HC Deb 22 July 1833 vol 19 cc1075-81
Mr. Robert Grant

having moved the third reading of the Jews' Disabilities Bill,

Mr. Finch

rose to oppose the further progress of the Bill. To the Jewish people he was friendly, as far as they were entitled to a participation in constitutional privileges. Christianity, however, formed a part and parcel of that Constitution, to participate in the whole of which they now aspired; and he concurred with many that it would be a solecism to permit men denying the truth of Christianity to expound our laws, and administer justice to professors of Christianity. He was sure, that this measure would lead to the most disastrous results. All who wished well to the Church Establishment ought to set their faces against the admission of the Jews to Parliament. The proposition that all men, be they Jews, Hindoos, or Mahometans, were fit to legislate for this country, would lead to the principle that a Church Establishment was altogether unnecessary. He felt bound to oppose the measure. He gave the supporters of it credit for the most pure and praiseworthy motives, but as he felt that the measure was one of the most destructive that had ever been proposed to Parliament, he could not do otherwise than vote against it.

Mr. Cumming Bruce

said, his opposition to this measure did not rest upon any apprehension as to its practical results, but was based upon much higher grounds. The question was not whether three or four, or half a dozen Jews, should be admitted to Parliament, but whether the Legislature should continue to be an exclusively Christian Legislature? It was now proposed, that they should admit the avowed and inveterate enemies of Christianity. It was the duty of the House to legislate for the interest of religion and the maintenance of Christianity. With what consistency could they admit the enemies of that belief to assist in legislating for it? He knew, it was argued, that in these liberal days all civil rights and privileges, and even power, should be opened to all classes of his Majesty's subjects. He was not going to dispute that proposition at present, but he asked whether Jews were his Majesty's subjects? He had never heard that an Austrian, or a Swiss, or a Russian, or a Calmuck, let him have lived never so long in this country, would he entitled to any thing beyond protection. He did not see, that the Jew had a right to any higher privileges. As an alien and a stranger he was entitled to protection, but not to a share in our legislation. He knew, that many Gentlemen considered, that religion, being a matter between man and his God, a national recognition of our allegiance to the Divine Founder of our creed was unnecessary. But he did not see why that which was fit for an individual or a family was not also good for a State. The Scriptures enjoined national recognition of religion, and the frequent calls to nations, and the rulers of nations, amply proved this. He could not consent to a measure which was calculated to draw down national chastisement upon us for our abandonment of that recognition which we owed to the Divine Being. Men might "rush in where angels fear to tread;" but for his part he shrunk from the responsibility which such a measure as this would entail. He might not hope, that the Bill would be rejected in that House, but he thanked God there was another tribunal where its merits would be weighed. He was sure there was no feeling in favour of the measure out of doors, but that its rejection would be hailed with gratitude and enthusiasm by the serious and reflecting, and would be received with indifference only by those who were indifferent to everything. The only pledge that had been required of him by his constituents was, that he should vote against the Bill. That pledge, however, he refused to give, as he would have refused any other pledge. But he did not feel it the less his duty to oppose it from conscientious feelings, and that duty he should discharge.

Sir Edward Codrington

said, he had presented a petition from the port which he represented, very numerously signed, in favour of the measure, and he should support it.

Mr. Sheil

said, that having once been himself disqualified on account of his religious opinions, he felt a strong sympathy for those who were not in the full enjoyment of civil rights. He thought the arguments on the score of expediency were much stronger against the Catholics than against the Jews, for there were millions of the former, but the number of Jews who could avail themselves of the privileges proposed to be conferred upon them would be very small indeed. Where-ever the Jews had been admitted to the possession of civil rights they had shown themselves capable of the sentiments and the duties of citizenship.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that as a question of principle he should vote for the third reading. Those who had supported the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and the Catholic Relief Bill, would act inconsistently if they did not support this measure.

Sir Charles Burrell

said, that he should oppose the Bill on the same ground upon which the hon. member for Kircudbright supported it—namely, on principle. He believed the Jews to be industrious and well conducted, but he did not think that they had any right to sit in a Christian Parliament. The prophecies of the Bible, according to the interpretation of a celebrated author, had been completely fulfilled. He must refer to the work itself in proof of this fact.

