Majesty’s Courts in its administration of the part of the Statute – law which has relation to its internal procedure only. What is said or done within its walls cannot . Legal Definition and Related Resources of Bradlaugh v. Gossett Related Entries of Bradlaugh V. Gossett in the Encyclopedia of Law Project. Definition of Bradlaugh V. Gossett ((), 12 Q. B. D. ). This was an action against the Serjeant-at-Arms, who had been directed by the.

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The following judgments were delivered: It was the importance of this case as to the issues which it raised, and the great dignity of the House of Commons, whose action is in fact questioned in the person of the Serjeant-at-Arms, rather than any difficulty in the legal questions involved, which led me to desire that the judgments pronounced on it should be deliberate.

The same reasons lead me to think it fit to express my own judgment separately, though, after reading the judgment of my learned Brother, I feel that the bradlaugj is exhausted. The facts vv the pleadings which state them have been so fully detailed by my Brother Stephen that I content myself with referring to and adopting as my own that portion of his judgment which details them. These statements raise the question whether, on the assumption that the resolution of the House of Commons forbade a member of the House within the walls of the House itself to do something which by the law of the land he had a right to do, such a resolution goseett one which the House of Commons has a right to pass; and whether, if it has not, this Court can inquire into the right, and allow an action to be maintained by a member of the House against the officer of the House charged by resolution of the House itself with the execution of its order.

The plaintiff argued his own case, and argued it with abundant learning and ability; but he admitted that, with all his research, he had not found a single precedent for his action, and that he had found many distinct and weighty dicta of great judges bradlaugj former days to the effect that no such action could be maintained.

Nor, wide as is the range of topics more or less connected with the point at issue, and numerous as are the authorities collected and commented on in the leading cases on the subject, does it seem to me that the questions really to be decided are more than elementary, and such as must be decided mainly on principle.

In this as in so many matters of practical concern difficulties are created by the laying down of principles in terms so wide and general, that, although logic may justify them, the sense and feeling of men imposes upon them in fact limitations which are said not altogether untruly to be sometimes inconsistent with the principle they are supposed to admit.

For example, it seems to be conceded that a resolution gkssett the House of Commons only and what is true of one House of Parliament is true of the other cannot change the law of the land.

Sir John Patteson and Sir John Coleridge, brzdlaugh the former especially, — put this point bradlaufh great force in their judgments in Stockdale v. Again, there can be no doubt, that, in an action between party and party brought in a court of law, if the legality of a resolution of the House of Commons arises incidentally, and it becomes necessary to determine whether it be legal or no for the purpose of doing justice between the parties to the action; in such a case the Courts must entertain and must determine that question.

Lord Ellenborough expressly says so in Burdett v. Gossstt 14 East; and Bayley, J. All the gossstt judges who gave judgment in Stockdale v. That case, indeed, was an illustration of this necessity. The Attorney General, Sir John Campbell, could undoubtedly have succeeded at nisi prius upon the facts of the case, without raising the question of privilege upon which the arguments and judgments were delivered.

But, bradlaygh reasons perfectly well understood at the time, he forced Lord Denman who tried the cause to give the ruling which he was determined to question. It is perhaps not to be regretted that he did so, when the arguments and the judgments which were the result are remembered: Cases may be put, cases have been put, in which, did they ever arise, it would be the plain duty of the Court at all hazards to declare gossdtt resolution illegal and no protection to those who acted under it.

Such cases might by possibility occasion unseemly conflicts between the Courts and the Houses. But, while I do not deny that as matter of reasoning such things might happen, bradlaugy is consoling to reflect that they have scarce ever happened in the long centuries of our history, and that in the present state of things it is but barely possible that they should ever happen again.

Alongside, however, of these propositions, for the soundness of which I bradlaubh be prepared most earnestly to contend, there is another proposition equally true, equally well established, which seems brqdlaugh me decisive of the case before us. What is said or done within the walls of Parliament cannot be inquired into in a court of law.

On this point all the judges in the two great cases which exhaust the learning on the subject, — Burdett v. Abbott 14 East1, and Stockdale v.


