Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

declaration against transubstantiation I have to state that the construction of this House, and the uniform principle of the law of the land, as repeatedly sanctioned and confirmed be Acts of Parliament, have been, that every member, before he takes his seat, must take the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy before the Lord Steward, or his Commissioners; and the oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration, at the table of this House, With this understanding of the law, in obedience to the law, and in order to maintain the dignity and privileges of this House, I feel it my duty at once to state that the Hon. Gentleman must immediately withdraw.-A great sensation was manifested throughout the House at this passage]. It is well known that an appeal from any opinion is open to the decision of this House, either upon petition of the parties interested, or upon other proceedings to be taken by its members; and if either course be pursued, the House will then be better able to judge, not only of the correctness or incorrectness of the conclusions to which I have arrived, but of the propriety of the conduct which I have thought it my duty to pursue. It is, therefore, only left to me to state to the Hon. Gentleman, that he must withdraw.

Mr. O'Connell then bowed to the Chair and to the House and respectfully withdrew.

Mr. Brougham rose, but for a few minutes was inaudible. We understood him to say: With the greatest possible submission to the Chair, I will agree that the Honourable Member standing at the Table, has not, according to the strict usage of the House, a right to be heard. I must say [here the tumult and confusion in the House became so great that the Honourable Member was inaudible, and after repeated cries of “Order !" and "Bar, Bar !" the Honourable Member resumed.] I beg, with all due deference to this House, to state that I have uniformly succeeded in my efforts to make myself heard, and I shall succeed all the better if Honourable Members will only take their seats, and favour me with silence. When there is so very great a noise, the House must be well aware that it is very difficult for any Member to be heard. The doub

which most presents itself to my mind, and which occasions my addressing the Chair, is, whether a Member coming to the Table to be sworn can be prevented stating his reasons why he will not take the oaths prescribed, and why he ought to be admitted to take his seat without taking them. For anything I can see, there is no objection to his being heard; and it is doubtful if any instance can be found of a Member being refused this privilege, whilst there are precedents of their beirg allowed to enjoy it. Until this question be disposer of, it is useless to speak of the other questions which arise out of the case. But now, Sir, that the Hon. Member has withdrawn, according to your direction, I submit that, according to custom, and to reason, the construction which you have put upon the Act, and the opinion to which you have come on the situation in which the Honourable Gentleman stands, ought to be so far subject to discussion as to allow the House to exercise their opinions on the subject, and at all events, to the extent whether the Hon. Gentleman ought to be heard at the table or at the bar of the House. I repeat, without departing from the profound respect I owe to the Chair, or from the disposition I entertain, and have always entertained, to bow to the authority of the House, that the Honourable Gentleman has a right to be heard; but I am ready to acknowledge that it is a question of great importance. I hope the House will decide the question. You, Sir, will be the first whose opinions ought to be taken on a question of such moment; and I have to repeat, that that question at the present moment relates more to the right of the Member for Clare to be heard himself in that place, at the table; because, according to your construction, he is entitled to take no other place. He ought, I say, to be heard at the table on his right to take his seat.

There are two or three precedents upon this point, to which I must beg shortly to direct your attention and the attention of the House. They bear out the proposition which I submit to the House for their consideration, for I am anxious to decide this preliminary point. The cases to which I first allude are those of Monson, on the 13th of May, 1689, and of Robert Fanshaw

