HC Deb 03 August 1836 vol 35 cc865-74

The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved that this Bill be now read a second time.

Sir Robert Inglis

At last, Sir, we are called upon to discuss this measure, and in a House which, if any Member chose to exercise his undoubted right, might easily be counted out—a House consisting, perhaps, of thirty-five Members (I will not press the objection, because after so long a postponement I wish to take the ques- tion on its merits), but it is in such a House that a measure which I and many who think with me consider will have a vital influence on the Christian character of this Christian Legislature, is to be decided. The Bill now before us has been upon the Orders of the House almost as long as the famous Pension Duties' Bill—fifty-five days; sufficiently long at least to tire the patience of any man not actuated by a strict sense of duty. I know, at least, that I speak from my own experience, and I believe that of many of my friends, when I say, that duty alone has brought us clown to this House week after week, in expectation of this measure coming on. Is not the plain reason this—that a measure in itself bad can only be perpetrated—I use no harsher term, by a mode still worse? By the mode of effecting the object of this Bill we shall, in my opinion, be unchristianizing ourselves. Let it always be remembered that we are not legislating for New Zealand or Nova Zembla, or any newly established colony. We are legislating for a state of society in which the supreme power has, and long has been, vested in certain bodies, under certain long established conditions and restrictions. It is not therefore that you are called upon,a priori, to enact the conditions on which the legislative power shall be exercised. You are called upon to admit the Jews, by omitting that emphatic declaration which every one of you have made at that Table; that we, entering upon our legislative functions, will discharge them "upon the true faith of a Christian." This I contend makes an essential difference between an Act by which in any other country, or above all in a newly erected State, the Jews would be admitted into civil power, and an Act, such as that now under consideration, by which we renounce for ourselves and for them, that solemn covenant which at the Table of this House we make with our country and our God, to perform our duties as Legislators "upon the true faith of a Christian." I know that among those who support this measure there are many (none more than my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer) who cannot without reluctance and pain, reflect that they are about to take such means of effecting such an object; not to introduce, but to erase words; and about to enact, that they will not in future discharge their legislative duties "upon the true faith of a Christian," for that is the real point at issue; that is the only mode in which the object of this Bill can be effected; I am certain they must feel regret in reflecting upon this. I am certain their real sentiments, if expressed, would be such as these, "We are truly sorry to be compelled to take this course; but it is the only mode by which our object can be effected: a public measure is to be carried; it cannot be carried but by this means; we are grieved thus to throw into the dust our common Christianity; but the Jew will not be contented without; contented he must be; therefore annihilated must be that solemn declaration of the Christianity of the Members of this House. I have, however, rather anticipated the order in which I should have discussed this question. I should first have said, that my objection was absolutely to the admission of Jews into this House; whatever might be the mode in which it was done, and independently of my objection to the means by which this Bill proposes to effect the object; but which, in such a country as this, and with such a body of legislation as lies upon that Table, is, I admit, the only method by which it could be effected. I strongly, and unconditionally, protest against the introduction of the Jews into Parliament at all. I believe that the Jews, by their own testimony, and by the testimony of all antiquity, may be considered—no one will deny it—as an entirely distinct and separate nation. I repeat, it is not that which we (when I say "we" I mean every Christian community in Europe)—it is not what we say, it is not what their opponents say (that might be considered as a relic of barbarism),—it is the language of the Jews themselves, that they are a distinct people. No one, I believe, will venture to contradict the evidence which I shall bring in confirmation of this statement; not from writers six, seven, or eight centuries old (for they might be deemed influenced by the barbarous prejudices of past ages), but from modern writers of their own nation. Before I go farther let me say that I have never, in discussing this question (and I have been called to discuss it often), I have never, so far as I can recollect, suffered myself to speak of the Jews with disrespect. I have stated what I believe to be the fact, that, notwithstanding the vulgar prejudice against the Jews, their moral character, taking numbers for numbers, will bear comparison with that of any other people. I have never rested my opposition to their claims upon any popular antipathies, never availed myself of any prejudice against their character; let me add, that as a nation I regard them as a standing miracle, and as such I speak of them not merely with respect but with awe. The question now is, whether they regard themselves as a nation, not merely separated from us at present, but for ever impossible to be united to us. I believe they do thus regard themselves; and more than that, let it be considered they are as a nation, necessarily, essentially, opposed to that which we regard as our greatest privilege, our highest blessing, our brightest distinction;—they are necessarily, and on principle, hostile to that which we regard as the crown of all our glory (or if we do not so regard it we are not entitled to style ourselves Christians)—our common Christianity.

