HC Deb 22 June 1880 vol 253 cc550-628

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st June], That Mr. Bradlaugh, Member for the Borough of Northampton, he admitted to make an Affirmation or Declaration, instead of the Oath required by Law."'—(Mr. Labouchere.)

And which Amendment was, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the Reports and proceedings of two Select Committees appointed by this House, Mr. Bradlaugh he not permitted to take the Oath or make the Affirmation mentioned in the Statute 29 Vic. c. 19, and the 31 and 32 Vic. c. 72,"—(Sir Hardinge Giffard,) —instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, that from almost everyone with whom he was brought into contact—whether a Liberal or a Conservative by political opinion— he had heard the observation—"What a muddle the House of Commons has got into in this matter of Mr. Bradlaugh!" The same feeling had found expression in the Public Press. An article in The Times of that day had expressed it very fully; and he would ask the House to consider for a few moments how it had got into that which he must call a disgraceful muddle. It was disgraceful, because the subject involved was really a very grave one; and he must say that he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and Her Majesty's Government were principally accountable for the difficulty in which the House was placed. When Mr. Bradlaugh appeared at the Table of the House he claimed to affirm instead of taking the Parliamentary Oath. Not contented with the precedents into which inquiries had formerly been instituted— as in the case of Mr. Archdale, as in the case of Mr. Pease, as in the case of Baron Rothschild, and in the case of Mr. Alderman Salomons, who had felt difficulties as to taking the Oaths—Her Majesty's Government moved the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire whether Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to affirm instead of taking the Oath of Allegiance, with this unprecedented addition to its power—that it should not only examine and report precedents and any points of law that might bear on the case, but that it should express its opinion thereon to the House. That Committee inquired and reported, and, in doing so, expressed an opinion adverse to Mr. Bradlaugh's claim. "What proceeding did Her Majesty's Government then take? Mr. Brad-laugh came to the Table and proposed to take the Oath. Objection was, however, taken to his doing so, on the ground that hitherto no man had claimed to affirm, or had been granted the privilege of affirming instead of taking the Oath, except upon a recognized religious objection. The fact was that Mr. Bradlaugh's own conduct had distinguished his case from that of everyone else." When Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table and claimed to take the Oath, the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) most properly objected; and the propriety of his objection was proved by this circumstance— that the Prime Minister immediately moved for the appointment of a second Select Committee—a Committee that was to inquire into precedents and into the state of the law, and again to express its opinion to the House. Here, again, in the case of this second Committee, the right hon. Gentleman had departed from the previous practice of the House. And what was the result? The first Committee—the Committee appointed to inquire whether by law Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to affirm— reported that he was not one of the persons entitled to affirm; and the second Committee—the Committee appointed to inquire whether he might take the Oath—reported that he was not so entitled. Upon that the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) proposed a Resolution in the Committee which was utterly beyond the Reference, and yet the majority of the Committee were so biased that they adopted it—that the decision of the first Select Committee should somehow or other be referred to the Courts of Law. But how that reference was to be made did not appear. This, he (Mr. Newde-gate) thought, was but a poor return on the part of the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury—a member of the Jewish persuasion—for the special favour which Parliament had conferred upon his co-religionists, when it altered the law in 1858, and allowed the admission of Jews to seats in that House. That was a very poor return on the part of a Jewish Member of the House, who had been sworn upon the Old Testament, that treasure of which his race were the appointed keepers, and whom he would remind of the words with which the Psalm xiv. in that sacred Book began—"The fool hath said in his heart there is no God." He repeated, that a Jewish Member's favouring the admission of such a person to the House was but a poor return for the favour which Parliament had conferred upon his people. This he (Mr. Newdegate) knew—that if Mr. Alderman Salomons had been now alive, instead of taking the part in this matter which had been borne by the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury, he would have supported the decisions of the two Committees, and voted emphatically for the exclusion of Mr. Bradlaugh from a seat in the House. After having for years, under the late Lord Derby, opposed the admission of the Jews to Parliament, on the ground that to admit them would invalidate the Christian character of the House; after all his opposition to that measure he (Mr. Newdegate) became acquainted with Mr. Alderman Salomons, and told him that the chief ground of the late Lord Derby's and of his opposition was that they feared the admission of unbelievers; and Mr. Alderman Salomons replied that he should be as much opposed to their admission as any Christian Member of the House could be. The House was now asked to pass the Resolution which had been proposed by the sitting Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) for admitting an avowed Atheist; and it was understood that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to support it. What, then, was he to understand? The Government had used their majority to empower two Committees to report their opinion—a function which had never before been committed to any Se- lect Committee of the House on such a subject. They expected, he supposed, that those two Committees—or, at all events, one of them—would have reported in favour of Mr. Bradlaugh's admission. But both Committees reported against Mr. Bradlaugh's claim. What did the Government do? They proposed to set aside the opinion of those two Committees, which they themselves had appointed. It appeared to him, then, that if the House had, as the country thought, got into a disgraceful muddle, they had to thank Her Majesty's Ministers for their unfortunate position. They had granted unprecedented powers to those Committees. Those Committees had reported adversely to the opinion of the Government, who were now about to set aside the Reports of both the Committees, which they themselves had appointed. It appeared to him that the Government were seeking to evade open and direct action. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright"), assured the House during yesterday's debate that the Nonconformists were in favour of the admission of Mr. Brad-laugh. He (Mr. Newdegate) represented in some sense the same constituency as the right hon. Gentleman, since North Warwickshire included Birmingham: and he had already received two or three intimations that the right hon. Gentleman had misrepresented the feelings of the Nonconformists. Many of them, at all events, had declared distinctly that they were adverse to the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh; a Petition from the Wesleyans was lying on the Table deprecating his admission. It seemed to him, then, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was another attempt to confuse the House. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the case of the Quakers, the sect to which he himself belonged, and seemed to draw some parallel between that which was done by the House in their case and that which was happening now in the case of Mr. Bradlaugh. He spoke as if these were parallel cases, and quoted the authority of Mr. Wynn, whom he (Mr. Newdegate) well remembered in the House, and of the Attorney General of the day, when a declaration was framed to be taken by Mr. Pease instead of the Oath. But there was no parallel be- tween the cases. He (Mr. Newdegate) held the Report of the Committee of 1833, which was appointed to inquire into the case of Mr. Pease, in his hand, and it showed that from the time of Charles II. the Quakers had been recognized as a Christian sect. They came under the Act of Toleration—the first of William and Mary—and had subscribed the profession of faith in these terms— I do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, his eternal Son, and in the Holy Spirit, one God Messed for evermore, and do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration. Then the 7 & 8 Will. III. c. 4, which further met their case as Christians, when they applied to be admitted to certain Offices. Parliament, therefore, in their case, had before it these Statutes, which admitted the Quakers to offices, and all they had to do was to frame a declaration which would admit them to the House. They did not go to statutes with respect to the Law of Evidence for precedents. They did not do what Mr. Bradlaugh's friends were doing; they did not travel out of the real issue to establish a precedent, or appeal to statutes passed for a different and in no way analogous purpose, like the Acts relating merely to evidence, as Mr. Bradlaugh had done; but acted upon statutes made to admit Quakers to certain municipal offices, and adapted the declaration they made on accepting municipal offices so as to comprehend the substance of the three Oaths which at that time existed as the condition of entering Parliament; afterwards what was then done was confirmed by statute. There was no analogy, then, between the case of the Quakers and the case of Mr. Bradlaugh—none whatever—anyone who examined the documents produced by the Committee of 1833 must come to that conclusion. He (Mr. Newdegate) feared that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham was trying to mislead the House. He had made an appeal to its sympathy and its Christian charity. One would have thought that what he asked the House to grant was some boon to an individual. He never spoke of the Oath which was taken in this House as having been enacted for great national purposes, as a matter of public policy, not intended to apply merely to any indivi- dual, but to the Representatives of the people. He never spoke of the Oath in that sense; but he seemed to ask the House to do this individual, Bradlaugh, a personal favour. It was one of the characteristics of ultra-democracy that the interests of the State were by it postponed to the interests of the individual. A short time ago he was reading a very able work upon the causes of the Civil War in the United States of America, and in that work the author points out that the predominance of individualism, which pervaded the laws of the United States—particularly of the Northern States—was one of the principal causes of that terrible conflict. That was the principle which the right hon. Gentleman was advocating now. He was asking the House to consider the case of this individual, Bradlaugh, as against the maintenance of those great Constitutional rules and laws by which this country had hitherto been governed, rendered free, great, wealthy, and fit to bear the sceptre of an Empire on which the sun never set. What said the author to whom he had referred with regard to this principle of individualism? He (Mr. Newdegate) was quoting from the History of the American Civil War, by John William Draper, and in Vol. I., page 21, be said— A self-conscious democracy, animated by ideas of individualism, was the climate issue in the North; an aristocracy, produced by sentiments of personal independence, and based upon human slavery, was the climate issue in the South. The author further said— Unquestionably, the absolute freedom of action conceded to the individual is not without grave disadvantages. It may be doubted whether a community organized on such a basis, more particularly in case this freedom is granted to women, can ever have the stability, or even be as moral, as one in which the family is the essential political element. But that such a community will have a prodigious expansive power is undeniable. Now the principle of English constitution had ever been to recognize the family. It was not this ultra-democratic principle of individualism that had formed the foundation of the State in England. But that was the principle which the right hon. Gentleman advocated—the right hon. Gentleman invited the House of Commons of England to prefer the pretensions of an individual to the interests and the safety of the nation. He would now glance for a moment at the Resolution which bad been moved by the sitting Member for Northampton, and which the hon. Member had recommended on the strange ground that the House should become a party to an infraction of the law, in order that someone out of the House might prosecute Mr. Bradlaugh for penalties, and so to test the law, as was done in the case of Alderman Salomons, before the Exchequer Court in 1851. But there was a distinct difference between the position of Mr. Alderman Salomons and that of Mr. Bradlaugh. In the case of Alderman Salomons the House told him plainly—as it ought to tell Mr. Bradlaugh—"You cannot take the Oaths; in our opinion the law debars you from taking them." Alderman Salomons thereupon retired from the Table to below the Bar. He consulted with his legal adviser, who recommended him to return to and vote in the House. Mr. Alderman Salomons did so; he sat and was held to have voted, while the House deliberated. What did the organ of the House, the Speaker, ultimately do? By the direction of the House he ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to take Mr. Salomons into custody, and to conduct him out of the House. Why did he (Mr. Newdegate) mention these facts? For this reason—that when the Courts were applied to in that case they were asked to support the decision of the House; but if the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton were carried, and Mr. Bradlaugh came and took his seat in the House and voted, if any application were made to the Court of Exchequer, that application would be made not in support of the decision of the House, but to contravene the decision of the House; and as Parliament was considered the highest Court existing in this country, the inferior Court would be asked to contravene the decision of the superior. Would not that be a manifest anomaly? The Courts had over and over again, in matters of Privilege, declined to act in contravention of the decisions of this House, even when those decisions were contrary to their own view of the law; because they held that the Privilege of Parliament was above the law, and that there was no Court authorized to interpret the Privileges of the House of Commons except the House itself. If Her Majesty's Ministers imagined that the House was in danger of exceeding their powers—if Her Majesty's Government were in earnest and desired the opinion of the Courts of Law—they ought to oppose the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton, and devise some other means of submitting the case to the Courts. He knew not how that could be done; but he had been told that by some method this was possible. What right had the House to expect any individual to incur the risk and expense of instituting proceedings at law in this matter if it threw every impediment in the way of his success? Talk of reference to the Courts ! He held that it was beneath the dignity of the House to encourage any man to violate the law, in order that someone outside might prosecute him to test the law. He had never, throughout the course of his Parliamentary experience, become acquainted with such a case. He had another objection to this appeal to a Court of Law. The question before the House involved matters over which no Court of Law could have jurisdiction. There was no limit to the debates and proceedings of the House, or as to the subjects with which it could deal, save those which were excluded by the Oaths which its Members took. They had all sworn allegiance to Her Majesty. They had all sworn that they would not dispute the succession to the Throne. They had no regular penalties decreed for offences that might be committed by Members of the House within it. They had nothing like a law against blasphemy; but the position of Parliament was this—and it is this—that distinguished a Parliament from a Convention, that each Member undertook by Oath to maintain the Monarchy and the succession to the Throne—before he could exercise any function, each Member had to take that Oath. Therefore, each of them was precluded by his own act at the very outset from doing anything, or devising or consulting about anything, with a view to the subversion of the Throne, or affecting a change in the succession. That was the manner in which they had secured their Sovereign upon the Throne of these Realms. But in the present case Mr. Bradlaugh had informed them, by a letter, to which his signature was attached, and which was appended to the Report of the second Committee, that the words of the Oath— that the whole tenour of the Oath which appealed to the Deity—was to him meaningless. There stood his own words appended to the Report of the second Com-mittee. He alleged that he had tried to evade the Oath because, he thought it would be disrespectful in him to pronounce words which to him were meaningless. Towards the close of Mr. Brad-laugh's letter there were words which, had, he believed, not yet been noticed in the House. These were— I shall, taking the Oath, regard myself as hound, not by the letter of its words, hut by the spirit, which the Affirmation would have conveyed, had I been permitted to use it. Now, let the House observe what followed— So soon as I am able, I shall take such steps, as may be consistent with Parliamentary business, to put an end to the present doubtful and unfortunate state of the law and practice on Oaths and Affirmations. So that Mr. Bradlaugh, if he were admitted, as he demanded—that was, as an unbeliever, an an avowed Atheist—had announced that his first action in the House would be in direct opposition to the Oath, and, therefore, in the sense of Atheism. Who could pretend to feel surprise if, after such a plain announcement as this, Mr. Bradlaugh made some irreverent proposal, or should use Atheistic language in the House? If he were to make any attempt to impugn the Sovereignty of Her Majesty, that would be contrary to the Oaths of Members, and the Speaker would interfere to prevent it. But Mr. Bradlaugh was determined that the House should admit him upon his own terms—as an avowed Atheist—and with the assurance on his part that his first action in the House would be, if allowed, to palter with the Oath. If after he had thus entered the House, he assailed the Oath all others had taken with reference to the Deity, in the grossest terms, neither the Speaker nor the House could interpose to stop the outrage. Could the House be surprised, then, that there was obection on the part of the great majority of the people of this country—the Christian people of this country—to having their Representative Assembly perverted to such uses as that? This was by no means a light or trivial matter. An engineer, who had charge of some great embankment, which restrained some mighty stream, if he saw but a ripple through its base, at once took warning, and adopted precautionary-measures, lest ere long he might see his dykes swept away, and such destruction as was recently experienced in Austria. Let the House, then, not despise this attempt on the part of the individual, Bradlaugh. It would be manifestly inconsistent if this House should fail in the tribute they now paid to the Deity—the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings—and continued to pay great deference to the Throne of an earthly, however estimable Monarch. This Atheism was no passive principle. That might be illustrated by the modern history of France. Within his (Mr. Newdegate's) own experience he had witnessed the Revolution of 1848, which swept away the Throne of Louis Philippe. In that Revolution, Atheistic Socialism bore a leading part. Louis Napoleon, afterwards Napoleon III., then became President of the French Republic, and afterwards, in 1851, carried out the coupdetat. During that time Lord Palmerston was Foreign Minister; remonstrances were made against the military executions carried on by Changarnier, under the orders of Louis Napoleon as President. Lord Palmerston declared that the action of Louis Napoleon in authorizing the execution of thousands of Atheistic Communists was necessary to preserve society in France from the outrages of Atheistic Socialism. For this Lord Palmerston was driven from Office by the Liberals. No one was so furious against these executions as M. Thiers; and as he could not restrain his wrath he was first imprisoned, and then sent out of France. Nineteen years of the Empire passed by, and then, through a rash and ill-advised foreign policy on the part of Napoleon III., the German War began, and the second Empire fell. Again, Anarchy— Atheistic Socialism—became rampant in Paris after the Germans had quitted it; the friends of order rallied round M. Thiers, as President of the Republic. From Versailles he tried to negotiate with the Socialist Revolutionists, but totally failed; and then he had to resort to measures of severity precisely similar in their character to those for which he had condemned his predecessor, Louis Bonaparte, as an enemy of his country. Louis Bonaparte, when President of the Republic, had repressed social anarchy by martial law; and M. Thiers, when he assumed that office, found himself com- pelled to do the same thing. Let no one try to persuade or attempt to tell him (Mr. Newdegate) that Atheism was a passive principle. The House might depend upon it that the First Napoleon was right when, after having been made First Consul, he came face to face with Atheism. What did he do? He found it essential to the work of restoring society, which in his time had been wrecked by Atheistic Socialism, to re-establish the Church of Rome in France. With this object he entered into a Concordat with the Pope, in which, however, he made provision for restraining the ambition of that Church. It was in defiance of many of his generals, and of many others who surrounded him, that he held the opinion that if society was to be reestablished in France, a necessary condition, and preliminary thereto, was the re-establishment of religion. With the permission of the House he would read from Alison's history the words of the First Napoleon, and he was no little man. He said— The first Consul will appoint 50 Bishops. The Pope will induct them. They will appoint the parish priests; the people will defray their salaries. They must all take the Oath. The refractory must be transported. The Pope will, in return, confirm the sale of national domains. He will consecrate the Revolution. The people will sing 'God save the Gallican Church!' They will say, 'I am a Papist. I am no such thing. I was a Mahommedan in Egypt.'"—["Oh, oh!"]


