HC Deb 04 December 1837 vol 39 cc508-21

On the motion of Mr. Baines, that the House resolve itself into a Committee upon the Municipal Officers' Declarations Bill,

Mr. Grote

said, he believed that the present was the fit time for him to move that the Bill be extended not only to the Quakers and Moravians, but to all classes of her Majesty's subjects. In doing so, he desired to explain that nothing was farther from his intention than to interfere with the wishes of the hon. Member for Leeds, as regarded those two classes of Dissenters which were included in his Bill. He was of opinion that the principle of the Bill did not go far enough. It was impossible to follow this course of legislation without feeling that, from the passing of the Test and Corporation Acts' Repeal Bill, the principle of imposing tests had been abandoned. The imposition of civil disabilities on account of the party's religion he believed was now considered out of the question. The House could not possibly apprehend anything like danger to the Established Church of England from the admission of Quakers and Moravians to the privileges sought for them; and certainly, if it were right that the Roman Catholics, a very powerful body, were admitted to these privileges, it was also proper that Quakers and Moravians should be admitted. He proposed, however, to carry the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds by the instruction which he should move to the Committee, to the same point as was reached by the Bill which that hon. Member brought into the House in 1836, and which, after passing this House was carried up to the Lords, where he believed it was not rejected, but there not being time enough to allow of a full discussion of the principles it fell through. The objects embraced by that Bill, were precisely the objects he now had in view. His wish was to open the doors of Parliament and of the Corporations to every Dissenter of every denomination who would subscribe to the declaration, that he would not employ the power which he might obtain to the detriment or injury of the Church of England as by-law established. There was a very strong feeling prevalent in the constituency which he had the honour to represent, in favour of the concession of those privileges to the Jews, as had been shown that evening by the petition presented in their favour. There was a very great feeling of the inconsistency involved in the circumstance that the Jews should be disqualified from holding the offices of mayor and aldermen, and yet be eligible for the important office of sheriff. The House might possibly know, that two years ago, the office of sheriff was filled by a gentleman professing the Jewish persuasion. This year, the same office was filled by a gentleman of the same religion. Yet this creed, which did not prevent a Jew from filling the responsible office of sheriff, disqualified him from being either a Member of Parliament, or a member of a common council. Had the learned Recorder, (the Member for the borough of Cambridge) been in his place, he could have appealed to him, if those Gentlemen to whom he had already alluded, had not filled the high office of sheriff of the city of London with credit and advantage; and he certainly expected to have the hon. and learned Member's support of the proposition which he was about to make to the House. He could not understand the principle upon which the hon. Member for Leeds intended to oppose his (Mr. Grote's) amendment. He would not rest his motion on the ground of special favour to the Jews, but on the broad ground that the time had arrived when the last remnant of those acts of intolerance which the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts was intended to abolish, should be erased from the statute-book. He begged to remind the House that the very principle which he recommended was adopted by Parliament when it passed the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Leeds in 1836. If the hon. Member for Leeds should resist the present motion, he would doubtless be prepared to state the grounds on which he rested his opposition; but there was no ground he could urge which would not cut from under him the most powerful arguments in favour of his Bill of 1836. The hon. Member concluded by moving that it be an instruction to the Committee to extend the relief afforded by the Bill to persons of all religious denominations.

Mr. Goring

seconded the motion, and contended that it was unworthy of this enlightened age and country to retain those laws which excluded Jews from civil rights.

Mr. Langdale

was not prepared to go along with the hon. Member for the city of London in his present amendment, and he would tell the House why. It was on this ground, and on this ground alone, that he conceived that the adoption of the present instruction would endanger the success of the Bill altogether. He was of opinion that this Bill ought to pass, because, if Quakers were permitted to make affirmations, instead of taking oaths, on matters of life and death, surely their declarations on accepting municipal offices ought to be considered sufficient for all practical purposes.

Sir J. Duke

hoped that, as a new Member, he might be permitted to say a few words on the present occasion. As Sheriff of London, he bore testimony to the merits of both his successor and his predecessor in that office, who, as the House was well aware, were both Jews. His predecessor had retired into private life attended by the respect and approbation of all who witnessed his official exertions; and his successor, who was at present fulfilling the duties of his office, would doubtless, when he retired, carry with him into his retirement the same favourable opinion from his fellow citizens. Both those gentlemen were liberal contributors to all public charities, and never inquired to what creed the directors and objects of those charities belonged. There were many other persons of the Jewish persuasion who deserved the same high character as the two excellent individuals to whom he had just alluded. He hoped that the House would gladly avail itself of the present opportunity to remove the barriers which kept those persons from the possession of their municipal rights.