Mr. Buckingham

said, that having already had an opportunity of declaring his sentiments on the principle of the Bill, at its second reading, he was not now going into the general question; but there was one argument of the opponents of this Bill on which so much stress had been laid, that he felt it his duty to show to the House, as briefly as he could, that it was founded entirely in error. It had been asserted, that the Jews were a people who had no attachment to the land of their nativity or habitation; their affections being wholly absorbed by Jerusalem and Palestine, to which they looked with such anxious longings, that they had no feelings of patriotism for any other country, but directed their regards, and concentrated their affections entirely on the Holy Land. Now, having been himself for some time at Jerusalem, having made Palestine the subject of his peculiar and careful observation, and having examined into the state and condition of the Jews there and elsewhere, he was bound to say, that he had never heard of a single English Jew having visited Palestine, even as a matter of curiosity or recreation. If their affection for the Holy Land had been so unconquerable as had been supposed—there were many Jews in England, who had leisure and means in abundance, to enable them to make a visit to that country; but they never thought of going so far: and as to those who inhabited Jerusalem, or any part of Palestine, of which there were many of Asiatic and some of European birth, the oppressions under which they suffered, and the degradations to which they were subject, were such as to make their abode a continued scene of suffering: and, accordingly, as soon as they could possess themselves of the means of competency, or even of removal, they generally hastened with all possible speed, to get away from the country and its persecutions, and repair to some other happier land. The error lay in this—that we assumed the Jews to feel all that their sacred book represented them as feeling; and to act as their Scriptures prescribed. In this sense it was, no doubt, their duty to remember Jerusalem, and they recited prayers and hymns in praise of the Holy Land. But it did not follow, that they felt what they said, or acted up to what they professed, any more than many Christians, who recited in their worship, that into which their feelings never entered; and who, while they professed temperance, chastity, justice, and mercy, were frequently violating every one of these virtues by the daily acts of their life. As a purely theological question—the Jews, no doubt, looked to the restoration of their nation, and the establishment of a temporal kingdom at Jerusalem. But no one pretended to fix the exact period of that change. When it should be announced by such signs as could not be mistaken, they would, no doubt, avail themselves of the event. But the question before the House was—whether, during their residence among us, and their performance of all the duties of good citizens, paying taxes to the State, obeying the laws, and living in peaceful communion with their fellow-men, we should continue to exclude them from all those civil privileges which they were fully competent to enjoy usefully to themselves, and not injuriously to us, from the fear of some anticipated change, which might never arrive in our day, and if it did, could produce no evil by any extent of elevation which we might give to the Jews in the period previous to its accomplishment. He had yet heard nothing to lessen his confidence in the justice and policy of the measure for their emancipation; and he should, therefore, continue to give the Bill his cordial support.

Lord Sandon

said, that in supporting the Motion, it was not his intention to enter into the details of the question, because in considering these details in his own mind (and he had fully so considered them), he felt that no danger could occur either to the Church or State by the adoption of this measure.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, the explanation of the hon. and gallant Member was not so satisfactory as might have been expected. The subject was of paramount importance, and after having given his most anxious consideration to it, he was prepared to give his determined opposition to this Bill. The measure went either too far or not far enough. Either they were legislating on principle, or with reference to living interests. If on principle, not the Jews alone, but all other sects, of whatever belief or of no belief at all, should be admitted into the government of Church and State. He had always contended, that by the very terms of the writ issued by the Crown, they were called together to legislate for the whole interests of England—for Church as well as for State. Thus, persons who were by profession and by personal belief hostile to them in one half of their subjects of legislation, could not be fit to be trusted with any share in it. He was always ready to do an act of justice to individuals as well as to numbers; but denying it to be an act of justice, and looking upon this measure as one of expediency only, how small was the advantage it would confer on any one. So small it was, indeed, that the title of the Bill ought to be, "a Bill to enable an hon. Gentleman to come from the Lobby into the Body of the House." Supposing one was an understatement, four Jews were certainly the utmost that would ever be admitted into that House. No great temporal mischief would arise, but the principle involved was great; and that principle would be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. The hon. member for Stamford had very properly referred the House to what had been done in other matters by foreign states, whose example they were requested to follow in the present case. He had shown, that in the matter of slavery, the most liberal of republics was completely at variance with England. The example of any foreign state could be no rule for their conduct; but if their example were quoted at all, it ought to be done correctly; and as Prussia had been referred to he would state, that the liberality of the government of that country went so far as to allow the Jews to marry at the age of twenty-four, and to hold a certain set of inferior offices. In fact, their situation could not now be compared to that of the Jews in this country, not one of whom, he was sure, would give up the rights which he enjoyed here for the enjoyment of those of his brother in Prussia. The hon. and learned member for Kircudbright had stated, that the common law was not against the Jews; yet how could that assertion be reconciled with the great law maxim, that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land, which had been promulgated by one of our greatest and wisest Judges, and adhered to for the last 200 years? The hon. and learned Member had also asserted, that there was no statute law against them. The very oath required to be taken on entering that House was incorporated in a statute; and there was a yet unrepealed statute of the Irish Parliament passed in the 23rd and 24th George 3rd, in which it was declared, that whatever indulgence might be granted to other sects should not be granted to the Jews. The opinions of a man formed an important part of him, and it was therefore of great consequence to consider the opinions of those whose fitness for being admitted to that House was under discussion, particularly their religious opinions. He had not yet heard from any of the hon. Members who had spoken in favour of this Bill any thing which tended to show, that the opinions which the Jews entertained made them proper persons to be admitted to that House. He should, therefore, move, that this Bill be read a third time this day six months.