I do not perceive the connection of what the hon. Member is saying with the subject before the House.


said, the last few lines of the quotation he was making would show the connection. The conclusion of his quotation would be found to maintain the connection of his argument. Napoleon said— I will become a Catholic here for the good of my people. I am no believer in particular creeds: but, as to the idea of a God, look to the heavens, and say who made them ! Such was the answer to Atheism, made by the First Napoleon. Such was the maxim on which he acted in re-founding government in France. It could not be said that the Emperor was the victim of any narrow religious dogma. And this he (Mr. Newdegate) would say to the House of Commons—it would be unbecoming on the part of the House to do so grave an act as that of admitting an avowed Atheist to sit in that House on terms of equality with its other Members; to allow the people of England to entertain any reasonable doubt with regard to the belief of their Representative Assembly in a Deity. If Her Majesty's Government had doubts concerning the law of the question, why had they not brought in a Bill to solve those doubts? They had appointed two Committees on the subject, both of whom had reported that the law was against the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh. They had usually a majority in their favour; why, then, did they not bring in a Bill? In the case of the Quakers that was done. It was also done in the case of the Roman Catholics, and, lastly, in the case of the Jews. And if, now, they introduced a man to take his seat amongst them, who told them that he professed Atheistic opinions, and that he would use his utmost power to change the Oath—aye, against the retention of any Oath they had all taken—if this were permitted, it would effect a great change in the Constitution of this country; it would lamentably alter the character of the House. Her Majesty's Ministers ought at least to have the decency to consult the other branch of the Legislature. He deprecated any proceeding whatever in the sense of the Motion before the House; but at least Her Majesty's Ministers ought to proceed by Bill, if they wished to pass so grave a measure—they ought not to be allowed to effect such purpose in any disguised manner.


