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should not only commence, but continue and finish the discussion at once.
Mr. Peel agreed to this suggestion.
The Speaker then put the question, “ Is it the pleasure of this House that Mr. O'Connell be called in ?” Which having been carried in the affirmative, the Honourable Member soon afterwards advanced to the bar, and was then addressed in the following terms by the Speaker :-“ Mr. O'Connell, the House has resolved that you shall be heard at the bar, either by yourself, your Counsel, or Agent, in respect of your claim to sit and vote in Parliament without taking the Oath of Supremacy
Mr. O'Connell: I cannot, Sir, help feeling some apprehension when I state, that I am very ignorant of the forms of this House, and therefore that I shall require much indulgence from you, if, in what I am about to say, I should happen, by anything that may fall from me, to violate them. I claim my right to sit and vote in this House as the Representative for the county of Clare without taking the oath of Supremacy. I am ready to take the oath of Allegiance provided by the recent Statute, which was passed for the relief of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subject. My desire is to have that oath administered to me, and of course I must be prepared to shew that I am qualified in point of property; and whether the House thinks I can take the oath or not; if I am required to take both, I am willing at my own hazard to sit and vote in the House. My right is in its own nature complete. I have been returned as duly elected by the proper officer. It appears by that return that I had a great majority of the county of Clare who voted for my return. That return has since been discussed in a Committee of this House, and has been confirmed by the unanimous decision of that Committee. I have as much right to sit and vote in this House, according to the principles of the Constitution, as any of the Honourable or Right Honourable Gentlemen by whom I am surrounded. am a Representative of the people, and on their election I claim the right of exercising the powers with which their election has invested me. That question cannot arise at comma law-it must depend only on the statute, whether a Represestative of the people is bound, before he discharges his duty to his constituents, to take an oath of any description? Up to the reign of Elizabeth, I believe I am correct in saying that no such oaths existed. Up to the close of the reign of Charles II. no oath was taken within the House; the suuh Charles II. was the first statute requiring any oath to be taka within the House itself. The oath of Allegianee (and no man is more ready to take the oath of allegiance than I am,) the oath of Supremacy (and there were very few in Parliament * that time who would not take it,) and the Declaration, were for the first time introduced by that statute; and it not only required them to be taken and subscribed, but it went on to provide remedies against individuals who should neglect or refuse to take and subscribe them. Among those remedies, some of which were of an exceedingly extensive, and I may almost call them of an unlawful nature, was a pecuniary pe nalty of 500l. ; which I mention, because I shall have again to call the attention of the House to it before I close what I have to offer to its consideration. The purpose of that statute was obvious ; it was stated to be " for the more effectually pre serving the King's Person and Government," and the mode of attaining the object was disabling Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament. I am, in the discourteous language of the Act, a Papist-I come within that description. I cannot take the oath precribed, and should shrink from signing the Declaration. The object of the statute is sufficiently clear from its title, and the construction of the statute must follow from that title. Therefore it is perfectly evident, that as long as this Act remained in force, it would have been rain for the people to elect me for any County or Borough, as I could not exercise the rights vested in me. The law declares expressly, that a refusal to take the oath shall be followed by the vacating of the seat, and by the issue of a new writ. Up to the period of the Legislative Union with Ireland, this statutc, by means of other Acts, was enforced; that is, it was partially
enforced; the Declaration was enforced, and I find by reference to the statute, which I took out of the library of this House, that as to the oaths, they were repealed by 1 William and Mary, sec. 1, ch. 1. That Act altered the form of the oath of Supremacy; therefore it was an oath asserting affirmatively that the sepremacy in spiritual matters was in the Crown, but that statute negatives the foreign Supremacy or spiritual jurisdiction. So stood the Statute Law until the period of the Legislative Union with Ireland. At that period, in my humble opinion, an alteration took place in the effect of the Statute Law. I respectfully submit, that at that period this alteration took place in the law-that whereas, by this Statute of Charles II., and by that of 1 William and Mary, pains, penalties and disabilities were enacted against any man for sitting and voting without having taken the oaths, the direction of the Act of Union was, that any man should take the oaths, but it imposed no pains, penalties, or disabilities. I submit that the Statute of Charles the Second could not operate