirable or expedient that I should pursue that course; because I cannot believe that the House of Commons will ever consent to withdraw from the ground which they have occupied in such strength. And if I succeeded in throwing out the Bill, it would lead probably to other Bills of a similar nature being sent up from the House of Commons to this House year after year until we acquiesced, and then, I think, there would be a very unseemly dispute between the two Houses, in which ultimately we should have to yield. Therefore, my Lords, I must confess, though with reluctance, that I shall offer no opposition to the Bill.—I submit to superior force. But, at the same time, I am particularly anxious, so far as I can, to preserve a proper recognition of the supremacy of the Crown. I therefore intend to propose an Amendment in Committee, which I cannot help thinking will be accepted without objection by the Government. I will just explain what it is, in order that your Lordships may be properly prepared for it, Your Lordships will observe that in the sixth section of the Act there is the repeal of various Acts, and 1351 parts of Acts, contained in the schedule. Many of those Acts in the schedule contain the forms of oaths in which the supremacy is recognized. Now, if we were to consent to the clauses of this Bill repealing those Acts without any reservation, it might he thought that the Legislature were of opinion that it is inexpedient and improper to recognize the supremacy at all; and therefore, for the purpose of preventing any such conclusion, I shall propose in Committee to add this proviso at the end of the sixth section—Provided always that the repeal of these Acts, or any of them, or of any parts thereof, shall not be construed to weaken or in any manner to affect any laws or statutes now in force for preserving and upholding the supremacy of our Lady the Queen, her heirs and successors, in all matters, civil and ecclesiastical, within this realm and other Her Majesty's dominions.That will not touch the oath in the slightest degree, but it will protect us against the conclusion that the supremacy is not recognized. I hope that when I move this Amendment in Committee it will receive the support of the House.
§ EARL RUSSELL
After what the noble and learned Baron has said, I may be permitted to explain that I never said, nor did I mean, that I objected to have such an oath as an oath of allegiance, or any other oath of that kind. What I stated was, that I thought it was very advisable to have an oath in cases where there was no doubt about the meaning, and where it was the duty of the person taking the oath to do what he then swore to do. I gave, as an instance, the case of a man swearing as a witness that he will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He merely swears that he will do what he would admit it to be his duty to do. So also with regard to the oath of allegiance. If a man swore allegiance to King William III., he merely swore to do that which it was his duty to do. In a case of this kind, where what is sworn is a plain matter of duty, I think it is quite right to have an oath; but I should not think it right to have an oath in cases where it might be a matter of opinion as to whether it was a man's duty to do that which he swore to do. With regard to the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, the words of which, of course, I have not considered, I should really hope that there will be no objection to them.
§ LORD ARUNDELL OF WARDOUR
said, he should have abstained from ad- 1352 dressing the House, but that last year he was reproached, as a Catholic, with not having expressed the sentiments of the Catholic, in regard to what fell from the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), and it had been said that the Catholics did not care for the matter under discussion. Perhaps it was incumbent on him, as sitting on the Conservative side of the House, to have replied on that occasion, and no doubt he was in some measure responsible for the impression his silence produced. Howover, he did not feel greatly disturbed by the reproach; and his reply to it was, and always had been, that he did not feel hurt by the language of the noble Earl, which gave great, although unreasonable, offence, and that he could not help regarding the movement of last Session as part of the electioneering tactics of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell). However, as he bad honourably redeemed his pledge, he was entitled to the acknowledgment of the honesty of his intentions. Now that the question came before their Lordships independently of electioneering complications, he had no hesitation in saying that he had always felt that this oath was a trammel from which the Catholic body had a full right to be relieved. He believed there was a very general impression that this was not a practical grievance. It had been said that the Catholics had taken the oath for thirty-seven years, and that they might continue to take it still. But the impression underlying the oath was that Catholics concealed nefarious designs, and this was a practical, and not a merely sentimental grievance. With regard to the Amendment of which the noble and learned Lord had given notice, he would put it to the noble and learned Lord whether the matter was of such importance that, in case the Amendment was not made, he would prefer the perpetuity of an anomaly which did not exist in any other Legislative Assembly in the world.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
My Amendment will not touch the oath in the slightest degree. The oath will remain exactly as it stands in the Bill. My Amendment relates only to the repeal of those Acts in which there are recognitions of supremacy, and provides that the repeal of those Acts shall not affect the recognition.
§ LORD ARUNDELL OF WARDOUR
said, that nothing could be clearer than the form of oath proposed; yet there was a point involved to which he would call attention. The proposed form simply men- 1353 tioned allegiance, which, as defined in the statute, included ecclesiastical and spiritual as well as civil supremacy. He did not mean to raise any question provided the sense of the oath was understood; but he would prefer the status in quo to the substitution of any oath which was not perfectly unexceptionable. He thought there were other grievances, such as that with regard to workhouses, which affected Catholics more seriously than the oath imposed upon Members of Parliament. For his own part he did not in the slightest degree feel that oath as a grievance; but still, as others deemed it to be so, he thought it was one which Parliament might fairly be asked to redress.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
said, that having presented to their Lordships upwards of 400 petitions against this Bill, and not having seen one in its favour, he desired to say a few words respecting it, out of respect to the numerous persons who had confided their petitions to him. There could be no doubt that the petitions in question spoke the strong Protestant sense of the country upon this subject—which was so familiar to the people of England that it was useless to split straws or make explanation respecting it. The people regarded the Bill as a direct attack upon a principle which they considered to be a buttress of the Constitution, and which ought to be resisted by all means in their power. When he first heard of the intended measure he naturally, as a citizen and a man moving in society, was anxious to learn some valid cause for such a Bill being brought in by the Government; but he had heard nothing except an expression of opinion from the noble Lord who had just sat down, that some redress should be given for grievances which he saw. But, surely, that was not a statesmanlike reason for the Government taking up the matter. He wished to refer to a statement signed by Mr. F. R. Wegg Prosser, a Roman Catholic gentleman of great respectability, which contained a description of an interview which had taken place between the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) and a Roman Catholic deputation. Mr. Prosser stated his belief that all the Catholic bishops had been consulted about the oath, and though not aware of the precise nature of their answers, he thought some of them drew a distinction between taking an oath already made and being a party to enacting one; that any one who 1354 reflected on the subject must see how important the distinction was. For instance, no good Catholic could take part in passing such an Act as the Act of Settlement, because it excluded Catholics from the succession, yet he might subscribe to the oath after it had been enacted by persons over whom he had no control. If the Government had not meddled with the oath for the purpose of obtaining a spurious popularity with the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland, their Lordships would not be in the situation in which they were at present placed. What future could they look to when the Roman Catholics were getting more and more power every day? For his part, he was totally opposed to the Bill and should say "Not Content" to the second reading.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next