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ties originally imposed by the Acts of the reign of Charles IL were, in the first instance incorporated into that Act of Union, and made applicable to the new state of things that has arisen since that period. If we could bring our minds to form 2 opinion in favour of the Hon. and Learned Gentleman's proposition; if we could persuade ourselves, that since the Unica with Ireland, there has existed no necessity to take these oaths, and that Roman Catholics might enter the House with out violating the law, it would undoubtedly tend greatly to abolish many difficulties and animosities, and heal many heartburnings, and reconcile all parties at once, by shewing that we have only given up what was no security at all to us. But I am bound in honesty, after the way in which this proposition has been stated, to declare that I cannot adopt it. I do think, that from the Union with Ireland, down to the present Relief Bill, these oaths were a valid, sufficient, and substantial security against the introduction of Roman Catholics into this House, and that they were prevented from entering it until the passing of the Relief Bill. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman takes two grounds of quite a distinct character. The first
argues the case as if no oaths could be taken since the Union with Ireland; and next, he asserts his right to enter into the House under the Relief Bill, taking the new oath for Roman Catholics. As to the first argument, there are a great many points as to which we must be all agreed. There may be difference of opinion as to whether the taking of the oachs does not ultimately resolve itself into two distinct points only; for nobody will dispute, that from the 5th of Elizabeth, down to the first of William and Mary, it was necessary that every commoner, before he took his seat should take the Oath of Supremacy before the Lord High Steward or his Deputies; and it has been contended by some—though I am of a different opinion, and I will shortly state the reasons why I am so—that the first of William and Mary did, in fact, repeal the Statute of Elizabeth. But if we refer to the Statutes of Charles the Second, we shall find it provided, that all Members of Parliament should take the oaths, together
witi the declaration against Transubstantiation. There can be no difference of opinion that those Statutes compelled the taking of these oaths, and the subscribing of the declaration, and that the practice was continued subsequently up to the Union with Ireland. Nobody can have any doubt that the only question that can arise is as to the obligation of these two Statutes; that is which of the 1st of William and Mary, cap. 1., rendered the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance no longer necessary to be taken before the Lord High Steward? The ground on which I contend that this Act did not render the taking of those Oaths unnecessary is, if it had done so, it suggests the question, why was the practice continued ? Therefore I maintain that the Act of Elizabeth was valid and subsiscing. The words of that Act are, that the oaths required by it shall be taken by every Knight, Citizen, and Burgess in Parliament. If that Act was still in force, the effect of the Honourable and Learned Gentleman making his entrance n. this House for any purpose subsequent to this Debate, wou be, to give the House immediate power to dispose of his seat by issuing a New Writ for the Election of a new Member for the county of Clare. I now come to the ground on which I think the Statute of Elizabeth was not repealed by the 1st of William and Mary. All those who have at all attended to the eventful period when the latter Act was passed, know that on King William's landing, he sent letters missive, under the seal of the Prince of Orange, to call together an Assembly which should bear as near a resemblance to a Parliament as the circumstances would allow, the Members of which were all summoned from the different counties, cities, and boroughs, which were entitled to send Members to Parliament. But as they had come together without taking any oath, it was ascertained that some provision was necessary to give anthority to this Assembly, which, resembling a Parliament, was in terms und in fact a mere Convention. The Act of the 1st of William and Mary, cap. 1, was passed for the purpose of quieting the difficulties and disputes as to the title of the Convention, and also for the purpose of turning the Convention into a Par
liament. Any provision in that Act as to taking the oaths was not necessary. The only object of the Statute of the 5th of Elizabeth was, to enforce the taking of the oaths of Alegi. ance and Supremacy and the Declaration against Transub stantiation. The oath of Supremacy is a merely negative oath; the party swears that “no Foreign Prince, Prelate, or Protentate hath any power, authority, or jurisdiction within this Realm.” To my mind, by the Act of William and Mary, the legislature only meant to declare that the oaths should be taken in the body of the House, and was not intended to re peal the taking of the oaths before the Lord High Steward The opinion I now support is that which was sanctioned by the authority of Lord Chief Justice Holt, Sir George Theby, and Sir John Somers, who was afterwards the great Lord Somers, and their names were surely sufficient to leave de doubt as to the state of the law. We find, accordingly, that under this Statute, the Members of this House have continued to take the oaths down to the present day. We find, too, a reference to this very Statute in the Act of Union with Scotland, continuing its provisions in force. We come next to the Act of Union with Ireland. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman satisfied hims.id with a very shori statement of the grounds on which he founds his argument, that by this Act it was rendered unnecessary to take the oaths. He contends, as there are no distinct words inflicting the penalties and disabilities which before attended the omission of the oaths, the Act of Union cannot be carried into force as the former Acts were. Now, I always understood that Acts of Parliament were to be construed by the natural and fair import of the words they contained. Besides, it should be borne in mind, that at the very moment this Act was passed, the Irish Parliament took the same oaths, and subscribed the same declarations, except that they did not do it before the Lord High Steward. But the Members of both Parliaments had precisely the same laws, as to these Oaths and Declarations, and were subject to the same penalties and disabilities if they neglected to take them. If
there had ever been a doubt as to the necessity of taking these Oaths, in the Irish Parliament, it was removed by the Yelverton Act, in 1782 or 1783, which declared all the Acts of the English or British Parliament, by which Oaths were imposed on the Members of the Irish Parliament, were declared valid. It was a natural consequence that the two Parliaments, when united, should continue to take the same Oaths. By the 8th Section of the Act of Union with Ireland, it is provided, that every
Member of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom shall, in the first and all succeeding Parliaments, till Parliaments shall otherwise provide, take the Oaths, and make and subscribe the Declaration now by law enjoined to be taken and made by the Lords and Commons of the Parliament of Great Britian.” The meaning of the word “enjoined,” shews that the intention of this section was, that the same legal obligation was to be continued in the united Parliament that had previously existed in the two separate Parliaments. If there were anything else necessary to prove the soundness of this opinion, it is to be found in the repeated instances in which applications have been made to the Legislature for indemnity for neglecting to take these oaths. Only four years after the Union, there was an Act of Indemnity for Lord John Thyne. It is always reckoned that the judgment of a Court of Justice, on any particular subject, is a matter of great weight and interest, but when any point of privilege comes before this House judicially guch as where a party disqualifies himself from sitting in Parliaments the solemn decision of this House is infinitely more important than any judgment of a Court of Record. The next case is in 1812 and in 1814; there were Acts of Indemnity for Mr. Charles Grant, and two or three others. These form a strong corroboration of the opinion I maintain, and which I think it is impossible to overcome. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman contends that by the Relief Bill he is entitled to enter this House, but the very first clause of that Bill does in effect admit what I have been contending for. That Clause runs in these words :- Whereas, by various Acts of 26.
Parliament, certain restraints and disabilities are imposed en the Roman Catholic subjects of his Majesty to which other subjects of his Majesty are not liable: And whereas it is expe dient that such restraints and disabilities should be from bence forth discontinued, &c.: Be it enacted, that from and after the commencement of this Act, all such parts of the said Acts as require the said declarations, or either of them, to be made of subscribed by any of his Majesty's subjects as a qualificada for sitting and voting in Parliament, or for the exercise or ejoyment of any office, franchise, or civil right, be, and the same are (same as hereinafter provided and excepted) hereby repealed.” On the argument of the Hon. and Learned Gentleman. this Act was altogether unnecessary. If the Act of Union to moved the necessity of taking the oaths, the Relief Bill is nothing. But when we see that in the Act of Union these oaths are specially continued “ until Parliament shall otherwise provide,” surely no more explicit proof can be given of their existence and validity. The words must be construed in their ordinary sense. The Honourable and Learned Gentleman has contended that Parliament has now otherwise provided, and therefore he is entitled to admission without taking the oaths. But if it had been thought adviseable to try the experiment of admitting Roman Catholics into the House of Lords merely, and in the House of Commons the oaths had continued to be required, would the Honourable and Learned Gentleman have felt himself justified in saying, “ Parlia.nent has otherwise provided by this change, and I therefore am entitled to sit in this House without taking the oaths ?” Having said thus much concerning the argument of the Hon. Member for Clare, as to his admissibility to this House under the law as it formerly stood, I now come to the second part of his argument which he advanced to shew that he had a right to take his seat under the Act recently passed for the relief of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. Now, Sir, I must say, that if any Honourable Gentleman will give his attention to the framing of that Bill, I think that it will be evident to him