upon this Parliament; that was an Act of the English Parliament; even a statute passed after the Union with Scotland could not operate; nothing can operate upon this Parliament but a Union Statute, or a statute subsequent to the Union. This seems to me a perfectly plain proposition, such as no Lawyer can controvert, and such as no Judge could possibly over-rule. First, then, I claim to sit and vote without taking oaths by virtue of the Union Act. Secondly, I claim under the Relief Bill to sit and vote without subscribing the Declaration. Thirdly, I claim under the Relief Bill to sit and vote without taking the oath of Supremacy; and, fourthly, I claim under the positive enactments of the Relief Bill to sit and vote taking any other oath than that mentioned in the Relief Bill itself. I will endeavour to go through these four topics as briefly as possible. The Union Act, as I before remarked, certainly directed the oaths to be taken, but with equal certainty it did not annex pains or penalties to not taking them. It did, however, direct them to be taken, and it is for the House to determine whether it has authority ta prevent any man from exercising the right of representaton without taking those oaths. I do not mean to canvass that point at great length: I do not mean to concede it, because I cannot; but I admit that there are precedents passed a silentio, where gentlemen after the Union having neglected to take the oaths, private Acts were brought in for their relié But I put it to the House in its judicial capacity; and having put it, I shall leave it at once, whether the Union Act, as having given the power of depriving a Representative of his right to sit and vote, the House could do it of its own autho rity, without the warrant of an express law. I could repectfully remind Hon. Members, that this oath is a species of disherison of the public at large; I would remind it, also, that those thus rendered ineligible are rendered ineligible for no other reason than a conscientious respect to the sacred obligation of an oath. It excludes a meritorious class, and admits all who neglect or disregard the sanction to which I have referred: it calls upon the people to elect the careless, the fearless, the mendacious, and it proceeds upon the bad principle of making a selection of the vicious to the exclusion of the conscientious. That being the spirit and principle of the law, I humbly submit to the House whether it would carry that spirit and principle into specific execution. I think If I stood on the Act of Union alone, I should stand firmly in this assembly of Christians and Gentlemen, calling upon them not to give effect to that vicious principle—not to encourage
“ The strong antipathy of bad to good'" not to promote the choice of such as are hostile to those who reverence the sacred obligation of an oath, but to throw the doors as wide as possible to all who will illustrate this assembly by their virtues and their talents. I quit that point, and come to the next, to which I advert with pleasure. I formed it on the Relief Bill. I insist that the effect of this Relief Bill is to do away with the direction of the Union Act, as far as it relates to oaths. I will canvass that proposition first :-Tlie Union Act directed that these oaths should be taken for a particular period, and for a particular period only. The direction is, “ And every Member of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, in the first and all succeeding Parliaments, shall, until the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall otherwise provide, take the oaths," &c. I contend that this direction is at an end, upon this direction depends the Oath of Supremacy, and my argument is, that the period is arrived. The Statutes uses the adverb of time “ until,”—the provision was merely temporary, and the period has expired. The Act of Union provides that certain oaths shall be taken until something shall happen. Has that happened? That is the only question. Let me see whether I can give an answer to the question. I say it has: that is my assertion, and how do I prove it? I take up the Statute and I find-what? that the declaration is for ever abolished. Has not the House, in the words of the Act of Union, “ otherwise provided ?” This is a penal and restrictive Act; it is restrictive of the people's right. I take up the Statute, and I see that the Parliament has otherwise provided—not for Catholics alone--not for Protestants alone; but for Catholics, Dissenters, and Protestants—all without limitation or restriction. That the period has arrived, I have distinct evidence in what happened to myself at the Table. The Oaths then tendered to me were different from those which would have been tendered before the 13th of April, the document produced was new-it was fresh for the occasion ; it was a novel introduction into the House : on one side were the Oaths for Protestants, and on the other those for the Catholics; and why was this? Because the Legislature has “otherwise provided,” than at the date of the Union. As one of the Representatives of the people, I claim the benefit of the provision ; I claim to come not within any of the oaths. If the new provision has not embraced every case, it is either the wisdom or the defeat of the Act; but either in one case or in the other the time contemplated has come, and I claim my right just as if the Union Statute did not exist. But suppose that what I have said has not convinced the House, let me cal!