The hon. Member for North Warwickshire has concluded his comprehensive speech by an appeal to the Government to legislate in this matter. That is a course which he thinks is quite clear we ought to take; but I find myself in the predicament of being of opinion that it is exactly the course which we ought not to take. If we considered that the provisions of the present law were insufficient to cope with the case which has arisen and to dispose of it, then, indeed, the case would be a very strong one for urging on the Government the duty of proposing legislation. But we entertain no such opinion. Some of us may believe that the House has no jurisdiction in this matter. Others may believe that it has jurisdiction in this matter; but those who think it has and those who think it has not—and I speak now more particularly for those who sit on this side, with whose views I am best acquainted—are perfectly agreed in the opinion that the present law is adequate for the purpose of dealing with this case. That being so, it is for those who consider that the difficulty which has arisen cannot be met by the present law to propose fresh legislation. But as regards the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, when he suggests that we should attempt fresh legislation, I apprehend his only meaning is that we should attempt a fresh controversy; because the doctrine which he has laid down, and which formed the entire basis of his speech, is one to the effect that those who have the misfortune—and the greatest of misfortunes it is—not to believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, ought on no account be permitted to sit in this House. He therefore invites us to raise that controversy at large, while we believe that the law which now exists is perfectly sufficient for dealing with the case of Mr. Bradlaugh, the case which has actually arisen. I cannot conceive anything more unfortunate, or less prudent, as a measure to be taken on the part of Gentlemen who must be supposed to have some care for the peace and order and dignity of this House, than a proposal, in the present state of the minds of men, to introduce an Act of general legislation in connection with the case of Mr. Bradlaugh. So much for the proposal to legislate in connec-with his case. Now, I have been appealed to by the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Sir Hardinge Giffard) to supply him with guidance—that is the phrase which he did me the honour to use—on this subject. The office is one, however, which is very far beyond my aspirations or my duty. I should have thought the hon. and learned Gentleman did not require to look nearly so far as across the House in order to obtain what I should call very good guidance, and much better guidance than I can afford to him. I think the judgment of his late Colleague the hon. and learned Member for Preston (Sir John Holker), so far as I have been able to gather his opinion from his action on the Committee, a judgment well entitled to the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention. I deeply regret the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Preston from this debate. I should have thought that a Gentleman of his legal eminence, who had not only been Attorney General for a period of six years, but who discharged the duties of that Office with conspicuous ability, would not have declined to give us the benefit of his assistance on this occasion. But to the appeal which the hon. and learned Member for Launceston made to me, and which, within limited bounds, I shall be glad to answer, I will reply by a counter appeal, and ask why —it cannot be on Party grounds, because we have been repeatedly assured by hon. Gentleman opposite that this is not a Party question—I should have to notice, as I do with some surprise, the absence of an hon. and learned Gentleman of so much ability and so much authority as the late Attorney General from the discussions of this House on the case of Mr. Bradlaugh. I wish it to be understood in what position I, at least, think the Government stand towards the House in a matter of this kind. I believe it to be their duty frankly to offer the best advice in their power to the House. When they do that I consider they are functi officii. The appearance of Mr. Bradlaugh at this Table is no measure of ours. The dealing with his case is no question of our policy. It is not the result of our counsels. We are not bound by anything which he can do, or anything which he may decline to do, more than hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is our duty to come to the consideration of his case, as we think, with rigid and absolute impartiality. It is, in our opinion, our duty to banish from our minds a large portion—aye, the much larger portion—of the topics which present themselves to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which will evidently, for the most part, govern their judgments—topics which govern the judgment of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that of the hon. Member for the City of London here present (Mr. R. N. Fowler), and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City who addressed us last night (Mr. J. G. Hubbard)—namely, that which is sometimes called religious instinct, and sometimes religious principle, by others a great question of Constitutional policy—whether it is right that an Atheist should be allowed to sit in this House or not. Now, I affirm that that is not the question before us. [Cries of"Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!"] Those audible though not articulate expressions of opinion only serve strongly to corroborate the assertion which I have made, that topics of a certain class, connected no doubt with a great principle of Constitutional legislation, but totally disconnected from the administration, application, and interpretation of the law, embrace doctrines which govern the minds, judgment, and actions of many hon. Gentlemen opposite in a case in which there is no question before them, except the just interpretation and application of the existing law. But be that as it may, I think it the duty of the Government, in circumstances for which they are not responsible, to give the best advice in their power, and then to leave the matter in the hands of the House. I do not know that I should have thought it necessary, after the general description I ventured to give on a former occasion, to address the House to-night were it not that I have the feeling that if the House should accede to the Amendment moved by the other side, it will probably be entering into a long, embarrassing, and difficult controversy, not so much, perhaps, within the walls of this House as beyond its walls, and that I feel I should not like to see the House involved in great difficulties, and, perhaps, running the risk of ultimate defeat, without being able to give myself the poor consolation, at any rate, of reflecting that I had endeavoured to counsel a different course which would have saved it from any such calamity. Now, I shall endeavour, in what I have to say, to avoid entirely whatever can stir feeling. If anything is to be done on this subject towards rightly directing the minds of men I am confident it must be by and within the limits of the powerful appeal made last night by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. My endeavour will be one quite distinct from his. It will be to argue this question drily, and not to say a word if I can avoid it that can needlessly debar the access which may be open, though I can hardly conceive it to be open, to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, by mixing up the consideration of the case with matters which touch feeling that might lead to political excitement. I am painfully impressed with the belief that debates of this kind, as they are disagreeable to the House, so are not con- ducive to the maintenance of its character and dignity. But, at the same time, our misfortune is in our having such debates. If we have them it is hardly-possible but that in any Assembly of this kind they should be conducted with more or less warmth. Where considerations so solemn, so profound, and of such vital importance, as the whole of us believe, to the welfare of mankind, are at issue, it is almost impossible to maintain a calm and clear and bold view which ought to be maintained, of distinctions that turn upon the action of the reason only and which, nevertheless, is essential to anything like a judicial handling of the question. On the one side are hon. Gentlemen urged on by what they conscientiously believe to be a regard for religion. On the other side many hon. Gentlemen are urged—as my right hon. Friend was last night— by regard for what they believe to be only second in importance to that religion itself—nay, to be vital to religion itself—namely, the cause of religious liberty. When considerations of this kind are in view, I am afraid, amidst the infirmities of human nature, it is hardly possible to resist the occasional intrusion of irritating topics; and I hope I shall not give offence by saying that, so far as my observation has gone in these discussions since the time when I resumed my seat in the House after the Election, it was not on this side of the House that such intrusion of these irritating topics had begun. ["No!"] That is a matter of history. I cannot forget that on the first attempt made to raise the debate matters were introduced into the discussion with respect to political feelings which had no place whatever in the argument. Of course, I entirely acquit the hon. Member who introduced the subject of any intention to lead astray the judgment of the House; but, in my opinion, he had to some extent been led astray himself. He had not resisted that fatal temptation which besets us all on an occasion of this kind, to mix up with the true issue matter irrelevant to it which on account of its deep and profound interest forces itself upon our attention. Although I most deeply lament what I have heard, I will tell hon. Gentlemen opposite fairly that I can appreciate to a certain extent, and I can respect cordially, the feeling which I am persuaded has been prompting their conduct. Let us see what are the questions before us. The hon. Member for Northampton proposes to pass by these questions by a Resolution for the terms of which I am not in any degree responsible, but which has the effect of a refusal, on the part of the House, to meddle with this matter at all. I understand it as asserting an authoritative grant to Mr. Bradlaugh by the House of some privilege which it is the duty of the House to dispense—as an assertion that the House will not interpose to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from taking, in the first instance, what he may deem to be his statutory duty, in the form of a process of Affirmation. Well, now, the two considerations which weigh on my mind with regard to this subject are these:— First of all, if the House has a jurisdiction in this matter to make any examination of the case further than providing that an exterior and formal duty be performed, it is a jurisdiction which the House has never exercised, and a jurisdiction which it would be most impolitic on the part of the House now to begin exercising. Secondly, speaking for myself, I confess I go further. The more I have looked at this case the graverappear to me to be the arguments which go to prove that in the sense of the law and the Constitution, as it has been asserted by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Preston (Sir John Holker), the House has no jurisdiction at all. I agree with the sentiment delivered last night, unfortunately in a thin House, by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), and as I agree with his other opinions so I agree with this, that while he did not for a moment contest the power of the House to proceed within its walls to whatever conclusions and action it pleased, he contested the Constitutional title and right of the House to do that which was described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole) last night, when he spoke of our statutory obligation to see that Members were rightly seated. The view of that right hon. Gentleman was, not merely that we were here as witnesses to perceive and attest and secure the fulfilment of something written down in Act of Parliament; but it is to see that the Oath which is taken is rightly taken, or that the Affirmation which is substituted for it is an Affirmation rightly affirmed. These are wide words indeed, because right swearing and right Affirmation includes the relations of the person swearing or Affirming to the Oath he takes or the Affirmation he makes. This is a matter which, I think, is beyond our cognizance, and is no part of the statutory obligation imposed upon us or the statutory power intrusted to us. If we possessed this jurisdiction, I conceive it would be most unfortunate that we should undertake to exercise it. Surely, Sir, we are exceedingly unfitted in these deep matters of belief to do so. Are we not conscious, every man for himself, of the tendency within us to be heated in our views and judgments on such points? I have promised to guard myself, as well as I can, against the intrusion of feeling; but I am conscious it requires the keeping of a continual curb upon those propensities, upon those susceptibilities of mind which are almost resistless, and which tend to introduce themselves into these discussions. A popular Assembly rightly accustomed in its ordinary debates to appeal to feeling, accustomed to use feeling as the minister of reason with perfect justification—aye, and with absolute necessity— in the discharge of our functions, I hold that we have anything but a high qualification for dealing with a matter which ought to be viewed in the driest light of reason, and in no other light whatever. If we undertake to interfere for the first time with a Gentleman who proposes to fulfil at the Table of this House what he thinks is his statutory duty, we may find ourselves engaged in two conflicts, into neither of which do I feel either bound or disposed to enter, not being led thereto by obligation nor by precedent. I am not willing to enter into conflict with the Courts of Law, nor am I willing to enter into conflict with the constituency of Northampton. Of the first of these possible conflicts the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) appeared to make very light. I can well understand that an action cannot be brought against the House of Commons. I am not, however, so clear that no action can be brought against the servants of the House of Commons, whom it employs, and whom it orders to exercise its will. We have precedents for such actions; and it appears to me that if such actions arise their result would depend not so much upon the power of the House as upon the ultimate judgment which the public outside this House may form upon the wisdom and prudence of its conduct. Still less am I willing to be led into a conflict with the constituency of Northampton. This House for a long series of generations has been commonly successful whenever it has found it needful to enter into controversy with the Crown or the House of Lords; but there is a most marked contrast between the issue of these controversies and the lamentable issue of its one great conflict with the people of this country as represented by one of the constituencies of the country—a constituency numerically smaller than Northampton. It is impossible to doubt that when the subject of Wilkes's writings in The North Briton first came before Parliament about the year 1763, a great deal happened which is happening now. The general conception of Mr. Wilkes was, that he was a man open to great exception with respect to personal character, and it is not unnatural to believe that the reaction of feeling excited by that idea concerning Mr. Wilkes tended much to govern the first judgment of the House of Commons in that unhappy contest. The House embarked itself in that controversy. You are still uncommitted. You declined to embark in that controversy when the first proposal was made by proposing to appoint a Committee. You are now asked to embark yourselves in that controversy. Consider a little with what confidence your predecessors a century ago entered into a controversy not dissimilar to the present. Consider what was the final issue of that controversy. You carried everything for years before you with a high hand. You set Wilkes at defiance; you set the constituency for which he sat at defiance. You actually seated in this House the man who had received a minority of the votes of the constituency, because you said that he was the qualified candidate and must sit in preference to one who was disabled. But what was the issue? By degrees you found that that was a conflict in which you could win little and might lose much. The energies that impelled you grew more and more slack. Then the House of Commons ceased to act against Mr. Wilkes after resisting him three times. He took his seat unquestioned in this House in the year 1774. He himself rose in his place to move, in terms disparaging and ignominious to the previous Parliament, the expunging of the Resolution at which they had arrived. They rejected his Motion. The tide had not yet turned sufficiently far in his favour. Mr. Wilkes renewed his Motion from year to year for seven more years, and at last, in 1782, he carried it. Not only that, but as a mark of ignominy, he induced the House to expunge the proceedings taken against him from the Journals of the House. He even strengthened and deepened that mark of ignominy by appending to the Motion that the proceedings of the House were subversive of the rights of the body of the electors of this country. That is a very serious matter, and, in my opinion, affords a reason why we should now very carefully consider our position. And now, Sir, I am going on very delicate ground. I am going to deal with the reasons which arise in connection with the religious impulses which have been brought into this question. There is no doubt that some Gentlemen, especially those who sit on the front Bench opposite, may deal with the question on the religious ground. Indeed, I may say that some hon. Members who sit behind me do so also. Declarations have been repeatedly and constantly made that this question cannot be decided without reference to religion. My hon. Friend who last spoke made this the main staple of his argument, and even the climax of the most important part of his speech. He quoted the words —"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." And the hon. Member for the City of London said in my hearing that this was a question which must be decided by religious instincts. Another hon. Member said—"I protest against the ear of this House being tainted" [An Hon. MEMBER: "Polluted."]—" polluted by the presence of Atheists." I do not wish to multiply citations. Everyone is aware that these expressions do convey the feeling which at this moment is impelling and permeating the minds of a great number of Gentlemen opposite. Another hon. Gentleman, belonging to the neighbouring, but not sympathetic, section of the House, begged last night that if any measures were taken which led to the installation of Mr. Bradlaugh among us, he, at least, and those who thought with him, might have notice, in order that they might remove themselves from such a contaminating influence. I am not quoting these sentences in any spirit of anger, or for the purpose of passing any severe judgment upon them. I am only quoting them as facts establishing the existence of this religious feeling which I look upon as the real strength at the back of the Amendment. I want to ask those hon. Gentlemen to consider a little the position which they are about to take up. They are about to take up the position of objecting on religious grounds to the appearance of Mr. Bradlaugh in this House. For nearly two centuries this House has been the scene of conflicts of the very same kind. The House was exhorted from the beginning of last century down to 1828 to rally in defence of what I may call its Church constitution, because de jure until 1828 it was composed of Members who had, or who were in law assumed to have, qualified themselves by the most solemn act of communion to sit here as members of the Church of England. The House was rallied by that call. It was certainly a doctrine perfectly clear and perfectly consistent; and most dismal were the vaticinations as to the effect on the religious character of the House unless that call were obeyed. In that year, however, the Test and Corporation Acts were finally repealed, and then came a new rally of the House on religious grounds. They were next called to rally, not on the Church constitution of the House, but on behalf of the Protestant Church. In the face of the same threats and the same doleful lamentations, the Protestant constitution of the House was given up, and the Roman Catholics were admitted on a footing of equality, and took their seats in the House, many precious years of the nation's life having been angrily spent in the attempt to maintain their exclusion. Then, having got rid of the Protestant character of the House, the country thought there could be no further religious war. But then a fresh cry arose. That cry was on the Christian character of the House. It was observed and insisted upon that nothing could be so injurious, so destructive to the religious character of the country, as the admission of Jews. For thirty years that controversyraged. There was another rallying cry to adhere to the Christian cha- racter of the constitution. That era was closed by Jewish emancipation, if, indeed, it can even now be said to be absolutely closed, because I am under the impression that even at this moment another branch of the Legislature reserves for decision within its own discretion the question whether this or that particular Jew shall be allowed to take his seat upon the Benches. Here, however, we meet Jews, included on a footing of perfect equality; and now, Sir, as was justly and truly said by my right hon. Friend last night, we are invited to make what I suppose is a final rally for the Theistic constitution of the House. We have been driven from the Church ground; we have been driven from the Protestant ground; we have been driven from the Christian ground; and the final rally is made upon this narrow ledge of the Theistic ground. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, whether it is a narrow ledge or not, you have given up your Church, your Protestantism, your Christianity. You are outside of them altogether, and you are standing on what ground remains to you outside of them. What is that ground? How was it described by the Mover of the Amendment? The Mover of the Amendment said he would have been most happy if Mr. Bradlaugh had come to this Table and had taken the Oath or Affirmation without making any declaration upon this subject. But who is Mr. Bradlaugh? Did the hon. and learned Member obtain his first information about Mr. Bradlaugh's opinions when Mr. Bradlaugh made his claim to make the Affirmation? Was there any fact in England more notorious than the fact of Mr. Bradlaugh's opinions? Therefore, see whether your ground is narrow or not. You are not now taking your stand for Theism in a definite and dogmatic form. You are declaring your willingness that an Atheist should sit here, provided he had not told you what he was in the course of some of the proceedings of the House. Surely, Sir, it is a very narrow ground. The form of actual Atheism is, so far as I know, a rare form of unbelief in this country. The forms which abound are known rather by the names of Positivism, Agnosticism, Materialism, and Pantheism. You are not taking objection to any of these forms. I do not understand you to say that if any gentleman published in every newspaper in London, on the morning that he was going to take the Oath, a declaration that he was a Pantheist, an Agnostic, or anything else, there would be any reason why he should not take his seat in this House. That makes good what I say—that the religious ground on which we stand is a narrow and slippery ground. For my own part, I see no profit or advantage either to charity or to reason, or to common sense, in making distinctions of this kind. In accordance with your principles, if I understand them, you would allow a Mahomedan to sit in this House without question; you would probably allow a Parsee to sit in this House; but you could not, with any consistency, allow a Buddhist to do so. Well, I am not willing to engage in a controversy whether, with a Mahomedan and a Parsee on my left—[Dissent] —and a Buddhist on my right—I am afraid I have not successfully sounded the depths of the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, for I gather from that cry that those Gentlemen are also prepared to introduce another new form of religious controversy, and that objection is to be taken on religious grounds to Maho-medans and Parsees. Well, there is a theory that it does not matter what God you worship provided you worship some God or other. In my opinion there is greater danger of irreverence and impiety in this kind of loose, rambling debate, clutching at some remnant of what we on this side of the House think to be intolerance, than there is in any frank acknowledgment of the absolute separation that has been drawn in the spirit of the law of this land, and, I believe, in the letter of the law of this land, between civil duty and religious belief. I fully accept that principle with entire fearlessness, which I, for one, am conscious of, as to the civil as well as religious consequences. It seems to me that, seeing the extreme thinness and slipperiness of these distinctions between Atheism which is notorious and Atheism which is avowed at a particular place, we are asked to tread upon very dangerous ground; and I mistrust altogether the issue of the contest into which we are plunged under the influence of the feelings which suggested those distinctions. I must make one remark upon what fell from an hon. Member who spoke from the Opposition Benches last night, and who said—"Look and see how your action will be interpreted out-of-doors. "These words raised great suspicion in my mind. I am not willing in a matter of personal, civil, and religious right to be arrested in my consideration of the case, or to be guided in that consideration, by being told to look and see how my action will be interpreted out-of-doors. Our business is to look straight at our duty in the case, and then to trust to the generosity and the justice of our countrymen as to the way in which they will regard our action. I am not, therefore, willing to exercise jurisdiction of this kind with a serious hazard of being brought into positions that I cannot beforehand define, and with respect to which the light of former history, as far as it is available at all, tends to show that the end of all our resistance may be disastrous and ignominious failure. With regard to the precedents in this case, it is admitted that there is no precedent for interfering with a gentleman who comes here and claims to perform a statutory duty in terms of the Statute. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen have perhaps quite realized the historical importance of that fact; because, pray remember that the Jacobites took their places in this House, and that Mr. Shippen and Sir Robert Walpole exchanged their jests on the subject across the Table, at a time when the Oath bound the man swearing to most solemn duty to the House of Hanover. But the Jacobitism of Mr. Ship-pen and others was as notorious as the Hanoverianism of Walpole and his friends. And yet the House of Commons, even in those days, would not come between a man and the Oath, but permitted the man to swear, though they knew, and knew beyond all doubt, he was a Jacobite. In the same manner Bolingbroke, without any religious belief at all, lived and died in great distinction, and his Parliamentary career was certainly not put an end to by the action of this House. He was followed by many more, and that at a time when this House was not only Theistic, Christian, and Protestant, but intimately bound with the Church of England. Such, however, was the aversion of the House to this interference, and such the tenacity with which they adhered to the words famous since the days of Elizabeth, "Not we to examine," that even in these remarkable times they would not institute the smallest investigation, or stand between a citizen and the full enjoyment of his right. It may be said that there are precedents for the interference of this House in respect to the Oath, and no doubt there are; but they are precedents in precisely the opposite direction from that which is now contemplated. Every one of them is a precedent in favour of the person who is desirous to swear, and not against him. The House has assisted in overcoming obstacles as far as it could in favour of those who tendered themselves to swear or affirm at this Table. Never has the House gone against them. But there is another observation to be made with regard to these precedents. Not only have they been in favour of the person tendering, but they have been entirely and exclusively referable to his exterior action. Nothing about an investigation of a man's belief or the citation of his belief by the House has ever entered into the question. When my right hon. Friend (Mr. Spencer Walpole) says that we are under a statutory obligation to see that Members be rightly seated, I must challenge my right hon. Friend to produce the evidence of any such statutory obligation as would require us to investigate a man's belief. Our statutory obligations are limited by the letter of the statutes, and now let us see what that letter is. It appears to me that the prudential and legal reasons and arguments of the Attorney General and others who have spoken on this side are ample to govern the House in its decision of this question. I must go a little farther—as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whit-bread)—and ask the House to consider what is the nature of the jurisdiction which the House considers to belong to it. I hold that it was well defined by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) last night, when he said the House were to be witnesses to a certain performance in its exterior jurisdiction—that was, the exterior performance of a certain civil duty of which the law has made us stewards. I do not question for a moment that we have that jurisdiction—to see exteriorly that a certain duty is well and rightly performed. That seems to be involved in the nature of the case; but there are many considerations which tend to show that this House has not the breadth of jurisdiction that is so largely claimed for it. Why is it that a Parliamentary Oath is imposed by statute? Why, when the Oath began, in the reign of Elizabeth, was it not administered by the authority of the House? Because the House had no authority. Why is it that you do not administer Oaths in your Committees? Because you have no authority to administer oaths. What is the traditional distinction between a Committee of the House of Lords and a Committee of the House of Commons? Because the presumption is that we can have no power whatever except what the statute gives us. Why, again, when Oaths were first imposed, were they taken before the Lord Steward? Why for 130 years did this House never hear of the Oath? and yet that Oath was yet precisely the same in its purpose and effect as it is now? Why, again, when this House began to witness the Oath, was the function of the Lord Steward continued? Because, as I understand, from the time of the Revolution, from the first year of the reign of William and Mary to the first of William IV., the obligation was cumulative, and Members took the Oath not only in this House, but also before the Lord Steward. Well, the enacting of the Oath by statute, the administration of the Oath before the Lord Steward, and the joint administration of that Oath before the Lord Steward and the House, are arguments to show that the House has here only a Ministerial duty to perform, and that duty is defined by the precise language of the statute, and by the inferences to be justly drawn from that language. What is the language of the statute? It does not state that the House of Commons or the House of Lords shall each of them be invested with power to require of their Members that they should take certain oaths. It does not constitute the House of Commons the Minister of the Legislature, with authority to act for and on behalf of the Legislature, and with a delegated power making the House masters of the whole circumstances of the case. The statute has not intrusted the power to the House of Commons. It is a duty imposed upon a citizen; and the spirit of the statute is there in obvious conformity, as it seems to me, with the reason of the case. What can be more reasonable than that the jurisdiction of the House of Commons over its Members should really begin at the time when they have practically become its Members? A man elected by a constituency is in no other sense a Member of this Assembly than in the sense that he is on the way to become a Member. He is potentially a Member of this Assembly, but not for our purpose; with him we have nothing to do until he has taken the Oath. Consequently, what can be more rational than that the real jurisdiction of the House over this man should begin when he is a Member of this Assembly for the practical purposes for which the Assembly meets? What says the statute— Whereas it is expedient that one uniform Oath should be taken; he it therefore enacted that the Oath to he made and subscribed by Members on taking their seats shall be in the terms following. And then it is provided that the person who is bound to take the Oath shall take it. There is no legislation investing the House with any power; but there is legislation strictly binding the Member to fulfil his duty to the constituency who elect him. The statute binds him for that purpose; and it is provided by the 3rd section that in a sitting of the full House the Oath shall be publicly made and subscribed by every Member of the House. It does not say it shall be administered. It says it shall be made and subscribed by the Member with the Speaker in the Chair; and then comes a phrase on which I follow the interpretation given by the legal Gentlemen. It is provided that each House shall have the power of regulation according to such regulations as such House may by its Standing Orders direct. I understand we are unanimous in believing that those words refer to matters entirely exterior, and do not give any authority to the House to go between a man and his conscience. There is not a word in the statute to invest the House of Commons with any function but that of hearing and witnessing the mere performance of certain exterior Acts. I do not understand, claiming no authority, how we are to get over the case of the the 5th section. If it was intended by the Legislature to put this jurisdiction into the hands of the House of Commons, why not leave it to the House of Commons to enforce that jurisdiction? It is obvious that if the House of Commons was to be thus empowered, it should likewise punish the non-fulfilment of the duty, or be an instrument in punishing it. Now, the House of Commons is not an instrument of punishment at all. I am not aware that it is said by anyone that it is within the right of the House of Commons to inflict punishment on Mr. Bradlaugh for what must happen supposing he had succeeded in taking the Oath and sat and voted in this House, and had afterwards been declared incompetent by the House, and being what is termed liable to penalties under the Act. But what does the 5th section do? It provides— That every person sitting in the House and voting in the House shall for every such offence he subject to a penalty of £500, and in addition to such penalty, his seat shall be vacant in the same manner as if he were dead. The vacating of seats in this House is commonly a matter for the jurisdiction of this House. Why does the Statute in this case take it out of our hands? Because it does not mean that the House shall have any jurisdiction beyond fulfilling the perfunctory and Ministerial duty of seeing that the exterior Act provided by the law is duly fulfilled. Everything else is left to the duly constituted legal tribunals. I have heard the case of 1851 quoted with great triumph. I consider the case of 1851 is most completely in accordance with the view which I state. In 1851 the question raised was this—Whether it was necessary for Mr. Alderman Salomons on coming to the Table to take the Oath, which included these words—"On the true faith of a Christian"? He declined the exterior act, and said he would not take those words; and because he would not do the exterior act which it was the duty of Parliament to see that he did, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General of that day most justly said that they would not remit the case to the Courts of Law. The statute says this act must be done in our presence, and unless it is done he cannot take his seat in this House. But what precedent is that for your saying to a man who tenders himself at this Table and claims the right to affirm or to swear? You must not do either? He claims to do this, and he appears to be fulfilling the statutory duty to his constituents, and as his conscience, whatever it may be, may lead him. What protection can the case of 1851 afford you in this case, which is diametrically opposite, Mr. Alderman Salomons having refused to do the thing which the man now in question desires to do? Such appears to me to be the reasonable view. It is a view which charges this House with the duty which the Constitution imposes upon it. It is a view which secures to a constituency the right of sending into this Assembly whom it pleases. It is a view which prevents any interference with any of those persons who may be selected by the constituencies on their way to this Assembly, and which provides for the discharge of the exterior function and office which the law has laid upon them. On the one hand, the jurisdiction of the House over its Members comes into full play at the time they really become Members; and, on the other hand, Members are exempted from undue or dangerous interference. At the same time, the rights of the constituencies are surrounded with every guarantee that the State can give. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University made an appeal to me last night which I cannot do other than notice. He said—"Consider the consequence of what you are now doing. If you sanction his taking the Oath or affirming, and if he then is found in a Court of Law not to be duly elected, you will be morally compelled to indemnify him." The tender interest in the concerns of Mr. Bradlaugh that has been professed and declared by various benevolent Gentlemen on the other side of the House is remarkable. They are anxious to guard him from falling into this trap. I am not sanctioning his coming here; I am not encouraging his coming here. I have nothing to do with it one way or the other; but if he comes here to perform his statutory duty, and if he performs that duty, unless I am able to say he is not performing it I will not endeavour to put in use any power of this House for the purpose of interfering with him in the performance of that duty. Gentlemen opposite rather exulted when they heard that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to interpose when Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) seemed to consider this a confession of some great enormity and some gross offence. It seems to me that ours was a very wise decision. It was a wise decision not to sanction or encourage anything of the kind, to decline a responsibility which did not belong to us, and to refrain from usurping an authority which has not been placed in our hands. I will not trouble the House further. I will express the hope that I have not given offence to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I claim for us that if our feelings are stirred and governed by anxiety for religious liberty, we have yet, in the intellectual and reasoning processes that we have gone through, adhered closely and strictly to the law. That same respect I cordially offer to those who sit on the other side of the House; but I do beseech them to put guard upon themselves to prevent the infusion into this deliberation—this solemn deliberation—of matter which has no genuine or legitimate concern with it; and if the principle of moral duty requires to be enforced by the dictates of prudence, I do beg of them to consider what have been the unhappy issues of previous attempts by the House to take into its own hands, being a single branch of the Legislature, powers which were never accorded to it by that which alone is its superior— namely, the law of the Realm.