Sir, I say, that the distinction of the Jews consists not merely in their creed: they are a nation; their creed and nationality are one and the same, and that this is their own belief I shall now proceed to show. A few years ago, a letter was addressed to my right hon. Friend, then Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was a published letter,—from Mr. Hart to Sir Robert Peel—and the writer thus expresses himself: "I feel myself called upon, as a member of an ancient and oppressed people." The House will see, the Jews do not claim relief as the Roman Catholics, or as the Protestant Dissenters claim it—as fellow-subjects differing in religious belief; but they appeal to us as a distinct people; they give us at once to see that they believe themselves to be a nation; and so instinctive, I might almost say, is this conviction, even in the minds of hon. Members opposite, that in a discussion upon the Marriage Bill, on the 13th June, the hon. and learned civilian, the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Dr. Lushington), used these very words: "If a Jew marry agreeably to the usages of his own nation." I bring this example forward, to show that, in the opinion even of the friends of the Jews, of hon. Gentlemen opposite, they not only hold a distinct creed, but are a distinct people. If so, what more reason have we to give them civil power in this country, than to naturalise so many Russians or Prussians?—Again, this nation, if true to themselves, and to their own prophetical destiny, can never be identified with us. Upon a former occasion, I quoted some opinions of a Gentleman (whose name was then, I believe, indistinctly heard in the House) from whom I have since received a letter, a passage of it I will read to the House. I allude to the Rabbi Crool. He refers to the prophetic destiny of the Jews, a subject far too high for discussion in this House, but to which, on such a question, I think it not unfitting to make a passing allusion; and after alluding to their present condition, he continues thus: "Suppose a King of England to condemn a person to be transported for a time known only to the King, the person was transported, and an order sent with him to the governor, informing him of the duration of the sentence. In process of time, the governor set free the prisoner. He went further, he made him a citizen: he went still further, he promoted him to a high station in life. The conduct of the governor was reported to the King. Let hon. Gentlemen who support this Bill pass sentence, whether the governor will be found guilty of breaking the command of his King." No one can be so ignorant, Sir, of his own country's history, and the history of the Jews, as not to perceive the events to which these allusions refer. None can require to be informed, that the governor receiving the transported person, is the supreme governor of this country, and that the person transported, signifies the banished, "scattered and peeled," rejected of all nations—the Jews. We believe the Jews to be sentenced to this separation from all nations, for causes with which every man who reads his Bible must be well acquainted; and we are called upon, not merely to set them free, but to make them citizens; and still further, to give them civil power over a Christian Church, and enable them to exercise the duties of Legislators over this Christian nation. I might produce many other passages from the writings of Jews; all concur in the same opinion. To admit the Jews into civil power, and to confer on them the right to legislate for this country, would be inevitably to place them in a situation in which their interests as a nation, would be inconsistent with the interests of the people of this country. To give only one instance; Members of this House are often called upon to legislate with respect to the Established Church of this realm, and is it fitting that men, not only strangers to us as a nation, but strangers to us in that which constitutes our peculiar glory, our Christianity, should legislate upon such a subject. I stated upon a former occasion, I do not believe that the great body of the religious Jews in this country participate in the anxiety entertained upon this subject by the political Jews. The answer then was, "wait for petitions;" and certainly my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did present, soon after, sundry petitions in favour of the measure. But I believe it will be found, that the priests of the Jews do not join in these petitions; and that they feel it inconsistent with their peculiar situation, to mix themselves up with the temporal affairs of another nation. And the Rabbi Crool uses this language: "I will now turn to my brethren, the Jews, and I say to them, 'suppose that the Bill is passed, and that you are equal in every respect,' you will then say, 'London is our Jerusalem, England is our land of Canaan; we have no need now of another Jerusalem, no need of another Canaan!'" It may be said, indeed, "that is their own affair, let them look to that." But I contend, that to effect a temporal object, you have no right to place them in such a predicament, and to tempt them, for temporal advantage, to neglect that which they feel to be their spiritual privilege. In the present state of the House, whatever I might feel inclined to say, it would be useless now. It is quite evident that the subject does not excite that interest which so great a change in the institutions of the country ought to excite. I consider it as a measure which, without producing the benefits which my right hon. Friend anticipates, will be followed by more serious consequences than he imagines. I impute no motives—I appeal to him with the perfect confidence, that however widely we may differ on questions of public policy, we agree on that which is vastly superior to the most weighty of earthly considerations. I am sure he must feel reluctance in expunging from the declarations which the Members of this House take, those emphatic words, by which they solemnly profess their Christianity, and their accountability to the God of the Christians, for the care which they shall take over his Church and his people in this land. With these feelings, Sir, I move as an amendment, "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months."