The jurisdiction of the Houses over their own members, their right to impose discipline within their walls, is absolute and exclusive. No doubt, to allow any review of parliamentary privilege by a court of law may lead, has led, to very grave complications, and might in many supposable cases end in the privileges of the Commons being determined by the Lords.

But, to hold the resolutions of either House absolutely beyond inquiry in a court of law may land us in conclusions bradoaugh free from grave complications too.

Bradlaugh V. Gossett | European Encyclopedia of Law (BETA)

It is enough for me to say that it seems to me that in theory the question is extremely hard to solve; in practice it is not very important, and at any rate does not now arise. On the question that does arise, if cases are required there is a remarkable one to be quoted regarding each House, — the case of the Earl of Shaftesbury 1 Modin which the Court of King’s Bench altogether declined jurisdiction to inquire as to what had passed in the House of Lords; and the case of Sir John Eliot and his, fellows, reported fully at the end of Cro.

Hollis had held the Speaker in the chair by main force, to prevent his adjourning the House before a motion had been made.

They were sued in the King’s Bench: The demurrer was overruled, and they were heavily fined and imprisoned. Sir John Eliot was killed by the rigours of his imprisonment: Valentine died; but Mr. These cases seem direct in point; and we could not give judgment for the plaintiff in this action without overruling them. I need not discuss at any length the fact that the defendant in this case is the Serjeant-at-arms.

The Houses of Parliament cannot act by themselves in a body: I entertain no doubt that the House had a right to decide on the subject-matter, have decided it, and have ordered their officer to give effect to their decision. He is protected by their decision.

They have ordered him to do what they have a right to order, and he has obeyed them. It is said that in this case the House of Commons has exceeded its legal powers, because it has resolved that the plaintiff shall not take an oath which he has a right to take, and the threatened force is force to be used in compelling obedience to a resolution in itself illegal. But there is nothing before me upon which I should be justified in arriving at such a conclusion in point of fact. Consistently gsosett all the statements in the claim, it may be that the plaintiff insisted on taking the oath in a manner and under circumstances which the House had a clear right to object to or prevent.

Sitting in this seat I cannot know one way or the other. But, even if the fact be as the plaintiff contends, it is not a matter into which this Court can examine. If injustice has been done, it is injustice for which the Courts of law afford no remedy. On this point I agree with and desire to adopt the language of my Brother Stephen. The history of England, and the resolutions of the House of Commons itself, shew that now and then injustice has been done by the House to individual members of it.

But the remedy, if remedy it be, lies, not in actions in the courts of law see on this subject the observations of Lord Ellenborough and Bayley, J. Abbott14 East,and, but by an appeal to the constituencies whom the House of Commons represents. It follows that this action is against principle and is unsupported by authority, and that therefore the demurrer must be allowed, and bradlaubh there must be judgment for the defendant.

The demurrer admits for the purposes of our decision the truth of the matters stated in the statement of claim. In a few words they are as follows: The resolution of the House of Commons of the 9th of July,read with the correspondence between the Speaker and Mr. Bradlaugh shews gossetr for reasons which are not before us the House of Commons resolved that Mr. Bradlaugh, who had been duly elected member for Northampton, should not be permitted to take the oath prescribed by law for members duly elected, and that he should be excluded, if necessary, by actual force from the House, unless he would engage not to do so.

We are asked to declare this order void, and to restrain the Serjeant-at-arms from enforcing it. I may observe, before considering this question, that but gissett the amendment made at the hearing I at least should have felt bound to decide the case on a much narrower ground than that on which I think we ought to deal with it. Taken by itself, the order of the 9th of July states nothing except that the House had by resolution excluded a member, who in the judgment of the House had disturbed its proceedings, till he gossrtt not further to disturb it.

It is obvious that we could not interfere with what might be a mere measure of internal discipline. The order as it stands is consistent with the supposition that Mr. Bradlaugh, on presenting himself to take the oath, had in some way misconducted himself, and that the House had ordered him to be excluded till he promised not to repeat his misconduct.

