Friday, March 04, 2011

21Feb1882, Bradlaugh's Oath Sprung

LONDON, February 21st, 1882.
—Wretched Bradlaugh "sprung" his "oath" on the House, producing a Testament out of his pocket and going thro' the form before anyone knew what to be at. I hoped this wd give a good handle to Uncle W. to take the initiative agst the man, but he wouldn't, sticking to his original view that the House had exceeded its legal powers in preventing his taking the oath in due course; and therefore not choosing to take the responsibility of censuring him for taking the oath irregularly. I dare-say this is right and consistent from his point of view; but I can't hold with it! He did speak strongly agst this horrid move of Bradlaugh's. The upshot was that Sir Stafford,[FN: I.e., of course, Sir Stafford Northcote, leader of the Conservatives.] after 1st making a mild motion of keeping the man "outside the precincts," was sat upon by Woodcock (Randolph [FN: Lord Randolph Churchill; he was M.P. for Woodstock.]) and, seizing the opportunity of Bradlaugh's stalking in and taking his seat, moved his expulsion, which was forthwith carried out, without his even being allowed to speak in his defence. The division was very odd: Uncle W. and some other Ministers not voting at all; Cavendish voting with Sir Staffd., and the Liberals generally dividing their favours; it was a big majority. Things had come to such a pass that every course had something objectionable in it. There is no end of irrelevant talking on both sides. I see no sense in the line of the Pall Mall and Spectator, etc., which go off anti-tests, religious liberty, and so forth. The Parliamentary oath, tho' I daresay never so intended, is a test against atheists. If one hates tests, the only proper course is to make the oath optional or abolish it altogether. As long as it stands, it surely is proper to insist on its being respected. I never heard before of its being the correct line for friends of "religious liberty" to sanction the profanation of tests. Hitherto persons suffering under disabilities have waited for and agitated for the removal of tests, and Liberals have worked for that. Nobody but Bradlaugh has ever before dreamt of claiming the privilege of taking an oath after elaborately asserting that its sacred part is meaningless to him. I went in the evening with Susan Oldfield to a tea-party at dear old Limehouse, instead of Ishbel Aberdeen, who is a beloved "Lady Supplemental," but expecting a No. 3 baby and unable to come. We were hugely welcomed.

—Ash Wednesday, 22nd. S. Martin's, and St. Margaret's. Revd. Fox, the extreme Low Church incumbent of Christ Church, Broadway, preacht beautifully. By the bye, the Bradlaugh business was to-day: a fit Ash Wedy. penance for England generally.

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