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I know some gentlemen make light of constituencies; yet without the constituencies you are nothing. It is from them you derive your whole and sole authority. The honorable and learned member for Plymouth treats lightly the legal question. It is dangerous to make light of the law-dangerous, because if you are only going to rely on your strength of force to override the law, you give a bad lesson to men whose morality you impeach as to what should be their duty if emergence ever came. Always outside the House I have advocated strenuous obedience to the law, and it is under that law that I claim
It is said by the right honorable baronet [Sir Stafford Northcote], who interposes between me and my duty, that this House has passed some resolution.
First, I submit that that resolution does not affect the return of the 9th of April. The conditions are entirely different; there is nothing since the date of that return. I submit next, that, if it did affect it, the resolution was illegal from the beginning. In the words of George Grenville, spoken in this House in 1769, I say, if your resolution goes in the teeth of the law—if against the statute your resolution is null and void. No word have I uttered outside these walls which has been lacking in respect to the House. I believe the House will do me justice, and I ask it to look at what it is I claim.
I claim to do that which the law says I must. Frankly, I would rather have affirmed. When I came to the table of the House I deemed I had a legal right to do it. The courte have decided against me, and I am bound by their decision.
I have the legal right to do what I propose to do. No reson lution of yours can take away that legal right. You may act illegally and hinder me; and unfortunately I have no appeal against you. “Unfortunately,” perhaps, I should not Bay. Perhaps it is better that the Chamber that makes the
law should never be in conflict with the courts which administer the laws that the Chamber makes. I think the word
unfortunately was not the word I ought to have used in this argument.
But the force that you invoke against the law to-day may to-morrow be used against you, and the use will be justified by your example. It is a fact that I have no remedy if you rely on your force. I can only be driven into a contest, wearying even to a strong man well supported, ruinous and killing to one man standing by himself—a contest in which, if I succeed, it will be injurious to you as well as to me. Injurious to me, because I can only win by lessening your repute, which I desire to maintain. The only court I have the power of appealing to is the court of public opinion, which I have no doubt in the end will do me justice.
The honorable member for Plymouth said I had the manliness on a former occasion to make an avowal of opinions to this House. I did nothing of the kind. I have never, directly or indirectly, said one word about my opinions, and this House has no right to inquire what opinions I may hold outside its walls. The only right is that which the statute gives you; my opinions there is no right to inquire into. I shelter myself under the laws of my country. This is a political assembly, met to decide on the policy of the nation and not on the religious opinions of the citizens. While I had the honor of occupying a seat in the House, when questions were raised which touched upon religious matters I abstained from uttering one word. I did not desire to say one word which might hurt the feeling of even the most tender.
But it is said, Why not have taken the oath quietly? I did not take it then, because I thought I had the right to do something else, and I have paid the penalty. I have been plunged
in litigation fostered by men who had not the courage to put themselves forward. I, a penniless man, should have been ruined if it had not been that the men in workshop, pit, and factory had enabled me to fight this battle. [An interruption.]
I am sorry that honorable members cannot have patience with one pleading as I plead here. It is no light task, even if you put it on the lowest personal grounds, to risk the ambition of a life on such an issue. It is a right ambition to desire to take part in the councils of the nation if you bring no store of wisdom with you and can only learn from the great intellects that we have. What will you inquire into? The right honorable baronet would inquire into my opinions. inquire into my conduct, or is it only my opinions you will
The honorable member for Plymouth frankly puts it, opinions. If opinions, why not conduct? Why not examine into members' conduct when they come to the table, and see if there be no members in whose way you can put a barrier?
Are members whose conduct may be obnoxious to vote my exclusion because to them my opinions are obnoxious? As to any obnoxious views supposed to be held by me, there is no duty imposed upon me to say a word. The right honorable baronet has said there has been no word of recantation.
You have no right to ask me for any recantation. Since the ninth of April you have no right to ask me for anything. If you have a legal disqualification, petition, lay it before the judges. When you ask me to make a statement you are guilty of impertinence to me, of treason to the traditions of this House, and of impeachment of the liberties of the people. My difficulty is that those who have made the most bitter at
tacks upon me only made them when I was not here to deal with them.
One honorable and gallant member recently told his constituents that this would be made a party question, but that the Conservative members had not the courage to speak out against me. I should have thought, from reading “HanBard,” not that they wanted courage, but that they had cultivated a reticence that was more just. I wish to say a word or two on the attempt which has been made to put on the government of the day complicity in my views.
The Liberal party has never aided me in any way to this House. Never. I have fought by myself. I have fought by my own hand. I have been hindered in every way that it was possible to hinder me; and it is only by the help of the people, by the pence of toilers in mine and factory, that I am here to-day after these five struggles right through thirteen years. I have won my way with them, for I have won their hearts, and now I come to you. Will you send me back from here?
Then how? You have the right, but it is the right of force and not of law. When I am once seated on these benches, then I am under your jurisdiction. At present I am under the protection of the writ from those who sent me here. I do not want to quote what has happened before; but if there be one lesson which the House has recorded more solemnly than another, it is that there should be no interference with the judgment of a constituency in sending a man to this House against whom there is no statutory disqualification. Let me appeal to the generosity of the House as well as to its strength. It has traditions of liberty on both sides. I do not complain that members on that [the Conservative] try to keep me out. They act according to their lights, and think
my poor services may be injurious to them. [Ories of “No!”] Then why not let me in? It must be either a political or a religious question.
I must apologize to the House for trespassing upon its patience. I apologize because I know how generous in its listening it has been from the time of my first speech in it till
But I ask you now, do not plunge with me into a struggle I would shun. The law gives me no remedy if the House decides against me. Do not mock at the constituencies. If you place yourselves above the law, you leave me no course save lawless agitation instead of reasonable pleading. It is easy to begin such a strife, but none knows how it would end. I have no court, no tribunal to appeal to: you have the strength of your votes at the moment. You think I am an obnoxious man, and that I have no one on my side. If that be so, then the more reason that this House, grand in the strength of its centuries of liberty, should have now that generosity in dealing with one who to-morrow may be forced into a struggle for public opinion against it.