With such a measure of internal discipline we obviously could not interfere. The correspondence with the Speaker certainly sets the matter in a different light. I cannot read the statement of claim as asserting less or interpret the demurrer as admitting less than what I have already stated; and this raises the question which the parties probably wished to have decided in a very broad way.


The legal question which this statement of the case appears to me to raise for our decision is this: In my opinion, we have no such power. I think that the House of Commons is not subject to the control of Her Majesty’s Courts in its administration of that part of the statute-law which has relation to its own internal proceedings, and that the use of such actual force as may be necessary to carry into effect such a resolution as the one before us is justifiable.

Many authorities might be cited for this principle; but I will quote two only. The number might be enlarged with ease by reference to several well-known cases. Blackstone says 1 Com We are asked to declare an order of the House of Commons to be void, and to prevent its execution in the only way in which it can be executed, on the ground that it constitutes an infringement of the Parliamentary Oaths Act.

The House of Commons have resolved that he shall not be permitted to take it. Grant, for the purposes of argument, that the resolution of the House and the Parliamentary Oaths Act contradict each other; how can we interfere without violating the principle just referred to? Nevertheless, the importance of the case may excuse some further exposition of the principle on which it seems to me to depend.

The Parliamentary Oaths Act prescribes the course of proceeding to be followed on the occasion of the election of a member of Parliament. In order to raise the question now before us, it is necessary to assume that the House of Commons has come to a resolution inconsistent with the Act; for, if the resolution and the Act are not inconsistent the plaintiff has obviously no grievance.

We must of course face this supposition, and give our decision upon the hypothesis of its truth. But it would be indecent and improper to make the further supposition that the House of Commons deliberately and intentionally defies and breaks the statute-law. The more decent and I may add the more natural and probable supposition is, that, for reasons which are not before us, and of which we are therefore unable to judge, the House of Commons considers that there is no inconsistency between the Act and the resolution.

They may think there is some implied exception to the Act. They may think that what the plaintiff proposes to do is not in compliance with its directions. With this we have nothing to do. Whatever may be the reasons of the House of Commons for their conduct, it would be impossible for us to do justice without hearing and considering those reasons; but it would be equally impossible for the House, with any regard for its own dignity and independence, to suffer its reasons to be laid before us for that purpose, or to accept our interpretation of the law in preference to its own.

It seems to follow that the House of Commons has the exclusive power of interpreting the statute, so far as the regulation of its own proceedings within its own walls is concerned; and that, even if that interpretation should be erroneous, this Court has no power to interfere with it directly or indirectly.

This view of the matter is well illustrated by another part of the Act. It was considered by the House of Commons, and the House took a course which left the interpretation of the enactment to the Courts.

Bradlaugh V. Gossett

It permitted the plaintiff to make the declaration, but declared that it did not intend to interfere with his liability to the statutory penalty if he did so. He made the declaration, took his seat accordingly, and was sued for the penalty. Though the proceedings in that action finally bgadlaugh in his favour, they established the proposition that s.

See Clarke v Bradlaugh, 7 QB D 38, 61; Bradlaugh v Clarke, 8 App Cas This case appears to me to illustrate exactly the true relation between the House of Commons and this Court as regards the interpretation of statutes affecting them, and the effect of their resolutions on our proceedings.

A resolution of the House permitting Mr. Bradlaugh to take his seat on making a statutory declaration would certainly never have been interfered with by this Court. If we had been moved to declare it void and to restrain Mr. Bradlaugh from taking his seat until he had taken the oath, we should undoubtedly have refused to do so. On the other hand, if the House had resolved ever so decidedly that Mr.

Bradlaugh was entitled to make the statutory declaration instead of taking the oath, and had attempted by resolution or otherwise to protect him against an action for penalties, it would have been our duty to disregard such resolutions, and, if an action for penalties were brought, to hear and determine it according to our own interpretation of the statute.

Suppose, again, that the House had taken the view of the statute ultimately arrived at by this Court, that it did not enable Mr.