Colonel Sibthorp

thought it was almost impossible that any Minister of the Crown could have brought forward such a measure in such a thin House, but he believed that he should not discharge his duty unless he moved that the House be counted.

The House was counted, but forty Members were present.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had repeatedly postponed the measure at the suggestion of his hon. Friend opposite, and was, therefore, surprised that complaints should be made that it was brought forward in such a thin House. He denied that there was anything in the measure which was opposed to the spirit of the Christian religion. If such could be the case, the injury had already been done, because a bill of the same character had already received the sanction of large majorities in former Sessions of Parliament. The feeling out of doors was decidedly friendly to the principle of the measure, and the cities of London, Liverpool, Worcester, Leeds, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, &c, had petitioned in its favour. His hon. Friend said the Jews were a nation apart from this, but what had made them so? The barbarous policy that had been pursued towards them. He was anxious to make England their country and their home. He fervently hoped the decision of the House on this occasion would show, that the Commons of England were anxious to get rid of this last remnant of intolerance, by admitting all classes of his Majesty's faithful subjects to the rights, immunities, and advantages of the Constitution under which they lived.

Mr. Forster

opposed the Bill, contending that all attempts to incorporate the Jews with a Christian nation must ultimately prove abortive; London could never be made their Jerusalem. He had been a supporter of Catholic emancipation, but that question rested on different grounds from that of the Jews. He remembered on the discussion of that question, a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair had expressed a hope that the time might never come when this country would cease to be constitutionally Protestant. He hoped that the time might not come when it would cease to be constitutionally Christian. He opposed the motion.

Mr. W. Roche

would give his support to the Bill on principle, and also from personal feeling. He supported it on principle, because he thought that every British subject was entitled to equal rights and privileges; and he supported it from personal feeling because as a Roman Catholic he had long felt the injustice of his own exclusion from many civil rights, and he would not refuse to a fellow-subject that right which as such a subject he had at length obtained himself.

Mr. A. Trevor

opposed the Bill, not as a member of the Church of England, or any particular sect, but as a member of the Church of Christ. He also objected to the discussion of a measure of such importance in so thin an attendance, as to be scarcely enough to constitute a House. It ought to have been reserved until every Member should have an opportunity of expressing his opinion on it. As many Members were elected since the Bill was last in the House, their constituents should first have an opportunity of stating their opinions on it.

Mr. Benett

supported the Bill. If it was considered so important why did not hon. Members attend who intended to oppose it? The Jews were good and loyal subjects, and were fully entitled to equal privileges with all other British subjects. He strongly objected to mixing civil rights with religious opinions.

Mr. Finch

had no wish to mix up politics and religion; but as Members of that House had to decide on matters relating to the Christian church, and to Christianity generally, he did not think that a Jew would be fit to take a part in such deliberations. There was a great difference between civil rights, and civil privileges. He would extend civil rights to the Jews but he considered that he did them no injustice in refusing them the privilege of being eligible to sit in Parliament. He did not believe that the people of this country were at all in favour of the measure, and on these grounds he would oppose it.

Mr. Potter

said, that the question was purely political in its character, and ought not to be considered with reference to religious creeds. The time was come when the civil disabilities of the Jews ought to be removed.

