Letter from Charles Bradlaugh to the Speaker
Charles Bradlaugh was elected MP for Northampton in 1880. A founder of the National Secular Society, he achieved notoriety through pamphleteering on republicanism and birth control advocacy. As an atheist Bradlaugh refused to swear the oath of allegiance required for MPs to take their seat in the House of Commons. He sought a compromise by requesting to make an affirmation instead, but the House refused. In June 1880 he was taken from the bar by the Serjeant at Arms, Henry Gossett, and placed in the prison room in the Clock Tower. This Parliamentary stand-off reached a head the following year (as described in this letter) when Bradlaugh was physically refused entry into the Commons chamber by the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms, David Erskine, causing much public outcry and legal implications. This battle of wills continued until 1886 when Speaker, Henry Brand finally overruled the opposition and allowed Bradlaugh to take the oath. The Oaths Act 1888 later allowed MPs to make an affirmation instead of an oath.