on the same day; these persons appeared at the table of the House, a little discussion taking place before Monson was called in. The result of the conversation wa3, that the Speaker communicated to him that he called him to the table by the authority and direction of the House. When he was called is and had proceeded to the table, the Speaker then told ham that he was desired by the House to ask him whether he had any objection to take the oaths prescribed to Members before they could exercise their functions or enjoy their privileges as Members. To this Monson replied, that he did object to take them, and he was then allowed to state the grounds of his objection. He argued that the words were, in his opinion personal to himself, and upon this ground alone he objected to them, and that his repugnance to the oath did not arise from any thing which could tend to disturb the Government then established. He appears not to have been interrupted, and it is evident that he spoke a few sentences in explanation of his reasons for refusing to take the oaths which had been tendered to him, and which were the same that had been tendered and had been taken by all the other Members without distinction. The House was not satisfied with his reasons, and he was accordingly ordered to withdraw. Upon the further consideration of the question, a new writ was moved for, and the motion was acquiesced in. But what I call the attention of the House to for the present is what took place before the question arose for the issue of a new writ, and before he was ordered to withdraw-namely, his being heard at the Table of the House, not only in his mere refusal to take the oaths, but in his statement of the reasons why he refused. The next precedent to which I allude is that of Mr. Archdale. That Gentleman was allowed to explain at the Table of the House the reasons which induced him to refuse to take the oaths prescribed to be taken, and tendered to him by the Officer of the House at the Table. Mr. Archdale explained his reasons in a similar manner to Mr. Monson; and he at all events proceeded so far as to state that his scruples were conscientious—that he could ot in conscience take those oaths, for reasons which he ea

[ocr errors]

plained; and having stated those reasons, he withdrew by the direction of the Speaker, and a new writ was issued. In the case of Lord Trencham, a similar course was pursued.-Whether the speeches, on these occasions, were of greater or less length, is perfectly immaterial to the present case-they are in point with the position I maintain; for it is certain that the parties in each instance, were heard previously to their being ordered to withdraw. The question being specific, and not of degree, the precedent is in point upon the fact of the parties being heard, and is irrelevant to the length of their speeches at the Table. I could not raise these objections, from the disorder prevalent in the House during the time that the Chair was telling the Hon. Member to withdraw. As the Hon. Member was not heard before he withdrew, he might be recalled; and after being heard, the House might use their opinions, and entertain their question whether he should be allowed to take his seat or not. I have stated the impression on my mind, as to these precedents, and the reasons of the case as regards the great hardship inflicted on the parties. I mean the hardship, that every civil right of the subject should be taken from him—that it should be interfered with, interrupted, and at least for a time, suppressed, Fithout his being so much as heard in explanation. I will leave the question to the House, rather than state any confident opinion of my own, though I have no doubt in my mind as to the reason and policy of the course to be pursued. In order to call the attention of the House to the subject in the most regular shape, I will move that the Hon. Member for the county of Clare be heard at the table of the House, respecting his not taking the oaths prescribed.

Mr. Secretary Peel: It is scarcely necessary for me to remind the House, that, in the present case, we are called upon 10 act in a strictly judicial capacity. This question, whatever course may be pursued, whatever sentiments may be entertained, must at last be determined by the construction which ought to be placed upon the uniform practice of the House, and upon the letter of the Statute. Upon the reason of the thing I will not debate with the Learned and Honourable Gertie man opposite, but I am as satisfied and as firm in my opinicas as he is, and my conviction is that the Hon. Member for the county of Clare is not in possession of any right of being heard at the Bar of this House? If he is in possession of any such right, every person returned to sit in this House, and we may have scruples as to taking their usual oaths, would have equal right to state his objections, to explain his motives, and to argue the question. The law appears to me to admit of so doubt. It is declaratory, and has always been considered s It declares, simply and intelligibly, that before any person shall be allowed to take his seat as a Member of this House he shall be required to take certain oaths which are prescribed by law, and established to be taken in a prescribed manner. Until he have complied with this law, he cannot possibly be allowed to take his seat; and before he has taken bis seat, how can he be entitled to exercise any one of the functions of the Members of Parliament, or be heard in this House? The Hon. and Learned Member has argued the case, however, not upon the rights of the Member for Clare, but has contented himself with merely asserting his conviction of that right. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman has chosen rather to argue the case strictly upon precedent, and with reference to precedent. There being no notice of the intention of the Learned Gentleman to rest it upon this ground, or to agitate so important a question, I should hope, if he really do entertain any serious doubts upon the subject, that he will not expect the House to pronounce a decision in the course of the day. I must avow that my conclusions differ entirely from those of the Honourable and Learned Gentleman. Taking the oaths was declared to be an essential, indispensible preliminary to taking the seat; and no man can have a right to act as a Member of Parliament and be heard in this House until he has taken his seat. The other points arising upon the question it is useless to discuss till the House has disposed of

« PreviousContinue »