I desire, Sir, to offer some remarks on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I entirely coincide, and so do my hon. Friends who sit near me, in the desire that this question should be considered from an impartial point of view, and without any reference whatever to the political views and prepossessions of the Member for Northampton. The right hon. Gentleman, when he said he would avoid all irritating topics, forgetting who was sitting by his side, suggested that all those irritating topics had come from this (the Opposition) side of the House. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented]. I accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that he did not mean to deny that a right hon. Gentleman sitting beside him introduced irritating topics. Unquestionably the speech delivered last night by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) was characterized by as much bitterness, as much acerbity, and as complete an absence of toleration and charity as any speech which I ever heard in any Assembly; and the Chancellor of the Duchy seemed to consider that unless you agreed with him and sat on the same side of the House as he did himself, it was impossible to entertain an upright motive, to feel a single pure aspiration, or to be actuated even by common honesty. Therefore, Sir, I think I am right in guarding myself from admitting that at any stage of this discussion all the irritating topics have been confined to this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said he would discuss this question as a dry question of law. I do not know exactly what is the meaning he attaches to the epithet "dry;" but certainly his statement was anything but the statement of a dry question of law. It was, of course, a very eloquent speech; but although I listened to it both with the attention and respect due to any speech coming from a statesman of his position, yet I failed, with all the training which my profession has given me, to find out what was the definite legal advice, or the precise legal argument that he desired to be followed by the House. He stated that no new law was necessary to enable Mr. Bradlaugh to come to the Table and be sworn; and he then proceeded to argue with great force and great persuasiveness that it would be very inconvenient to have a new law, and that it would be almost more convenient to break or to strain the existing law than to face the inconvenience which its alteration presented. [Dissent.] Of course, he did not say that he was so urging any breaking or straining of the law; but he so dwelt on the vast inconveniences that would result as to lead the mind of hon. Members almost irresistibly to the conclusion that anything would be better, and that we should try to adapt our institutions in such a way as to avoid the vast difficulties which he suggested. Now, what are those difficulties? I listened to them, and I am not at all frightened by them; they are open to an obvious answer. Following the lead of Mr. Bradlaugh in the Select Committee, the right hon. Gentleman tried to influence and terrify the House by relying on the precedent of the Wilkes's case, as if there was the slightest analogy between what the House of Commons did in Mr. Wilkes's case and what it is now asked to do by the temperate Resolution of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Laun-ceston. In Wilkes's ease the House of Commons declared that Mr. Wilkes was incapable for his conduct of being re- elected. Who seeks to apply any such rule to Mr. Bradlaugh? We do not, in the slightest degree, question the right of the constituency of Northampton to return Mr. Bradlaugh, nor his right to be returned by that constituency. Our contention is narrower and more logical. We say that under the existing laws, as they stand, it is impossible, without their alteration or amendment, that Mr. Bradlaugh can take his seat. We take up no line of non possumus, as the House of Commons did in Mr. Wilkes's case, when it both rejected him and said it would never accept him at all. We only say—"We admit that you have been returned as a Member; but according to the existing law you cannot comply with the prescribed forms, and therefore you cannot sit." Where is the analogy between that and the precedent of Mr. Wilkes? The other bugbear has been put forward that you will get into conflict with the Courts of Law. Is it the hon. and learned Member for Launceston who seeks to get the House into a conflict with the Courts of Law? If you do what is suggested by his Amendment, no Court of Law can possibly assail what is done. You will get into conflict with the Courts of Law only if you accept the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. If you adopt the course suggested in the original proposition you will unquestionably embark in a conflict with the Courts of Law, the end of which no man can foresee. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister admitted that he was bound, as its Leader, to give the House some guidance in the difficult and painful dilemma in which we are placed. And what was that guidance? He said that we are now standing on the narrow ledge of a Theistic test; and I think the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used an almost equivalent expression last night. That may be a question to be discussed when a Bill is brought forward for that object; but no one is now seeking to impose any new test. Our argument is simple. We say—"Apply the existing law, construe it liberally and generously; do not apply it in a narrow or exclusive spirit, but do not wrest or change it." It is not a question of introducing a test or a pledge; but one of the construction of plain and clear Acts of Parliament. What is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? As far as I could gather, his view was in favour of the last contention of Mr. Bradlaugh-—namely, that he should be allowed to take the Oath at the Table of this House. The right hon. Gentleman did not say which branch of the question he was in favour of; but his whole argument went to this—"You are a mere external body; your rights are limited to seeing that the external forms prescribed by the Act of Parliament are observed. Mr. Bradlaugh's last demand was to take the Oath; you have no right to prevent him from taking the Oath. "I ask at once, is not that entirely inconsistent with the whole action of the right hon. Gentleman from the beginning to the end of this unfortunate occurrence? If the question be so plain as he states it, why did he send it upstairs to be discussed by a Select Committee? But it was the contention of those who contested the appointment of the last Committee that the question was so clear, so free from precedent, and required only the application of two or three sections in the statutes, that it was not a case for a Select Committee, but one for the immediate decision of the House. That contention was denied. The right hon. Gentleman said—"No; you must have a Select Committee; it is an intricate question on which there must be a search of the Journals, and the House has a right to have it considered by a Select Committee." But the right hon. Gentleman has thrown over the decision of the Select Committee, and also the clear opinion of his own Law Officers. When the question was before the House last, on the 21st of May, the whole contention of the right hon. Gentleman was—"I am a layman; I do not set up to be a lawyer; this is a nice, delicate, difficult question of law." Yet he wishes now, on what he contended, and even still contends, is a pure question of law, to throw over quietly in the House the opinion of his own Law Officers. The question was raised in the Committee with precision on this point. There can be no doubt about it; because a proposition was submitted to the Committee to the effect that no precedent had been shown in which the House had refused to allow a Member to take the Oath on account of his views of religion, and that the House could not constitutionally refuse permission to take the Oath on such account. Now the right hon. Gentle- man has adopted that proposition. It contains the clearest and most concise statement of his argument. But against that proposition there voted in the Committee 16 Members—including the Attorney General and the Solicitor General —while only five voted for it. And now I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's argument that if Mr. Bradlaugh comes to the Table of the House tomorrow and repeats everything he has said he would permit him to take the Oath. That, I think, the right hon. Gentleman cannot logically deny. In what position are we now? If we are merely ministerial machines—if you, Sir, are a mere lay figure in the Chair, then we shall have to look at Mr. Brad-laugh's performance as unreasoning beings. But if we are to apply our understanding, our reason, to what was implicated in his original statement, and what was the clear meaning of the letter of the 20th of May, which he wrote and sent to all the newspapers in London— if we are to consider these things, are we to exercise no judgment upon them? There is a clear dilemma on this point. Either we are ministerial machines, as the right hon. Gentleman said—in which case Mr. Bradlaugh can come forward and take the Oath or the Affirmation as he pleases—or else we are to exercise some judgment, and then we are responsible. We must be either responsible or irresponsible. There is no middle place. As far as I can understand the right hon. Gentleman, he has hardly made up his mind even yet on this question; although his whole argument, if it meant anything, meant this—that we had no jurisdiction to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh taking the Oath at the Table. Am I misrepresenting the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? No dissent comes; and, therefore, I say that I am entitled to assume that the right hon. Gentleman gave this guidance to the House—If Mr. Bradlaugh comes to the Table and takes the Book in his hand, you, Mr. Speaker, are a lay figure, and you, the House of Commons, must do nothing but look on the performance. I took down one sentence of the right hon. Gentleman. He said—"Youhave no jurisdiction to do more than see the exterior observance of the form." Was the House of Commons ever before told it was in such a contemptible and degraded position? What is the meaning of this in the face of the 3rd section of the Act which has been read by the right hon. Gentleman, the Parliamentary Oath Act, 1866The Oath shall be solemnly and publicly made and subscribed by every Member of the House of Commons at the Table in the middle of the House, and while a full House is there sitting with Mr. Speaker in the Chair, at such hours and according to such regulations as the House may by its Standing Orders direct. My proposition in reference to that is clear, has never varied; the House is by that section distinctly made the guardian of the Oath—is bound to see that it is taken under solemn and public conditions, with Mr. Speaker in the Chair, and in a full House; and it is reminded of its duty to deal with this question by Standing Orders. Can that section have been framed for the sole purpose of making us unintelligent and irresponsible witnesses of an act which the vast majority of both sides in this case would regard as a kind of blasphemy? The right hon. Gentleman's argument, if it means anything, means this—that he is willing to allow the Oath to be taken by a person who has intimated, by necessary implication, that that Oath will not be binding upon his conscience. Mr. Bradlaugh published the letter now before the House, in which he said he would not take the Oath as meaning an appeal to God; that the words"So help me, God" were a meaningless addendum, and that part of the Oath was an idle form. That is the guidance—the sole guidance—we are to receive from the Leader of the House on this difficult and delicate question. I venture to think he will find a great many on this occasion will assert their independence. Never, I believe, from the beginning of his speech, did the right hon. Gentleman use the word "affirm." I again assert that the whole and sole argument which the right hon. Gentleman gave for the guidance of the House was this—that we could not—we ought not—we had no jurisdiction to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from taking the Oath. The right hon. Gentleman knows the circumstances—nobody better. He has read that letter of the 20th of May, and so has the country. He knows what Mr. Bradlaugh said at the Table; and, knowing all this, he has given us the advice to which I have referred. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a saying of the illustrious Bacon, that it was not for us to examine into a man's religious opinions; but we are not trying Mr. Bradlaugh. If he had kept his opinions to himself, and the responsibility of those opinions to himself, it would have been another thing. But he has taken us into confidence, and by doing so he has made us responsible. The right hon. Gentleman says, truly, this is a case of first impression. He says there is no precedent of preventing a Member from taking the Oath. That is one side of the argument of the absence of precedent; but, on the other side, we have it on the authority of Sir Erskine May that there is no precedent of a Member of the House of Commons coming forward and making such a statement, or the equivalent of such a statement, as Mr. Bradlaugh made at the Table of this House. The right hon. Gentleman— and I took down the words because I thought it would come to that—said our duties are limited by the words of the statute. The right hon. Gentleman could not find any words of the statute which would support his argument that the entire affair was to be dealt with as if it was a mere exterior performance, and in order to evade responsibility, he practically denied to the House all authority, all jurisdiction, all responsibility. Having denied all our privileges, he placed the House of Commons in a thoroughly degraded position. He takes all responsibility off the Speaker; he takes all responsibility off the House. Having done that, he says the whole responsibility is upon Mr. Bradlaugh himself. He may either take the Oath or affirm. So that the right hon. Gentleman places our precedents, our law, our usages, our forms, absolutely at the mercy, without check, of Mr. Bradlaugh. Well, the only convenience I see in that is that if the House has no power and no responsibility, if Mr. Bradlaugh has all the power and all the responsibility, that leaves Her Majesty's Government to perform, in a very humble way, the high function of guidance. In my opinion, the law upon the matter is clear. After the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham last night, I hesitate to use the word "dogma," because he has reminded us that the working men of this country know as little of the dogmas of Chris- tianity as the upper classes did of the practice of their religion. I have, however, a very strong opinion with regard to the question of Affirmation, an opinion which I am satisfied will be supported by the decision of a Court of Law if ever this point comes before one. It will not be sufficient for Mr. Bradlaugh to bring his case within the Act of 1866; he must also bring it within the Evidence Acts of 1869, 1870, and 1871. I assert that he will find it difficult to do so. Hon. Members opposite assert that his case falls within the Act of 1866. I do not think or believe that it does; but even assuming that it does, that is not enough, because he must also bring it within the letter and spirit of the other statutes, which are solely confined to the giving of evidence, and are only applicable where the presiding Judge is satisfied that an oath would not be binding on the conscience of the individual in question. But is the Speaker the presiding Judge, and is our sitting here a question of taking evidence? Another Act of Parliament which was passed in the following year strengthens my argument, because the term "presiding Judge," in which it is now sought to include the Speaker, was found to be so restricted that a fresh Act had to be passed in order to make it include an arbitrator. If there were any doubt on this matter, at all events, it was partially cleared up by the Parliamentary Evidence Act of 1871; and I must here lay particular stress upon the dates. If the Evidence Acts of 1869 and 1870 applied to Parliament at all they would have applied to it in all cases. Yet, what do we find? We find that in 1871 Parliament, having a full knowledge of the Acts of the two previous years, when it comes to give power to its Committees and to itself to examine witnesses upon Oath, deals specially with the case of those who object to take the Oath and desire to affirm, thus putting aside altogether the idea that its procedure was in any way affected by the Evidence Acts of 1869 and 1870. The Act of 1871 not only provides for the case of those witnesses who desire to affirm when about to give evidence before Parliamentary Committees, but provides specially a form of Affirmation which implies a religious belief in the minds of those who make it, therefore being one which Mr. Bradlaugh could not con- scientiously make. The argument of hon. Members opposite is this—We will assume that the Report of the first Committee was right; but, as the difference of opinion amongst its members leaves it open to question, in order to prevent the House being involved in a delicate and, possibly, a painful inquiry, do not prevent Mr. Bradlaugh from going through this form, so that eventually the question may be settled in a Court of Law. But what I want to know is whether any Court of Law could effectually settle this question? I should like to bear the opinion of the learned Law Officers of the Crown upon this point. I am satisfied that they would not give it as their opinion that a Court of Law could settle the matter, unless it was so fenced round with qualifications as to make it nearly worthless. Let us look at the particular form of Affirmation which Mr. Brad-laugh would have to take. It is the one set forth in the Act of 1866, and it runs as follows:—"I, Charles Bradlaugh, solemnly, sincerely, and truly affirm," &c. In other words, be would use the very words that are prescribed by the statute, and at the time and in the place prescribed by the statute. In such circumstances, I should like to know what would be the fate of an action brought to recover penalties against Mr. Bradlaugh? We are now asked to divest ourselves of all responsibility, and to blindly hand over this question for decision by a Court of Law, which might never determine the question at all. If Mr. Bradlaugh were sued for penalties, the first step in the proceedings would be to put in the Records of the House, from which it would appear that, equally with the right hon. Member for Birmingham the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr. Bradlaugh bad made the Affirmation prescribed by law. I have read the statute closely; and I say that it has been too lightly assumed that a person has only to walk into Court and to enter an action for penalties against Mr. Bradlaugh to be certain of success. The difficulties in the way of such an action are very great. He would have taken the statutable words at the time and in the place indicated by the statute; and would not the Court say —"We must assume in a penal action that the House of Commons satisfied itself that an unqualified person did not take the Affirmation." It could hardly be contended that his Affirmation under such circumstances was a nullity. The whole argument of the Attorney General was founded upon this proposition —that the question raised is a nice and a difficult one, and that we should get rid of a painful and a disagreeable subject by handing it over to the Law Courts. But how is this question to be handed over to the Law Courts? Who is to be the prosecutor? Will the Attorney General undertake to commence and carry on this action for penalties against Mr. Bradlaugh? The Attorney General is not divested by the Act of last Session of his responsibility in such a matter, and he is as much technically as the Irish Attorney General is actually the Public Prosecutor of the country. Is it intended that the matter shall be left to chance or to any individual who shall volunteer to proceed, in the same way as it has been left to any person to proceed against those who issued the Liberal Circular? lathe House of Commons to evade a decision on this question without its being certain that the question will be raised and decided elsewhere? I venture to tell the House of Commons that it cannot so divest itself of its responsibility. Every time that Mr. Bradlaugh sits and votes it will be open to any hon. Member to move, night after night, that a new Writ be issued for the borough of Northampton; because the Act says that, in addition to such penalty, the seat shall be vacant, as though the person elected were dead. The issuing of the Writ in no way depends upon whether the penalty has been recovered. This, then, is the way in which it is suggested that we should get out of the difficulty attending this very nice and delicate question—namely, that we should avoid collision with the Law Courts by handing over the whole question to them. There is another point which I was surprised to find left unnoticed, having regard to the vast experience of the hon. Member for Bedford(Mr. Whitbread.) The words contained in the Report of this last Committee, in its unauthorized clause, were that we should "not prevent" Mr. Bradlaugh from going through the form of making an Affirmation. Now, I beg the House that there shall be no play on these wretched words, "not prevent;" for it must not be forgotten that if we do not prevent we permit, and if we permit we sanction; and would it be contended for a moment that, having permitted and sanctioned Mr. Bradlaugh making an Affirmation at our Table, we might not be asked to indemnify him from the consequences of any penal action that might thereafter be taken against him? I believe this debate will close without that statement being seriously encountered. It may be cavilled at, and the House may be told that the question is a nice and difficult one; but I repeat that if the House sanctions the making of an Affirmation by Mr. Bradlaugh, it will be bound to listen, at all events, with great respect to constant applications for the indemnification of Mr. Bradlaugh against the consequences of the act which he is now asked to take. Indeed, he may do more; for the Prime Minister has said that Mr. Bradlaugh may take his choice, and if he chooses to make Affirmation instead of taking the Oath, all those who are of my way of thinking can do is to be somewhat grateful to him for sparing us part of the performance. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster based his argument in favour of Mr. Bradlaugh being allowed to affirm upon the case of Mr. Pease; but I will assert that there is no true analogy between the two cases. Mr. Pease was a Quaker, and the Select Committee which dealt with his case had to consider three statutes under which it was laid down that the Affirmation of a Quaker was to be taken in all Courts of Law or other places in which an oath was taken, allowed, or required. The reception of the Affirmation was expressly not confined to a Court of Law. The case of the Roman Catholics was mentioned by the Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman to whom I have just referred, and, as I believe, with the intention of stirring up the old animosities which existed with regard to that Church. I shall not refer to them in that spirit; but I would just mention their case, as also that of the Jews, in order to point out that when the difficulty arose concerning them it was dealt with by legislation, and not attempted to be settled by a side-wind which would override all statutes and precedents as in the present case. This is a question which can only be dealt with logically by means of new legislation, and that is what I say ought to be done, in order that all the arguments, pro and con, may be carefully and candidly weighed. Whatever we do, I hope it will not be thought that the House can escape its responsibility by giving a blind vote. Let the House take an honest and straightforward course: give effect to, or reverse the decision of, either or both of the Committees, and not in a cowardly, un-English fashion, seek to evade its duties and responsibilities by degrading itself into a mere piece of mechanism, a kind of conduit pipe to a Court of Law. I pray the House not to put its laws and privileges under the feet of Mr. Bradlaugh, as it is invited to do; and, for my own part, I shall decline—having stated my opinions and the reasons for them—to be a party to what I believe would be a plain violation of our laws. I shall vote against Mr. Bradlaugh being allowed to make an Affirmation which would violate the law of man, or to go through the form of taking an Oath which, in his lips, would outrage alike the laws of man and God.