Mr. Andrew Johnstone

congratulated the hon. member for Oxford on having shown himself so true an advocate of Christianity, and giving proof, that it was part and parcel of the law of the land. With respect to the oaths talked of by the hon. Member, the House must bear in mind how oaths were found binding on Roman Catholics, according to the evidence given by Roman Catholic priests and other authorities. He would return back to the question more immediately before the House, and call upon the House to consider upon the solemn form of prayer which was daily performed in that House, and then ask themselves how they could expect Jews to join in that prayer? He would ask the hon. Member how he could defend this part of the case? It was not his intention to trouble the House much further on this subject; but he would say, that the British Constitution, which had been maintained for centuries on principles of Christianity, ought to be continued upon those pure and Christian principles upon which it was founded.

Mr. John Maxwell

having all his life supported liberal measures, wished to state, that he could not support this Bill, because it gave a character of complete indifference to all religion. To the Legislature, Christianity was interwoven with the law of the land, and he would not consent to admit the Jews into Parliament.

Mr. Robert Grant

was not guided by prophecies, but by precepts. He held, that every civil disability imposed on a particular sect, for which no reason was shown (for on those who opposed the Motion the burthen of proof lay) was not only oppression, but persecution. The advocates of the present measure might be compared to the good Samaritan, who did not refrain from relieving the man at the way side because he was an alien, and professed another creed. The arguments used to exclude the Jews from the ordinary rights of citizenship, were precisely those arguments used on the present occasion. He must express a hope, that this great question might be settled on the basis of charity, and in accordance with those great principles on which the Christian religion was founded, namely, of glory to God, and good will to men.

The House divided on the question, that the Bill be read a third time Ayes 189; Noes 52: Majority 137.

The Bill read a third time and passed.

List of the NOES.
Agnew, Sir A. Callander,
Bruce, Lord E. Calley, T.
Bruce, Cumming Corry, Hon. H.
Buller, Edward Daly, J.
Bainbridge, E. Eastnor, Lord
Burrell, Sir C. Estcourt, T. G. B.
Chaplain, Colone Finch, G.
Forster, C. Maxwell, Mr. J.
Gladstone, W. E. Moseley, Sir O.
Grey, Hon. Colonel Palmer, Robert
Greene, T. G. Parker, Sir H.
Gronow, Capt. R. H. Peel, Sir R.
Halcomb, J. Perceval, Colonel
Halford, H. Penruddock
Hardy John Ridley, Sir M. W.
Henniker, Lord Ross, Horatio
Hughes, H. Sinclair, G.
Hurst, R. H. Stormont, Lord
Inglis, Sir R. Stuart, C.
Johnston, A. Trevor, Rice
Knatchbull, Sir E. Tyrell, C.
Lefroy, A. Verner, Colonel
Lefroy, T. Villiers, Lord
Lennox, Lord A. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Lowther, Colonel Watkins, L. V.
Manners, Lord R. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Martin, J. Whitmore, E. C.