Mr. Hardy

had been asked by his constituents upon the hustings, whether, if returned, he would vote against the Bill or not; and he declared, that he would certainly vote against it, and he was returned by a larger majority than had returned him before. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had argued the question like a Deist. The supposition of a Providence was not the doctrine of the people of England. Was it for the possession of civil privileges that they supported the Established Church, or did they not rather support it that the people might learn from its ministers, as the oracles of God, those means by which their eternal salvation was to be secured? He complained of this Bill, not because it removed disabilities, but because it conferred abilities at variance with the Constitution of the country, and incompatible with the principles by which that Constitution was governed. They were excluded from political privileges, because, if they were sincere and conscientious, they must feel bound to do that which was at variance with the interests of the Protestant Church. He felt bound to give the measure his fullest and most earnest opposition.

Mr. Rundle

would support the Bill, because he thought laws which excluded any man from the enjoyment of civil rights on account of his religious opinions were opposed to the spirit of Christianity.

Mr. Plumptre

would not go over the ground which had been taken up by his hon. Friends who opposed this Bill, but would content himself with saying, that he felt bound to support the Christian Constitution of the country, and, considering this Bill to be a direct insult to that Constitution, he should vote against it.

Mr. Borthwick

was ready to admit, that persecution was contrary to the spirit of Christianity, but the question came before the House in quite another shape. Christianity was an element of the civil polity of the realm, and though Roman Catholics had been admitted as Members of that House, that was no argument in favour of the Jews, inasmuch as both Protestants and Catholics drew their faith from the same source, but the Jews denied the very God in whom the others believed. If the Jews were admitted to legislate for the country, there would be, at once, an end to the connexion with the Christian religion as an element of the Constitution. What was the question? Was it not whether a Bill should be passed to disunite for ever the religion and politics of the British Government, and to destroy the great principles in which the people were educated from their youth, and which bound them together under the name of Christians, from the King downwards? He thought the Jews themselves would not consider the success of the Bill any great advantage to them; and he believed that no sincere Jew could occupy a seat in that House without feeling that he had insurmountable difficulties to encounter in the whole of his progress as a legislator for a Christian country.

Mr. Brotherton

could not give a silent vote on the present occasion. He declared that he would place more confidence in a man who did not profess to believe in a particular doctrine, than in one who professed to be a Christian, and yet lived in a manner that was dishonourable to his profession. He thought that the man who was willing to devote his life, property, and talents to the benefit of his fellow men, ought not to be deprived of his civil rights and privileges, which would enable him to fulfil his intentions, because he did not happen to agree with others on certain doctrines. Believing the Christ an religion to be one of pure charity and humanity, he should support the Bill.

The House divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 22: Majority 17.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Morrisson, J.
Bagshaw, John O'Brien, Cornelius
Baldwin, Dr. Parker, John
Barnard, E. G. Philips, Mark
Benett, J. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Blamire, W. Robinson, G.
Bowes, John Roche, William
Brabazon, Sir W. Rundle, J.
Brady, Denis, C. Ruthven, E.
Brocklehurst, J. Scholefield, Joshua
Brotherton, J. Thompson, Alderman
Butler, hon. Pierce Thornley, T.
Crawford, W. S. Tooke, W.
Duncombe, T. S. Wallace, Robert
Heathcoat, John Warburton, H.
Hindley, C. Wigney, Isaac N.
Hodges, T. L. Williams, W.
Hodgson, J. Wood, Alderman
Horsman, E. TELLERS.
Howard, P. H. Potter, Richard
Lushington, Charles Baines, Edward
List of the NOES.
Ashley, Lord Jones, Theobald
Brownrigg, J. S. Lowther, Col. H. C.
Duffield, Thomas Maunsell, T. P.
Forbes, Wm. Pigot, Robert
Forster, Charles S. Plumptre, J. P.
Hardy, J. Richards, R.
Henniker, Lord Sibthorp, Col.
Inglis, Sir R. H., bt. Stormont, Lord
Trevor, hon. A. Williams, Robert
Vere, Sir C. bt.
Vesey, hon. T. TELLERS.
Welby, G. E. Finch, George
Whitmore, Thomas C. Borthwick, Peter

Bill read a second time.