said, that it was clear that the House was in a position of great difficulty. On the one hand, it was hard to see how Mr. Bradlaugh could take the Oath after claiming the right to affirm, because he had already affirmed under Acts of which no one could avail himself without stating that an oath was not binding on his conscience; and, on the other hand, a Committee had decided that he could not legally affirm. The last Committee had recommended the House to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to do an act which the former Committee had treated as illegal, and this was a very disagreeable position. He had felt great doubts, but had come to the conclusion that it was his duty to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton. He regarded the Amendment as a Motion for the expulsion of Mr. Bradlaugh in another form. Hon. Members said to themselves—"We won't have this man as a Member at any price," and so they used the Oath as a means of expulsion. He could understand the strong feelings of hon. Members opposite, like the Members for the City who had spoken; but he thought that if there was to be a Motion for expulsion, it would be only fair to wait till the Member had taken his seat, and could reply to what was said against him. He objected to the use of an oath as a test. These Parliamentary Oaths were never meant as tests. Moreover, they were most imperfect as tests, for it was notorious that there were hon. Members in that House who held similar views as to the non-existence of a God with Mr. Bradlaugh, who had, nevertheless, taken the Oath. So it was now, and so it always had been. Moreover, Oaths were never demanded from Members until the 5th Elizabeth. He quoted the Preamble and clauses of that Act to show that these Oaths were then imposed on Members merely to secure the safety of the Crown from disloyalty, especially in reference to the members of the Church of Borne. But the Oaths had been used as tests against one set of men after another—the Friends, the Catholics, the Jews—and now, at last, they were sought to be used to secure the presence of only those men who believed in "some God or other," as the hon. Member for Portsmouth put it. Feeling the difficulty of the case, still he could not sanction such a proceeding. He felt that it was their duty, as Christians, to act fairly and justly towards all; and though they were told by Members opposite that the House would be put into a very awkward position if Mr. Bradlaugh were allowed to affirm, on the other hand, if they did not, they would have a repetition of Wilkes's case, and an unseemly contest with the electors of Northampton. The House would certainly be defeated if it entered on that sort of contest. The case against Wilkes was a very strong one; but, as they had heard, the House had to yield and to expunge the record. No one would suspect him of any sympathy with the opinions or proceedings of Mr. Bradlaugh; but he felt that justice and fairness between man and man demanded that he should be permitted to take his seat, taking, of course, on himself all the risks that might thence arise. He thought that of the two difficulties, that of allowing him to affirm was the less, and he should vote for the Motion.


remarked, that nearly all that could be said on the subject had been admirably stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), and no one could put it better. But a few points had been left untouched, to which he wished to direct the attention of the House. Now that the two Committees had reported they were left face to face with Mr. Bradlaugh; and the question was, whether he was to take his seat on making an Affirmation, or was to be prevented from making an Affirmation or taking the Oath? Considering the way in which Mr. Bradlaugh had presented himself— first claiming to make an Affirmation, and then proposing to take the Oath— it was natural and proper for them to inquire, and they were entitled to inquire, who and what was Mr. Bradlaugh, who thus asked to be received in the House in an exceptional manner. It was not, as had been stated, that the House was inquisitorial, or that from previous knowledge of Mr. Bradlaugh or prejudice against him they desired not to admit him. He was convinced that if Mr. Bradlaugh had presented himself at the Table, and had quietly taken the Oath without making any unusual claim, or otherwise obtruding himself, or drawing special attention to his position, he would have been allowed to take his seat without interference from anyone. But Mr. Bradlaugh, by the course he had adopted—by proposing first to affirm, and, secondly, to take the Oath, and by his letter, which could not be too often quoted, declaring that in taking the Oath he would be taking something which to him was "a meaningless set of words"—had put himself in such a position that the House was asked to treat him in an exceptional manner. And who, then, was this Gentleman who asked to be treated thus exceptionally? A number of precedents had been adduced from time to time applying to Quakers, Moravians, and Jews, but none to Atheists. But it was not the question merely of an Atheist which was before them. It was a question for which there was absolutely no precedent —that of an Atheist who was not merely an Atheist, though he had been described from the opposite Benches as a poor persecuted man with a conscience, who desired to do what was right, and to affirm in the manner most proper and convenient to his conscience. Mr. Bradlaugh was not such a man. He was a man whose livelihood, whose profession for a series of years, had been to disseminate cheap and pernicious literature among the mass of the people. That was the man who came to that Table and asked the House to treat him in an ex- ceptional manner. When this question was discussed on a previous occasion, and it was proposed to appoint a Committee, he ventured to produce some pamphlets published by Mr. Bradlaugh, and he was called to Order for reading from those pamphlets. But he believed he should be in Order when he mentioned that those pamphlets had not only the name of Mr. Bradlaugh as being written by him, but had on the back that they were printed and published by Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant. He held those pamphlets in his hand. He was not going to trouble the House with them. But they were evidence of the statements he had made, and the contents of the pamphlets were such that if Mr. Bradlaugh were admitted to the House he should be very much surprised if some hon. Gentleman did not rise in his place and propose a Select Committee to inquire whether, having regard to those writings, Mr. Bradlaugh was fit to be a Member of the House. On the last occasion when he quoted a passage from one of those pamphlets, Mr. Bradlaugh went to his constituents in Northampton, and in the course of a speech which he made, remarked upon his (Sir Henry Tyler's)"mad antagonism," and said that the pamphlet from which the quotation was made was not his at all. He could only say it had Mr. Brad-laugh's name on the face of it, and his name, with Annie Besant's, as printers and publishers on the back. He did not know what better evidence he could have. He found it in the catalogue of Mr. Bradlaugh's and other works—"the 300,000th catalogue." He sent a clerk to Mr. Bradlaugh's publishing office for it; he found it and other pamphlets there; and if Mr. Bradlaugh denied the pamphlet to be his he ought to take his name from the front and the back of it. The fact was that Mr. Bradlaugh could not come into the House without bringing Annie Besant with him, because he observed that her name was on the back of all these pamphlets. A great deal had been said by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench of religious liberty and Christian charity. What was Christian charity? If Mr. Bradlaugh were starving it would be Christian charity to give him food; if he was in need or necessity to help him in other ways; but surely it was not Christian charity to admit him to take an Oath which he characterized as an unmeaning ceremony—a ceremony which would be as outrageous an insult to Almighty God as could be performed. So, with regard to religious liberty, he had seen Turks in the heart of Bosnia spreading their carpets on the grass, and performing their devotions for 20 minutes before taking rest or refreshment after a ten hours journey; and he could respect Mahomedans and others for the conscientious performance of the duties of their religion and the way they performed those devotions; but how could he respect a man of this description, who first pretended he could not take an oath because it was not binding on his conscience, and, when he found he could not get in otherwise, professed his readiness to take it? They were threatened with legislation on the subject. Was it possible that hon. Members would be persuaded to adopt exceptional legislation to admit such a man to that House? Much might be said on one side or the other, as to the necessity for, or expediency of, retaining the Oath in its present form; but he must say he valued the Oath now more than ever, because it might be the means of keeping such a man out of the House.


could not help saying he had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir Henry Tyler) with unfeigned regret. He could not conceive that any good could be attained by the course he had followed. The hon. Member rose in his place and, in the absence of Mr. Bradlaugh, made all sorts of attacks upon him. He referred to pamphlets, and said things which really had nothing to do with the question before the House. The House was called upon to exercise a judicial function, and he hoped they would approach the duty in a judicial spirit. He had no sympathy with the views and feelings of Mr. Bradlaugh, and he deplored the fact that any hon. Member should entertain such sentiments; but in this free country Mr. Bradlaugh was just as much entitled to his views, however unpalatable or revolting they might appear to others, as he was to his, and he ought to get credit for holding them conscientiously. The question was what was the best course, under all the circumstances, for the House to take? His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) said last night that Mr. Bradlaugh had pressed his views on the House. With great submission, that was hardly so. He came to the House, and, being most certainly aware of the feeling that would be created if he proceeded to take the Oath, he claimed to affirm. He was acting in what many believed his strict right. What course did the House take? A Committee was appointed— not to decide the question, not to bind, but to assist the House—to look into the Act of Parliament and to examine precedents. There was considerable opposition on the other side; although the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford North-cote) had assented to the Committee, the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) objected to the Members being nominated, and raised an excited debate, in which unfair attacks were made upon Mr. Bradlaugh and considerable feeling was aroused. The result was that among the various religious communities throughout the country the question of religious liberty was raised, and the feeling prevailed that if Mr. Bradlaugh was to be excluded to-day it might be their own turn to-morrow. The question was, what were Mr. Bradlaugh's rights? That depended on the construction of the Act of Parliament. They had heard from the hon. and learned Member for Launceston, and the right hon. and learned Member for the Dublin University (Mr. Gibson), a great deal of argument and some declamation; but the real question was, what were the rights conferred and the duties imposed by the Act? The Act imported that every Member should take the Oath—he must do so. Mr. Bradlaugh, feeling that obligation, came to the Table. But if the Oath were objected to Affirmation might be made; and the Act went on to specify those who might do so. The words were—"All who by any law for the time being are entitled to affirm." After the passing of the Parliamentary Oaths Act in 1866, he maintained that "every person who by any law is entitled to affirm," must mean that those who were entitled to affirm in Courts of Law were entitled to make Affirmation in the House of Commons. The decision of the first Committee was not binding on the House, and when their Report was placed upon the Table Mr. Bradlaugh asked to be allowed to take the Oath. The hon. Member for Portsmouth objected, and with that objection he entirely sympathized. If, indeed, the question were that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to take the Oath, he should, if he thought the House had any jurisdiction to interfere, vote against his being allowed to do so. But the House had, in his opinion, no such jurisdiction. They had no right to inquire into the motives, the conscience, or the religious views of any person who presented himself to take the Oath. If they were allowed to do so, they might raise a debate as to the religious belief of any hon. Member coming to the Table to be sworn. That, he thought, would be a great national misfortune. The only duty, however, cast upon the House by the statute was to see that the Oath was taken in the ordinary form; and the Act provided penalties—the vacating of the seat and the payment of a fine of £500—in the case of any Member who was not entitled to affirm sitting without having taken the Oath. If Mr. Bradlaugh were willing to take the risk of affirming, and they allowed him to do so, he would be pursued in an action before a Court of Law, where the real construction of the Act of Parliament could be settled. There would be no difficulty in finding a plaintiff. The difficulty would arise from there being too many. Mr. Bradlaugh would be pursued for voting and sitting in the House without taking the Oath. He would answer that he was one of those persons who were excused from taking it, and allowed to substitute for it an Affirmation. Then the Judges would determine whether he was so excused. The House would thus have the Act authoritatively interpreted. He thought it a pity the House of Commons could not now call in the Judges to give their opinion on a point of law, as the House of Lords used to do. But, as they could not do this, the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was the best course for them to adopt.


said, he had listened with somewhat painful interest to the debate which had taken place, and did not hesitate to say that a great many things had been said on the other side in which he concurred, and that some observations had fallen from hon. Members on his side with which he could not altogether agree. His hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down had urged that, as Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to affirm in Courts of Justice under the Act of 1869, he was, under the provisions of the Act of 1866, entitled to affirm in that House. He took issue on that point with his hon. and learned Friend, who would see that the Act of 1866 twice used the word"solemn"—"a solemn declaration" and a "solemn affirmation."[The hon. and learned Member then referred to the Act of 1869, and read the 4th section of that Act, which provided that the affirmation should only be admitted when the presiding Judge was satisfied that an oath would have no binding effect upon the witness's conscience.] He would observe that the word "solemn" was omitted from that Act. In the previous Act the word "solemn" was to be found twice. The words of the Act of 1866 were intended to make an affirmation equivalent to an oath. The mere ordinary words of a promise were not admissible by the Act of 1866. When words were deliberately omitted from an Act of Parliament something was intended by such omission; and he felt that the absence of the word "solemn" from the Act of 1869 was significant. What was the object of the Act of 1866? It was not simply to relieve Quakers, Moravians, and others; it was really aimed at excluding persons in Mr. Bradlaugh's position. The Declaration which was to be in lieu of the Oath was to be as solemn as the Oath; and the same circumstances which prevented Mr. Bradlaugh from taking the Oath prevented him also from taking the Affirmation. If he could not take the Oath he could not take the solemn Affirmation. A profession of some religious faith was requisite in either case. He did not wish to use a merely technical argument; but he thought that if words were carefully introduced into one statute and omitted in another, some importance ought to be attached to the circumstance. The very terms used in the Act of 1866 presumed that the person making the Affirmation had some religious faith. He was anxious not to say a word which would wound Mr. Bradlaugh's feelings; but he believed that within the meaning of the Act he was not competent to make anything more than a bare promise; he was incapable of either making a solemn declaration or of taking an oath. The hon. Member for Northampton had urged, with some plausibility, that it was sought to impose a religious test; but it was not really so. There was nothing in the Act of Parliament which required any question to be put as to what a man's religious belief was. It only asked a person to profess some religious belief. The words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) from Lord Holland were susceptible of a different interpretation from that of the right hon. Gentleman. He believed that Lord Holland meant to convey that a Member should be required to acknowledge that he had some religious belief, and that the passage quoted was a confirmation of the views which he was then expressing. He did not share in those views which had been expressed as to the paramount necessity of respecting a large and important constituency. The constituency of Northampton knew when they elected Mr. Bradlaugh that they were raising difficult and delicate questions, and they must take the consequence. He thought that due regard ought to be attached to what had been termed the religious instinct of the country. He believed that people were asking themselves whether the House of Commons was going to assist Mr. Brad-laugh to take his seat. He agreed that the constituencies were looking with interest upon the result of the division, but not in the sense in which hon. Members had said so. He had himself been urged, especially by one class of Dissenters—-the Wesleyans—to vote against Mr. Bradlaugh's admission to the House. He felt bound to vote against 'the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton; and if action were taken to procure Mr. Bradlaugh's admission, he should prefer that it should be done directly rather than by a side wind.


said, he had not intended to take part in the debate; but after what he had heard he intended to say a few words. He felt it his duty, and the duty of every man in the House, to speak out plainly and firmly. They had had nothing but lawyers from beginning to end, and he thought one of their calamities was the rapacity with which those hon. and learned Gentlemen had occupied the time of the House. The question was not a tribunal question or a legal question—it was a broad and simple issue, and those who involved it in legal technicalities were doing nothing but throwing dust into the eyes of the country. The point really at issue was this—Great Britain being a Christian country by the Constitution and the Common. Law, were they to allow an avowed Atheist, who thrust his opinions before the House and the nation, to take part in the government of this country? If they did so, why was it? Because the people of the country wished it? He did not believe they did wish it. He could not answer for the people of England and Scotland, though he did not believe either of those countries were in favour of it; but he could answer for Ireland. Was it because they wished to create a new precedent? If that was so, and they wished to create a new precedent, contrary to the time-honoured usages and customs of the House, why did they not create a new precedent in the case of poor Mitchel and O'Donovan Rossa? One at least of those gentlemen was an educated man, and neither of them had spent his time in attempting to pollute the minds of his fellow-creatures. He had been very sorry to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) the night before, and he thought it was the most mischievous speech he had ever heard in the House of Commons. He had tried to lead the House on a great number of false issues, and he was of opinion that it would have been far better if he had not made the speech at all. Hon. Gentlemen had quoted the Catholic year; but the Catholic year had nothing to do with the case before the House at all. For many years Catholics were excluded purposely from sitting in that House; but because it was just to allow Catholics who had been unjustly excluded from that House to enter, did it follow that it was just to allow an unbeliever, an Atheist, contrary to all usage and precedent, to do so? Another argument had been that a Quaker was allowed to take his seat in the House after making an Affirmation; but the hon. Member who had just spoken had called attention to the fact that the sanction of the Oath and the sanction of a promise were in essence the same, although in form the Oath was more solemn, because it expressed a belief on the part of the person who took the Oath in the existence of a Supreme Being; but what sanction did the hon. Member for Northampton offer who believed in no Deity and in God? He thought the House ought to take a broad view of the question. It ought to feel that it had its own dignity and the dignity of the people to consult; and he did not believe that in allowing Mr. Bradlaugh to enter the House they would consult either the one or the other. He thought that they had already heard a great deal too much on the matter. Let them look all over the habitable globe at millions of subjects of different nations which this country was called upon to rule differing in customs, manners, and institutions; but all universally uniting in the worship of one Supreme Being. Those subjects and nations looked to this country for freedom and protection, for guidance and light; and he asked the House was that the first message they were prepared to send out in the plentitude of fulness of their strength and youth, to be one which should exalt an Atheist and dignify an unbeliever? He did not believe it, and in his humble voice he should oppose the Motion, believing that it had in itself the germs which would lead to the degradation of the House, and which would bring disaster and disgrace on the country.


also thought the House had heard quite enough of legal arguments. The question was whether they should admit within those walls one who not only professed Atheism, but who had shown in his writings that he would be willing to overthrow the Throne and the Constitution. He (Mr. Forester) believed that the country had gone backwards in the forms of Christianity under the present Prime Minister. For his own part, he protested against the admission of a man who not only repudiated the claims of our Royal Family to the succession to the Throne; but repudiated the claim of the King of Kings and the Creator of the Universe to the united homage and undivided allegiance of the God-fearing Representatives of a Christian people. Turning to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, he said that the right hon. Gentleman was apt to pose as the embodiment of the Christian virtues of charity, tolerance, and forbearance, yet seemed never to miss an opportunity of saying some- thing galling about the cherished forms of their religious belief. He earnestly appealed to the independent Members opposite to follow the example of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. S. Morley), and refuse to admit to its deliberations one who openly professed a disbelief in religion.


said, he felt very strongly on this question. He disputed Mr. Bradlaugh's right to affirm, and he had serious doubts as to the legality of the conclusion at which the Committee had arrived. At the time the right to make an Affirmation was given it was not contemplated that an Atheist would come forward. If Mr. Bradlaugh did not take the Oath he would be, as it were, a Parliamentary outcast; and it was because Mr. Bradlaugh had no religious convictions or belief that the House had been placed in the present difficult position. He denied that it was a case of that House against Northampton. The constituency of Northampton had not refused the Oath or applied to affirm, neither had it intimated that it considered the Oath a meaningless form. He should oppose the Resolution of the sitting Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), for if they adopted that Motion the House would incur a vast responsibility. He should be no party to seeing Mr. Bradlaugh come up to that Table and going through a farce. Had Northampton returned Mr. Bradlaugh on account of his Atheistic opinions? They had no proof whatsoever of this. Mr. Bradlaugh was returned either on account of the great Liberal tide which set in at the time of the Election, or the people preferred even him to the Conservative—-he cast no reflection —gentlemen opposed to him. They preferred a Liberal even of Mr. Bradlaugh's stamp to a Conservative. Or the people might have elected Mr. Bradlaugh on the recommendation of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), who was a well-known Nonconformist, who, the moment he found he had recommended an Atheist, withdrew his sanction in the most manly way. Or it might be that the election of Mr. Bradlaugh was due to his seductive eloquence. They all knew that some constituencies had particular fancies, from the Jingo down to the Home Rulers. [Cries of "Up."] Well, he would not say down. He cast no reflections. The proper course would be to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to go again before his constituents. If he were re-elected it might then become a question for that House whether the Oath ought not to be abolished altogether. But he doubted, from what he had seen of the Wesleyan Conference, that the Nonconformists would again return Mr. Bradlaugh. Believing that the seat should be declared vacant, he should firstvote against the Resolution, and then against the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston, when it became the substantive Motion.


said, the appeals to the memories of Catholic Emancipation were highly calculated to embarrass some of the Catholic Members of the House, who felt compelled by all they held dear in this world and in the next to vote against the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton. He had listened, with deep attention and admiration, to the great speech delivered by the Prime Minister; and he had no doubt that that speech, one of his ablest efforts, would survive in the history of that Assembly. But it seemed to him that it was a speech made out of time and place, that its argument was not addressed to the question before the Chair, and that it would have been a powerful speech, and as much to the purpose, on a Motion abolishing all tests whatsoever. He would call the attention of the House to the question which was really before it. He was not about to defend the tests system; and he was not about to consider whether they ought to have any tests at all. He would only ask the House to consider that they had tests, and if they were found inconvenient, let the House abolish them in a manly way-—face the issue, and abolish the tests by legislation; but let not the House, by a side-wind or subterfuge, deal with an issue which, he humbly undertook to show, was of transcendent importance. What did the Prime Minister suggest? His argument was that Mr. Bradlaugh ought to be allowed to come to the Table and swear: for if his argument was good for the Affirmation it was equally good for the Oath. What was the question before the House? It was not that Members should be relieved from the obligation of the Oath. If the Motion were passed it would in no way free the path of conscientious men, who might hereafter come into the House; for all the time occupied by these debates had been occupied with a special Resolution for the benefit exclusively of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh. If the Resolution was carried, the House would not touch any of the numerous issues raised in the speech of the Prime Minister, who seemed to have entirely underrated the importance of what he called the narrow line upon which they were arguing the right. For his own part, he should refuse to continue these arguments in the Nisi Prius strain. They had had too much of it already, though he disclaimed any intention to undervalue the usefulness of contributions to the debates of the House from Members of the Profession to which he had the honour to belong; but he must point out the fact that the great Constitutional issues determined by Parliament for the last 200 years had been decided by the non-legal element in the House, representing the broad feelings of the nation, which was able to rise above what were sometimes the narrow lines of legal argument. They had no right to strain the Forms of the House, either to exclude Mr. Brad-laugh or to admit him. If Mr. Brad-laugh had come to the Table on the first day, with all the other Members, and had taken the Oath, it would have been a tyranny from which he should recoil for anyone to rise in the House, and, because of acquaintance with the out-of-doors writings or opinions of Mr. Brad-laugh, step between him and the Book. They had no power and no right to set up an inquisition in that House into any man's conscientious belief, or to try him by the decrees of the Council of Trent, by the Thirty-Nine Articles, or by the Westminster Confession. Outside the House the hon. Member might be a speculative Republican, or a speculative Rationalist or Freethinker; but the House ought not to try him for any of these views. There were only two tests put to a man at the Table of the House; one of them political, and the other religious. And there he joined issue with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who would ask them to sweep God from the contemplation of their proceedings. They might be Home Rulers, Conservative, Liberal, or Radical; they might hold any political opinion as to the destinies of this country save one—they must pledge their fealty to the Monarchy, as at present constituted. That was a political test. They must, to that extent at least, be Monarchists. Then, the religious test was linked with the political test for the purpose of strengthening and making more obligatory that political promise. In that sense, their rule required them, in the letter and in the spirit, to affirm a belief in the existence of a Supreme Deity, who would judge them hereafter, and it was because they invoked Him to mark their declaration of fealty to the Sovereign that the religious was linked with the political test on admission to that House. With that recognition of the Most High, a man might-hold any religious opinions whatever on entering that Assembly. He denied, historically, that ever the Rules of that House contemplated the entrance into it of a man refusing to acknowledge the Supreme Being. That House was a representation of the nation. They were not dealing with a community, established on a new basis and on new theories. The British Constitution had grown, and was not made; that nation was built on the Christian theory of the family. The speech of the Prime Minister, and the Motion before them, invited them to regard the Members of that House like the directorate of a limited liability company. An hon. Member was, forsooth, analogous to the director of a railway, whom the shareholders had elected. He must be admitted, for he came there to manage the affairs of the company. That was the exalted conception presented to them of that ancient Senate. The House, he maintained, was founded on a nobler, a more ancient, and a higher conception than that. It was a Representative Assembly, in which men believed that the wisdom required even to rule a temporal Realm came from the Most High, and which commenced its deliberations by invoking the Divine blessing. But they were told that the House had altered its tests. Was he, as a Roman Catholic, to be charged with intolerance and want of generosity in the course he took that night? The alterations in the tests had never been made to relieve the embarrassments of an individual, but in obedience to the claim of a large class or section of the community. It was not to relieve that individual Catholic, Mr. Daniel O'Connell, in 1829, that the test was altered by Parliament. It was not to oblige an individual Jew some 20 years ago that the test was again modi- fied in the case of Alderman Salomons. No; it was because the Catholics and the Jews long pleaded, argued, and claimed as Catholics and as Jews that they had a right to representation in the Councils of the nation. And nobly and manfully did they bear the penalty for many a weary year of the open and fearless avowal of their belief. If ever the day came—which God forbid!—when the Atheists of this country should be as numerous as the Jews, the Nonconformists, and the Catholics, and when, imitating the courage and manliness of the Jews, the Nonconformists, and the Catholics, they should insist and claim as Atheists to come in there, then the House would have to consider their demand. But then they would be face to face with an Atheism which had the courage of its convictions, and not with the furtive thing which confronted them there that night, which sought to steal into that House; which first would not swear and then would swear, which sought to pick the lock, not to force the gate. The Catholics of Ireland struggled long for admission to the House of Commons, but he was not afraid to say that they would have preferred to remain outside the portals for another century rather than purchase their admission by asking for the overthrow of the religious foundations of the nation; so highly did they value the sanction of religion, even in the view of the State, as consolidating society, and making the organization of a nation something better than an agglomeration of individuals. He honoured the men opposed to him in this debate who were not defending Mr. Brad-laugh's Atheism, but who, he was convinced, were, according to their own view, defending that doctrine of "civil and religious liberty" which had admitted many of them to that House, as it had admitted himself. But he honoured also, and all his sympathies were with those Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who, although they knelt at a different altar from him, still stood up for that great principle which gave its name to Christendom, and which could not be blotted out from the history of the world without sending them back to Pagan barbarism and darkness. He was sure that in speeches they had heard in that debate there was a gloomy foreboding for England. Under the name of freedom of thought, and under the name of religious liberty, scepticism and infidelity, speculative or practical, had made more ravages in English society than England would wish to recognize. And greatly he feared that if they came to a decision that night to admit Mr. Bradlaugh—who himself, not they, raised this painful question—they would change the whole current of English political history, they would materially alter the whole character of the Constitution. Let him warn the House against the argument of the Prime Minister that they must have no test that would wound a man's conscience. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by conscience? Look across the Channel where the oath proposed to be taken by the Army was only "upon my honour." Would the Prime Minister allow Mr. Bradlaugh to say—"I pledge my honour that I intend to pay allegiance to the Queen?" He adjured the House to answer the present Motion by standing upon the lines of the present Rules as they existed upon their books. If they oppressed men's conscience, he, for one, would cheerfully consent to their being, by subsequent legislation, put in harmony with the generous policy which he hoped always to follow. But he protested against an interpretation of the Rules which would plainly violate them. With these words he had, at all events, discharged a duty, although a painful one, to his own conscience, to the constituency he represented, and to the country from which he came. Let no one say, if the Irish Catholic Members were seen in the Lobby with Conservative and Liberal Gentlemen who would vote against this Resolution, that they were Ultramontane bigots who preached an exclusive creed and intolerance. He who made that accusation against him must tell him whether any constituency in England or Scotland had sent to that House a Roman Catholic to represent it. He spoke as one of the Representatives of one of the most Catholic constituencies in Ireland, which had elected as his Colleague a Protestant. The county of Mayo, in which 90 per cent of the inhabitants were Catholics, sent a Protestant minister to represent it in that House. Let them not be charged with bigotry if to-night, as Christian patriots, they joined with their Protestant fellow-citizens in standing up for a recognition of the Christian's God.


said, he declined to allow his judgment to be warped by an appeal to passion. He was glad to see this matter liberated from the Odium Theologicum, and confined to a legal question. He denied there was any analogy whatever between the case of Mr. O'Connell and that of Mr. Bradlaugh. In 1828 the Roman Catholics asked to have the law altered in deference to their religious opinions; but here was a man without any religion, and who openly avowed his contempt for all religion, not asking to have the law changed to meet his views, but alleging that by law he was entitled to affirm. Instead, then, of there being any analogy between the two cases, they were, he maintained, the very converse of each other. If the speech which the Prime Minister had made in the course of the evening had been made when Mr. Bradlaugh came to the Table and had offered to take the Oath, it would have been unanswerable; but the House had exercised jurisdiction on this matter for a month, and it was too late for the Prime Minister to say now that it had no jurisdiction in the matter. The question whether Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to make an Affirmation having been referred to a Committee of the House at the instance of Her Majesty's Government, the Committee made a Report adverse to his claim; and now the Prime Minister and other right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench said that the House had no right to have interfered in the matter, and that Mr. Bradlaugh, and Mr. Bradlaugh alone, was the judge of whether he was a proper person either to make an Affirmation or to take the Oath. The House, however, did intervene a second time, and the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to take the Oath was referred to a Committee, who, in a rider appended to their Report in reference to a matter which did not in any way come within the scope of their inquiry, recommended the House to evade the difficulty by permitting Mr. Bradlaugh to make an Affirmation, and so to shift the responsibility from themselves on to the Courts of Law. Mr. Bradlaugh based his claim to affirm upon the Act of 1866, which allowed Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists to make an Affirmation; but nobody else under that Act was entitled to affirm instead of taking the Oath, The Evidence Act was passed four years after, which gave a right to persons whom the Judge might decide ought not to take an oath, as it would not be binding on their conscience, to make an Affirmation. But how could that Act apply to the House of Commons? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had been compelled to assume in his argument that the Speaker was in the Chair as Judge; but that assumption was absurd and ridiculous. The hon. Member appealed for justice, and, in reply, he (Mr. Synan) begged to say in the words of Portia to the Jew— But as thou urgest justice, be assured, Thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest. The Speaker was the Chairman, and he had no right to put an Affirmation or put an Oath to any Member. No doubt the position of things was critical and unpleasant; but the man who had brought such a state of things about was Mr. Bradlaugh himself. It was not, therefore, open for Mr. Bradlaugh to blame the House for acting upon its conscientious opinion, and for supporting its dignity, its rules, and its laws. It was for the House to decide who was entitled under the laws and regulations of the House to sit in it, and what was the law which was to regulate its proceedings; and it was not to be forced into taking any step not authorized by that law in consequence of any outcry that came from Northampton or elsewhere. There was no doubt that under the Acts of Parliament Mr. Bradlaugh was not entitled to make an Affirmation; and the only doubt that had arisen on the matter was caused by the rider to the Report of the second Committee, which was intended to afford a loophole through which the House might escape from the difficulty in which it had involved itself, and throw the responsibility of deciding this question upon the Courts of Law. The House, however, had no power so to shift its responsibility. Was the High Court of Justice to be asked to decide this question adversely to the Resolution of the House? When did that House permit a Court of Law to decide upon the validity of its proceedings? Were they to establish a supreme jurisdiction in the highest Courts of the land to decide upon the law of Parliament as in America? If we are not the House must restrain the High Court of Justice from proceeding, or it must itself pay the amount of the penalty and of the costs imposed upon Mr. Bradlaugh. It must be remembered that this was not Mr. Bradlaugh's case; it was the case of the House itself involving its own Privileges. He protested against that House being made a catspaw of in order to ascertain the rights of Mr. Bradlaugh. If he believed that he was in the right, let that Gentleman follow the example of Alderman Salomons and have a qui tam action brought against him in order that his right might be determined by a Court of Law. In reference to the large question which had been raised outside the legal point—namely, whether the House intended, or did not intend, to take a course which would have the effect of partially disfranchising the constituency of Northampton, he wholly denied that there was any parallel between the cases of Mr. Bradlaugh and those of Wilkes and Luttrell. In the case of Wilkes the action taken was that of a Parliament who had determined at any risk to keep out of the House a man who had been returned by a constituency, but who was obnoxious to the Crown and to the Minister of the day; but the House had at length to yield to public opinion. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to cheer ironically; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the accident of Mr. Bradlaugh's election for Northampton did not express the public opinion of England. He, for one, declined to treat the tempest in a tea-cup at Northampton as an expression of public opinion. If ever the Atheistical opinion of England was expressed by the election of Atheists, then would be the time to deal with the question, and to act by legislation and not by Resolution. That time had not yet arrived, and he should, therefore, feel bound to vote in favour of the Amendment; though, in so doing, he should separate himself from those with whom he uniformly acted.


said, that he had always entertained the view which had been expressed by the PrimeMinister, and he did not think that the House of Commons ought to interfere with a man who had been elected, and who came forward prepared to perform that which was his statutory duty. He should not have addressed the House on the present occasion, but for the fact that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken expressed the extraordinary opinion that the Judges in the Courts would not act in opposition to a Resolution of the House of Commons by ordering Mr. Bradlaugh to pay penalties consequent upon sitting and voting in the House. As far as matters of privilege were concerned Parliament had a right to adjudicate, and it could also pass Acts; but the power of adjudicating upon legal questions raised under such Acts rested with the Judges in the Courts before which cases came. On the general question he maintained that the taking of the Oath or the making of an Affirmation was no part of the procedure of the House, but was simply a ceremony of which the Members who happened to be present at the time were accidental witnesses. He admitted that this was a difficult question. As far as he could judge, he was inclined to the opinion that Mr. Bradlaugh was not entitled to Affirm. ["Hear, hear!"] But when hon. Gentlemen said "Hear, hear !"did they not know that very eminent lawyers held that Mr. Bradlaugh was entitled to Affirm? It was a grave and difficult legal question, and one which a Court of Justice, and not the House of Commons, ought to determine. If the Courts of Justice decided that Mr. Bradlaugh was not entitled to Affirm and to take his seat he would be liable to a penalty, and his seat would become vacant. He did not know whether he would be reelected; but if he were, and came to the Table of the House prepared to take the Oath, he should like to hear the distinguished lawyer who would say that any hon. Member could object to his doing so. What possible harm, he would ask, could it do to leave the question under discussion to the decision of a Court of Justice? The past history of the country showed that the House had got into a position of considerable difficulty when it attempted to interfere with the rights of constituencies; and he could not help thinking that hon. Members ought to be grateful to the Prime Minister, who had given the House fair and full warning that Mr. Bradlaugh would at his own risk present himself at the Table and make an Affirmation, seeing that if he was not entitled to Affirm the Courts of Justice might decide that he was liable to a penalty, and that his seat might be vacated. The question was not whether it was wise to allow an Atheist to take his seat in the House of Commons, but only whether an Atheist who had avowed himself an Atheist could not sit in the House. Persons well known to be Atheists had taken their seats in the House without objection being taken; and he asked, therefore, if there was not something of technicality in the contention that, because a man happened to avow Atheism in the House, he should not be allowed to take his seat?


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had concluded the elaborate peroration of his speech by requesting the House not to adopt the recommendation of the hon. Member for Portsmouth; but the Resolution which he proposed was to the effect that Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to be allowed to take the Oath which he asked to be administered to him, while the Committee recommended that he ought to be prevented from doing so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham accused him (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) of endeavouring to establish an Inquisition, and asked him what he would do if a Positivist or a Comtist presented himself to be sworn. Well, the question was already answered in Taylor on Evidence, where the law was stated to be that a man must be assumed to believe in God unless he declared the contrary. No one, indeed, could have challenged Mr. Bradlaugh's right to take the Oath had he himself not raised the question in a public way. The question, however, having been raised, it was, he believed, his duty to challenge Mr. Brad-laugh as he did. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to draw an analogy between the case of the Quakers and the case of Mr. Bradlaugh; but there really was no analogy between those cases whatever. The Quakers were a law-abiding, God-fearing sect, who objected to the Oath on religious grounds, but were not incapacited from taking it; while the Atheist, it was well-known, was legally debarred from taking an oath in a Court of Justice. From the first he was opposed to the appointment of the Committees, and his action had been justified by the fact that the law- yers on the first Committee, to whom they might have looked for guidance, voted on strict Party lines, with the exception of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood), who afterwards justified his claim to be elevated to the Judicial Bench by giving two opinions in different directions on the same case within a fortnight. He thought the Prime Minister had brought the whole embarrassment upon himself, and that the constitution of the second Committee, which was simply a reproduction of the first with a few names added, was not entirely satisfactory to the House. That Committee recommended that the House should collude with Mr. Bradlaugh to get out of the difficulty by referring it to the Courts of Law. But who was to go into a Court of Law? Nobody could be certain that there existed anyone who would bring an action. It was, therefore, a cowardly way of getting out of the difficulty, and the question was one which the House should decide for itself. As decisions of the Courts at Westminister were subject to appeal to the House of Lords, a reference of the question to the Courts of Law would result in this anomaly—that, as it was certain to be pursued to the bitter end, if taken up at all, it would go to the Highest Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords would have to decide upon the right of a Member of the House of Commons to take his seat or not. He had listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House with the admiration which he always felt for him; but he would confess that he could not make out what was the drift of his argument. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean by his speech that Mr. Bradlaugh was to be allowed to take the Oath or to make the Affirmation? As the House required some guidance from the right hon. Gentleman who had himself proposed the second Committee, and taken Mr. Bradlaugh entirely under his protection, they ought to know whether he was going to support the recommendations of Committee No. 1, or the recommendation of Committee No. 2 on the Oath, or the rider of the second Committee. He should not have troubled the House with any remarks had it not been for the not very amiable observations which had been addressed to himself by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). Whatever happened, he hoped the Resolution would be upheld which he himself formerly proposed, and which had been affirmed by the Committee chosen by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government.


Sir, in the few remarks I am about to make, I can assure you that I shall use no language calculated in the smallest degree to promote any feeling such as has been expressed on some occasions during the last two evenings, but that I shall adhere strictly to the terms of the Motion before the House. The Motion is simply that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to Affirm at this Table, and the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) proposes that Mr. Bradlaugh should not be permitted either to take the Oath or to make the Affirmation. The Amendment is said to be founded on the Re-ports of the two Select Committees which recently investigated this subject. At first it will, of course, appear to all hon. Members that, considering one of those Select Committees distinctly recommended that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to Affirm, it is difficult to found upon that recommendation the suggestion of the Amendment that he should not be allowed to Affirm. But we have the answer suggested by the other side that the Committee which made the recommendation that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to Affirm went beyond the Reference to them in making that recommendation, and that, therefore, it was not necessary for the House to follow them in that advice. Now, I wish to remind the House precisely of what the Committee did. The Chairman, my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), brought up a Report dealing almost exclusively with the question of the Oath. With regard to nearly the whole of that Report, I had the honour of voting with my right hon. Friend. There were some amendments suggested in the form of that Report; but those amendments practically did not touch its substance, and, as far the Committee were dealing with the recommendations of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and myself throughout supported those recommendations. But the last sentence of the draft Report of my right hon. Friend was in these words— Whether it will exercise its right and jurisdiction with reference to the claim now brought before it —which was the claim to swear at this Table— is a question which, as your Committee perceive, has not been referred to them, and they, therefore, confine the expression of their opinion to those parts of the case as to which their opinion has been asked by the House. What followed upon that? My right hon. Friend proposed emphatically to pronounce that the House had only asked the Committee to report what the House might do with reference to the Oath, but not to report what the House ought to do. Thereupon, three amendments were put before the Committee—one in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross), another in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), and the third in the name of an hon. Member on this side. In the teeth of the advice that we should not include in our Report any recommendation as to the course the House should pursue, my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge was defeated by a majority of 11 to 10. An addition was then made to the Report by a considerable majority to the effect that the proper solution of the difficulty was to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to make an Affirmation. I wish to make it perfectly clear that we were forced into that position by the draft Report of the Chairman being defeated by Members mainly sitting on the other side of the House, whose rejection of the Chairman's advice forced us to make a definite recommendation to the House. The hon. and learned Member for Launceston says that Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to be allowed either to take the Oath or to affirm, "having regard to the proceedings of the two Select Committees." Now, the first Committee decided by 8 votes to 8, or, as two Members were absent, by 9 to 9, and, taking into account the casting vote of the Chairman, by 10 to 9, that a person in the position of Mr. Bradlaugh ought not to be permitted to affirm. But let me point out to the House that, of those nine Members, two were in favour of his being permitted to swear. What is the result of that? Out of the nine Members who reported that he should not be allowed to Affirm, only seven considered that he should not be allowed to swear, and the majority of 11 to 7 were of opinion that he should be permitted to take his seat, the sole difference among the 11 being whether he should be admitted after taking the Oath or after making an Affirmation. So far therefore, as the first Committee is concerned, the statement in the Amendment is entirely opposed to the facts of the ease, because the large majority of the Committee were of opinion that he ought to take his seat, though they were not agreed as to the process by which he was to do so. In the second Committee, the question whether or not Mr. Bradlaugh should take the Oath was distinctly put; and when we heard it said to-day that my right hon. Friend the First Minister had not followed his own Attorney General, the late Solicitor General must allow me to remind him that he, on his part, did not follow his Attorney General. There were, therefore, five Members who would have allowed Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat after taking the Oath, and eight others who would have admitted him after an Affirmation. Therefore, in the second Committee the position was this—that 13 Members to 9 were in favour of his taking his seat, though they were not agreed as to whether he should Affirm or take an Oath. That is strictly the result of the proceedings of the Committee, both of which would have allowed him to take his seat, though they were not agreed as to the Oath or the Affirmation. This, I think, is a material point, and it would not look well for the House to record on its votes that, in consequence of the proceedings of two Committees, Mr. Bradlaugh was allowed neither to make an Affirmation nor to take the Oath. There is one other matter to which I should like to call attention. I wish to point out to the House that, if they will refer to the proceedings on the Jewish Oath Commission, they will find it assumed in those remarkable debates that when the words "on the true faith of a Christian" are omitted there is nothing to prevent a man of any faith, or of no faith at all, from entering the House. I am only referring to what is on record. I have looked very carefully through those debates, and will give the House instances which may have some little weight with them. One very eminent noble Lord said that the result of admitting Jews to Parliament would reduce the House to the level of a mere secular Assembly; and, again, in the House of Lords, Bishop Wilberforce said that the principle laid down by the Bill admitted to Parliament those who denied the existence of God. I cannot find that any Member of the House of Lords repudiated that sentiment. I come to Members of this House, and I find that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) said that the result of the measure would be that we should be passing laws that had the sanction of no religion whatever. What could have been meant except that all persons who object to the Oath would clearly be able to take their seats? Does the junior hon. Member for Cambridge deny that such is the purport of the clauses in the Religious Oaths Amendment Act of the year 1857? He was very anxious, when we were emancipating the Jews, that some change should be made in the form of the Roman Catholic Oath, and he will remember that he voted in the small minority in favour of that change. He said at the time that unless that was done, it would be necessary to inscribe over the door of the House of Commons the legend upon the gates of Bandon— Jew, Turk, or Atheist May enter here, but ne'er a Papist. Therefore, it was well understood when that Bill passed that persons of every religion, or of no religion, would for the future be allowed to sit in this House; and I cannot find that to those who took that objection to the Bill there was one single word of reply that their fears were not well-founded. I listened with great interest, as I always do when he speaks, to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), who spoke with such eloquence to-night. When, in almost the beginning of his speech, he said "he felt compelled by all he had held dear in this world and the next to object to this proposal," I was under the impression that throughout his speech he would remain on the same height of principle, and that the oppo- sition which he directed against the Resolution would be maintained in the same spirit as he began. But what did the hon. Member say later on? He said—"You admitted Roman Catholics because they were numerous and pressing; you admitted the Jews because they were numerous and influential, and for years they pressed for admission; and when the Atheists are as numerous as the Jews, you will have to admit them."


What I said was, that then the House would have to consider their case.


We know what that means. We were to wait, then, to carry out this great matter of principle until the Atheists were as numerous as the Jews, and came knocking at our doors. I say, on the other hand, the way to prevent Atheists from making head in this country, the way to prevent Mr. Bradlaugh and his friends from becoming martyrs, the way to prevent that circulation of their works which the question of his entrance into this House within the last few days has produced, is to do justice. That is a principle which for the last 50 years has been well understood. If you want to put down Atheists, do not make Atheists martyrs. Let not Atheists be told by your vote tonight to increase and multiply; but let them in at once. I undertake to say that Mr. Bradlaugh's influence will not be a tithe of what it is when be sits inside the House, instead of, as at present, hovering round its portals.


said, he had no intention of taking part in the debate; but, as an Irish Roman Catholic, he could not remain silent after the concluding sentences of the last speaker. He was fully in accord with the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) when he said it was an insult to the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom, notwithstanding their struggles for years and their services to the country in every grade, to be compared with this isolated Atheist. As an Irishman and a Catholic he shrank from contact with Mr. Bradlaugh and his sort. He was one of those who, not belonging to the religion of the majority of that House, listened with reverence to the prayer offered up at the opening of their proceedings by a clergyman not of his own creed; and he asked would it not be a mockery, if persons like Mr. Bradlaugh should be admitted to the House—that, for the purpose of securing their seats, they should attend while that prayer was offered up? He had for years been accustomed to hold the sentiments of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster not only in respect, but in veneration; but when he heard the right hon. Gentleman state that there were men in that House who came to the Table and took the Oath as a pure formality, he confessed he could not share that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken concluded by asking the House not to make a martyr of Mr. Bradlaugh, and said that the disfranchisement of Mr. Bradlaugh would have a contrary effect from what was intended. He, however, was one of those who held that if the majority of the House decided as the right hon. Gentleman recommended, the unthinking portion of the people would conclude that they had endorsed the Atheism of Mr. Bradlaugh.


I am unwilling, Sir, to stand in the way of any Members who might desire to address the House; but it may be well to consider the position in which we stand, now that we are about to go to a division. It is not, I think, to be wondered at, if hon. Members should wish to express their views, not merely on the technical points which have been raised, but also on collateral questions of very deep and grave interest; and it should hardly be matter of surprise, still less of rebuke, if Members, in the course of the discussion, should have travelled somewhat beyond the technical points of the question, and expressed their opinion on the religious, social, and political bearings of this great question. But when we come to the Vote, I think it is of importance that we should endeavour to clear our minds as well as we can; and I ask the House to consider for a moment the particular proposal on which they are about to pronounce an opinion. We are called upon by the hon. Member for Northampton to agree to a proposal, that Mr. Bradlaugh be admitted to make an Affirmation instead of taking the Oath required by law. Now, I wish, in the first place, to say, in regard to that Motion, it seems to me to be made at the wrong time, and a little too late. What has been the course which the House has followed in this matter? We have had several occasions on which such a Motion as the hon. Member now asks us to affirm might have been considered to come at a proper time. At the beginning of these transactions, the other Member for Northampton came to the Table and expressed a wish to Affirm. You, Sir, expressed a doubt as to the propriety of allowing him to do so, and a doubt as to the correctness of the claim he advanced. You referred the matter to the House. It would have been possible, and, I should say, in Order, if any Member of the House had come forward and made a Motion to the effect that the hon. Member should make an Affirmation; and if the views which the Prime Minister has propounded were sound, that would have been the correct and proper course to be taken, and on which the judgment of the House might have been asked. That course was not taken, because the Representatives of the Government, acting upon the instructions of its leading Members, who had not then taken their seats, proposed that, instead of deciding at once either that he could or could not affirm, the question should be referred to a Committee. A Committee was appointed, and with my own assent, and with the assent of many who sit on this side of the House, though with some demur on the part of others on account of the great haste with which the proceedings were commenced. That Committee was appointed for the express purpose of considering and examining the matter. The question was one of a legal character, as to the construction of certain statutes to which the hon. Member for Northampton appealed; and the Committee, by a narrow majority indeed, but still by a majority, after a very brief consultation, decided that it was not competent for Mr. Bradlaugh to affirm. When that Report was made, it was still within the power of this House to have expressed its dissent from the conclusion of the Committee; and it would have been perfectly competent for the sitting Member for Northampton, or the Government, or any Member of the House, to have given Notice that, instead of acquiescing in this Report, the House should proceed in conformity with the views of the minority of the Committee, and declare that Mr. Bradlaugh be permitted to affirm. But that course was not taken; and Mr. Bradlaugh, after hearing the conclusion which had been arrived at, instead of protesting against the decision of the Committee, instead of coming forward, through a friend or in person, and asking to be allowed to affirm, came forward and proposed to take the Oath as if nothing had happened. Sir, the sense of the House revolted against that proceeding, and, I think, rightly revolted. It was perfectly competent for the House—I said so at the time, and I think it would have been the right course for the House to take upon that occasion —to have declared that it was not right to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath as a mere matter of form. But, on that point, what was the course taken by the Government? Having desired that a Committee should be appointed, having awaited the decision of that Committee, having taken no step when that decision was laid before them, the object and the view which the right hon. Gentleman himself told us he had at the time when Mr. Bradlaugh presented himself was to allow the proceeding to go on—to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to take the Oath and to say nothing while the mockery was taking place. That course would have been very unsatisfactory; but when it was rendered impossible by the action of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, who interposed to prevent, what I think the whole House or the majority of the House must have felt would have been something in the nature of a scandal, or, at all events, what would have been exceedingly painful to a very large number of persons in this House and elsewhere—when my hon. Friend interfered to prevent that taken place, what course was taken? No Amendment was moved that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to affirm. But, first of all, a Question of Order was raised as to whether it was competent for anyone to interfere between a Member who wished to take the Oath. You, Sir, ruled that it was so. A Committee was then appointed to inquire into the ease, and that, contrary to the views of some of us who sit upon this side of the House. That Committee entered into the question and decided that the course desired by Mr. Bradlaugh was one which he could not follow. That was a full answer to the question which had been referred to it. But the Committee went on and volunteered to advise what should be done, and their advice was that the opinion of the former Committee should be set aside. I want to point out that, all through these transactions, there has been apparently a desire to contrive in some way or other the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh to the House, and that the steps which have been taken to secure that admission have not been, up to this point, of a direct nature, declaring that he ought to be admitted, but that they have been steps in the nature of evasions of the difficulty placed before us. We have never had the courage to face that difficulty, and I do not think we have mended our position by the course which has been adopted. And now, Sir, at the last moment the sitting Member for Northampton comes forward with a Motion, which brings us back to the point at which we were at the beginning of the transaction, and that in a way which is, to my mind, very unsatisfactory and inconvenient. We cannot dissociate—although the hon. Member says nothing of it in his Resolution—his recommendation from the recommendation of the second Committee which considered the subject. While we only see on the face of the Motion a proposal that Mr. Bradlaugh should be allowed to Affirm, we cannot avoid seeing that the hon. Member takes this step in connection with the recommendation of the second Committee, which is not a recommendation pure and simple that he should be allowed to affirm, but that he should be allowed to affirm in order that the responsibility and the difficulty we do not like ourselves to face may be shifted to another body— that is, to a Court of Law. Therefore, Sir, I say that the difficult point at which the hon. Member has arrived is rendered more difficult by his asking us to take a step, which he does not say will be a right and proper one, but rather one which will enable us to obtain the decision of a Court of Law. But I am bound to say that the position of the hon. Gentleman is still further weakened by what has taken place this evening. I think that the language and arguments of the Prime Minister, and the views which he has put forward, weaken still further the position of the hon. Gentleman, because the Prime Minister's argument was one rather against the conclusions of the second Committee than against that of the first, and pointed to this—that Mr. Bradlaugh ought to have been allowed to come up and take the Oath rather than that he should be allowed to Affirm. The case, I feel, is one which it is impossible for me to attempt to discuss with any advantage, after what we have heard in the course of the debate. Nothing I could say could be at all equal in authority to the argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. My right hon. and learned Friend's argument extended over the whole case, and proved, I think, to the satisfaction of the great bulk of those who heard him, that the position which is now proposed be taken is one which is quite untenable. If we adopt the view of the Prime Minister, we are to sit by and consider the House a mere machine. We are to abdicate our functions and exercise no kind of jurisdiction in the matter of the taking of the Oath. I think it is impossible that we can accept that doctrine. It is impossible for us to agree to sit by merely that we should have the question decided by a Court of Law. My hon. and learned Friend the late Solicitor General pointed out how difficult it would be to get a fair and real decision by a Court of Law on the matter. I will not, however, enter into that question; but what I contend is, that we should be abdicating our functions and lowering the character of the House if we accepted the doctrine that when we have a matter of this sort before us, and have so far entertained it as to appoint two Committees to consider it, and have discussed it in two nights' debate, we are still to turn it over to the decision of a Court of Law. If it becomes to be believed in the country that we are not only doing this because it is a question of difficulty, but also because we are anxious to find some way—round the corner, as it were—for the purpose of introducing to this House a Gentleman whose opinions are such as have been so often described, the effect will be disastrous to our character; and when we are told that we ought to take this course in order to avoid the difficulties and dangers which might possibly await us, then I say, on the other hand, there is no sort of danger greater than for this House to show itself so cowardly as it would appear by the adoption of such a course of evasion. I do not believe there will be any danger of collision between this House and the Courts of Law. That is a bugbear which I feel we may set aside. But with regard to any possible collision with the constituency, I do not think we can avoid it by any course which we may adopt. I was struck by one of the observations in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Southwark. I understood him to say, if you refer this matter to the Courts of Law, one of two things must happen—either the Courts will affirm that Mr. Bradlaugh is properly seated and has taken the Affirmation which he ought to have taken, or else the Court will decide that he is not properly seated, and, in that case, he will go back to his constituents. He may again be returned to this House; he may come to the Table for the purpose of taking the Oath, "and then," said the hon. and learned Member, "I should like to see the legal authority who would stand in the way of his doing so." The advice of the hon. and learned Member is, go to the Courts of Law; whether they decide that the statute means that he can Affirm or that he cannot the ultimate conclusion is certain—by one step or the other, Mr. Bradlaugh will obtain his seat in the House of Commons. And then, I think, he should have wound up with something like the conclusion of a problem in Euclid, and added, "which was to be done." Now, Sir, I do not want to import into this debate any matter of acrimonious controversy; but I do express my opinion that the course which the House has taken has been on more than one point a doubtful course, and not such as I should have recommended. I regret that we have had two Committees, and believe that the second might have been dispensed with; but I think we owe it to ourselves not altogether to repudiate our own actions. As we have appointed these two Committees, let us, at all events, consider and judge of their recommendations. With regard to the opinion of the first Committee, I accept its decision partly on the ground of authority and because it is that which the Committee have agreed upon, and partly because it seems to me to be a decision founded upon a reasonable interpretation of the statutes. Looking at the intention with which these statutes were passed, it seems to me that the relief intended to be given was to apply to the case of persons who ought to give evidence before Courts of Law, who might desire to escape giving evidence, and who, in the opinion of the Judge, ought to be allowed or called on to affirm instead of taking an oath that would not be binding upon them, so that their evidence might not be lost. But, in the present case, no such considerations apply; while, on the other hand, the permission to Affirm is not claimed on the ground on which it is given to certain religious bodies. It is clearly not giving relief to conscientious scruples, because Mr. Bradlaugh has no such scruple about taking the Oath. The present is not like the case of a member of the Society of Friends or Moravians, who might, in a moment of weakness, have taken the Oath, and then would have felt he had committed a sin in doing so. There would be no relief in a case like the present, because, if the hon. Gentleman took the Oath, his conscience would be quite at ease. With regard to the second Committee, I look with respect upon its decision, so far as it relates to the particular point referred to it. But when it goes beyond that, and volunteers to make recommendations as to the course which we should pursue, I claim for myself and for this House the right to judge whether the course so recommended is one which is consistent with the position and duty of this House, and with the position which it holds in the eyes of the people. I say it is not; and I ask the House to join in rejecting the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, upon the ground that it involves a departure from the position which this House is bound to take, and which, I believe, the country is expecting that we should take.


was understood to support the Motion; but his speech was inaudible in the Gallery, owing to the confusion which prevailed in the House.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 230; Noes 275: Majority 45.

Acland, Sir T. D. Armitstead, G.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Arnold, A.
Agnew, W. Balfour, Sir G.
Ainsworth, D. Balfour, J. S.
Amory, Sir J. H. Barclay, J. W.
Baring, Viscount Firth, J. F. B.
Barnes, A. Flower, C.
Barran, J. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Barry, J. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Bass, A. Forster, Sir C.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Beaumont, W. B. Fort, E.
Bective, Earl of Fowler, W.
Biddulph, M. Fry, L.
Biggar, J. G. Fry, T.
Bolton, J. C. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Brand, H. R. Gladstone, H. J.
Brassey, T. Gladstone, W. H.
Brett, It. B. Gourley, E. T.
Briggs, W. E. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Grant, A.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Grant, D.
Brinton, J. Grey, A. H. G.
Broadhurst, H. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Brogden, A. Gurdon, R. T.
Brown, A. H. Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Hardcastle, J. A.
Bryce, J. Hartington, Marq. of
Burt, T. Hastings, G. W.
Butt, 0. P. Havelock-Allan, Sir H.
Buxton, F. W. Hayter, Sir A. D.
Cameron, C. Henderson, F.
Campbell, Sir G. Herschell, Sir F.
Campbell, R. F. F. Hibbert,T. T.
Campbell - Bannerman, H. Hill, T. E.
Hollond, J. E.
Carington,hon. Col. W. H. P. Holms, J.
Hopwood, C. H.
Causton, R. K. Howard, E. S.
Cavendish, Lord E. Howard, J.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hutchinson, J. D.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Illingworth, A.
Cheetham, J. F. Inderwick, F. A.
Childers,rt.hn.H.C.E. Ingram, W. J.
Chitty, J. W. Jackson, Sir H. M.
Clifford, C. C. James, C.
Cohen, A. James, Sir H.
Collings, J. James, W. H.
Colman, J. J. Johnson, E.
Commins, A. Johnson, W. M.
Cotes, C. C. Johnstone, Sir H.
Courtney, L. H. Kensington, Lord
Cowan, J. Laing, S.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Lambton, hon. F. W.
Creyke, R. Law, rt. hon. H.
Cross, J. K. Lawley, hon. B.
Cunliffe, Sir R. A. Lawson, Sir W.
Davey, H. Laycock, R.
Davies, D. Leake, E.
Davies, R. Leatham, E. A.
Davies, W, Leatham, W.
Dilke. A. W. Lee, H.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Dillwyn, L. L. Lubbock, Sir J.
Dodds, J. Macdonald, A.
Dodson, rt. hon. J. G. Mackie, R. B.
Duff, rt. hon. M. E G. Macliver, P. S.
Dundas, hon. J. C. M'Laren, D.
Earp, T. M'Minnies, J. G.
Egerton. Adm. hon. F. Magniac, C.
Elliot, hon. A. R, D. Maitland, W. F.
Fairbairn, Sir A. Mappin, F. T.
Farquharson, Dr. E. Marjoribanks, Sir D. C.
Fawcett, rt. hon. H. Marriott, W. T.
Fay, C. J. Mason, H.
Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B. Massey, rt. hon. W. N.
Finigan, J. L. Mellor, J. W.
Milbank, F. A. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Moreton, Lord Sheridan, H. B.
Morgan, rt. hon. G. O. Shield, H.
Morley, A. Simon, Serjeant J.
Mundella, rt. hon. A. J. Slagg, J.
Nolan, Major J. P. Smith, E.
O'Connor, T. P. Spencer, hon. C. E.
O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The Stanley, hon. E. L.
O'Kelly, J. Strutt, hon. H.
Paget, T. T. Summers, W.
Palmer, C. M. Taylor, P. A.
Palmer, G. Tennant, C.
Parnell, C. S. Thomasson, J. P.
Peddie, J. D. Thompson, Sir H. M.
Peel, A. W. Tillett, J. H.
Pennington, F. Tracy, hon. F. S. A.
Philips, R. N. Hanbury-
Playfair, rt. hon. L. Trevelyan, G. O.
Portman,hn. W. H. B. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Potter, T. B. Walter, J.
Powell, W. E. H. Webster, Dr. J.
Price, Sir R. G. Wedderburn, Sir D.
Pulley, J. Whalley, G. H.
Ramsay, Lord Whitbread, S.
Ramsden, Sir J. Williams, B. T.
Reed, E. J. Williams, S. C. E.
Reid, R. T. Williams, W.
Rendel, S. Williamson, S.
Richard, H. Willis, W.
Roberts, J. Willyams, E. W. B.
Robertson, H. Wilson, I.
Rogers, J. E. T. Wilson, Sir M.
Rothschild, Sir N. M. de Wodehouse, E. R.
Roundell, C. S. Woodall, W.
Russell, G. W. E. Woolff, S.
Russell, Lord A. Wyndham, hon. P.
Rylands, P.
St. Aubyn, Sir J. TELLERS.
Samuelson, B. Labouchere, H.
Samuelson, H. M'Laren, C. B. B.
Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Agar-Robartes hn.T.C. Brooks, M.
Alexander, Colonel Brooks, W. C.
Allen, H. G. Bruce, Sir H. H.
Amherst, W. A. T. Brymer, W. E.
Archdale, W. H. Burnaby, Colonel E. S.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Burrell, Sir W. W.
Aylmer, J. E. F. Buxton, Sir E. J.
Bailey, Sir J. E. Cameron, D.
Baring, T. C. Campbell, J. A.
Barne, F. St. J. N. Carden, Sir E. W.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Carington, hon. E.
Bass, H. Castlereagh, Viscount
Beach. rt. hon. Sir M. H. Cecil, Lord E.H.B.G.
Beach, W. W. B. Chaplin, H.
Bellingham, A. H. Christie, W. L.
Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C. Churchill, Lord E.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Clive, Col. hon. G. W.
Beresford, G. de la P. Close, M. C.
Birkbeck, E. Cobbold, T. C.
Birley, H. Coddington, W.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Cole, Viscount
Blake, J. A. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Boprd, T. W. Colthurst, Col. D. la T.
Brise, S. R. Compton, F.
Broadley, W. H. H. Coope, O. E.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Corbet, W. J.
Corbett, J.
Brooke, Lord Corry, J. P.
Cotton, W. J. R. Holland, Sir H. T.
Crompton-Roberts, C. Hope,rt.hn.A.J.B.B.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Hubbard, rt. hon. J.
Cubitt, rt. hon. G. Hughes, W. B.
Daly, J. Jackson, W. L.
Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P. Jenkins, D. J.
Dawson, C. Johnstone, Sir F.
De Worms, Baron H. Kennard, Col. E. H.
Dickson, Major A. G. Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Digby, Col. hon. E. Knight, P. W.
Donaldson-Hudson, C. Knightley, Sir R.
Douglas, A. Akers- Lacon, Sir E. H. K.
Duckham, T. Lalor, R.
Duff, R. W. Lawrance, J. C.
Dyott, Colonel R. Lawrence, Sir T.
Egerton, Sir P. G. Lea, T.
Egerton, hon. W. Leamy, E.
Elcho, Lord Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Elliot, G. W. Lee, Major V.
Emlyn, Viscount Leeman, J. J.
Errington, G. Legh, W. J.
Estcourt, G. S. Leigh, R.
Ewart, W. Leighton, Sir B.
Ewing, A. O. Leighton, S.
Feilden,Maj.-Gen. R.J. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Fellowes, W. H. Lever, J. O.
Fenwick-Bisset, M. Lewis, C. E.
Filmer, Sir E. Lewisham, Viscount
Finch, G. H. Lindsay, Col. R. L.
Findlater, W. Litton, E. F.
Fitzpatrick.hn. B. E.B. Loder, R.
Fletcher, Sir H. Long, W. H.
Floyer, J. Lopes, Sir M.
Foley, J. W. _ Lowther, hon. W.
Folkestone, Viscount Lyons, R. D.
Forester, C. T. W. Macartney, J. W. E.
Foster, W. H. Mac Iver, D.
Fowler, R. N. Mackintosh, C. F.
Freinantle, hon. T. P. Macnaghten, E.
Galway, Viscount M'Carthy, J.
Garfit, T. M'Coan, J. C.
Gardner, R. Richard-son- M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.
M'Lagan, P.
Garnier, J. C. Makins, Colonel W. T.
Gibson, rt. hon. E. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Giffard, Sir H. S. Martin, P.
Gill, H. J. Marum, E. M.
Goldney, Sir G. Master, T. W. C.
Gordon, Lord D. Maxwell, Sir H. E.
Gore-Langton, W. S. Maxwell, J. H. M.
Gorst, J. E. Moldon, C. H.
Grafton, F. W. Miles, Sir P. J. W.
Grantham, W. Mills, Sir C. H.
Greer, T. Molloy, B. C.
Gregory, G. B. Monckton, P.
Guest, M. J. Monk, C. J.
Hall, A. W. Moore, A.
Halsey, T. F. Morgan, hon. F.
Hamilton, I. T. Morley, S.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. Moss, R.
Hamilton, J. G. C. Murray, C. J.
Harcourt, E. W. Musgrave, Sir R. C.
Harvey, Sir R. B. Newdegate, C. N.
Helmsley, Viscount Newport, Viscount
Heneage, E. Nicholson, W.
Herbert, hon. S. Nicholson, W. N.
Hermon, E. Noel, E.
Hicks, E. Noel, rt. hon. G. J.
Hildyard, T. B. T. North, Colonel J. S.
Hill, Lord A. W. Northcote, H. S.
Hinchingbrook, Vise. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Holker, Sir J.
O'Beirne, Major F. Smith, A.
O'Connor, A. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
O'Donnell, F. H. Smithwick, J. F.
O'Donoghue, The Stafford, Marquess of
Onslow, D. Stanhope, hon. E.
O'Shea, W. H. Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.
O'Sullivan, W. H. Stewart, M. J.
Paget, R. H. Storer, G.
Palliser, Sir W. Stuart, H. V.
Peek, Sir H. Sullivan, A. M.
Pell, A. Sullivan, T.
Pemberton, E. L. Sykes, C.
Pender, J. Synan, E. J.
Percy, Earl Talbot, J. G.
Phipps, C. N. P. Taylor,rt.hn.Col.T.E.
Plunket, hon. D. R. Thomson, H.
Powell, W. Thornhill, T.
Power, R. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Puleston, J. H. Tollemache,hon. W. F.
Ramsay, J. Tottenham, A. L.
Rankin, J. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Redmond, W. A. Vivian, A. P.
Reed, Sir C. Vivian, H. H.
Rendlesham, Lord Wallace, Sir R.
Repton, G. W. Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Richardson, J. N. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Ridley, Sir M. W. Warburton, P. E.
Rodwell, B. B. H. Warton, C. N.
Rolls, J. A. Watney, J.
Ross, A. H. Waugh, E.
Round, J. Whitley, E.
Russell, Sir C. Williams, O. L. C.
St. Aubyn, W. M. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Sandon, Viscount Wolff, Sir H. D.
Schreiber, C. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Sclater-Booth, rt.hn.G. Wroughton, P.
Scott, Lord H. Yorke, J. R.
Scott, M. D.
Selwin -Ibbotson, Sir H.J. TELLERS.
Crichton, Viscount
Severne, J. E. Winn, R.

Words aided.

Main Question, as amended, put.

Resolved, That, having regard to the Reports and proceedings of two Select Committees appointed by this House, Mr. Bradlaugh be not permitted to take the Oath or make the Affirmation mentioned in the Statute 29 Vic. c. 19, and the 31 and 32 Vic. c. 72.