Sir G. Strickland, as a friend of the established Church, thought, that the best way of propping up that church was by removing all those heartburnings against it which were created by the religious exclusions which it had formerly considered necessary to its defence. He therefore hoped before long to see the time when all religious disabilities would be removed. The present, however, was a question in which policy as well as principle was at stake; and as he was of opinion that a prudent man ought to take all that he could get, when he could not get all that he might wish, he should oppose the amendment of the hon. Member for the city of London, lest by supporting it he should run the risk of losing the substantive motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Leeds.

Mr. Pattison

supported the amendments proposed by his hon. Colleague. He was surprised to find opposition made to such a proposition on that (the Radical) side of the House, although he was quite prepared for it on the other side. He had a notice of a motion for that night, which he would not go on with if the House acceded to that of his hon. Friend. But if the proposition of his hon. Friend were rejected he should certainly bring forward his own. He wished to add the expression of his feelings and those of his constituents in support of the views and opinions expressed in favour of the Jews by his hon. Colleague. He would illustrate the estimation in which gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion were held in the city, by observing that when he left the chair as governor of the bank, a Jewish gentleman was proposed to fill it, and the seconder of that gentleman was Mr. Gurney, the Quaker. He gave the proposition of his hon. Friend his hearty support.

Sir Robert Inglis

had great pleasure in admitting all the high personal qualifications of the two excellent individuals who had been alluded to by Gentlemen on the other side. The present, however, was not a personal question, nor ought it to be embarrassed by personal considerations. It was a question of principle, and of principle only, and that question was, whether they ought not to exclude from all share in the government of England those who did not profess, like themselves, Christianity. The proposition of the hon. Member for Leeds was very different from that of the hon. Member for the city of London. The first was a proposition to relieve those who differed from the Church of England; the latter was a proposition to relieve those who differed from our common Christianity. He insisted that those who did not believe in our common Christianity should not be admitted to legislate for it. He reminded hon. Members that in the summons which called them together they were convened to consult, not only on the state and defence of the kingdom, but also on the Church. It might be perhaps said, that if the argument which he had just used proved anything, it proved too much; for there were already in the Legislature men who had no especial interest in the Church. But he insisted that even those men had an interest in our common Christianity, and hitherto the Legislature had excluded from it all who did not profess the faith of a Christian. He was sure that if the House should determine to admit such persons within its walls, it would be contrary to the feelings of the country, and would never be permitted by the other branch of the legislature. Having on former occasions opposed upon general grounds the introduction of Jews into that House, he could not allow them to be introduced by a side wind into the enjoyment of municipal offices. He should give his strenuous opposition to the instruction moved by the hon. Member.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that he knew the hon. Member for Oxford was on all occasions in the field against any propositions which were introduced as regarded the Jews. Now, he would not admit any argument which speculated on what might be done in the other House of Parliament. The question seemed to be, whether the principle should be established that no man, be his religion what it might, should be disabled from holding any civil office by reason of those religious opinions, and it was his conscientious opinion that every loyal subject should be admitted to civil offices—that the question should be not of what religion any person was, but whether, should he be admitted to legislative functions, he would be dangerous to the State, in consequence of his political opinions? The hon. Member for Oxford always objected to the admission of Jews to civil privileges, and he was convinced he would do so to the end. But on what ground, he would ask, should they not be admitted? There were no men who were more loyal subjects; and as to their political opinions, it had been remarked that there was no instance of a person of the Jewish persuasion who had ever been convicted or accused of a political offence. It had been remarked that the good conduct and loyalty of the Jews as a body could not be established by two persons, but it was admitted that the conduct of all those who had been admitted to civil offices had been so unexceptionable as to have acquired the applause of both sides. In reference to the argument used by the hon. Member for Oxford, that he would oppose the motion because the parties referred to were not Christians, he remembered that the same hon. Member had been as vehemently opposed to the Dissenters, and that he had been always averse to the repeal of the Test Act. He had followed him in the debate on that question, and it struck him that if he carried out his principles there would be an end to any advance in religious toleration—to the Catholic Emancipation Bill what had been his objections? They were as good Christians as any other, and yet he objected to their participation in civil rights; and now, when the question was the admission of Jews to those privileges, his objection was that they were not Christians. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, he could see no objection to admit them to offices, to fulfil which they were capable, as could be evidenced in the City of London. There were thousands of that persuasion whose character and dealings acquired for them the respect and admiration of all with whom they were connected. He trusted, therefore, that the amendment would be carried, and that a great principle would not be given up upon speculation as to what might be done in another place.

Mr. Kemble

said, if he understood the object of the bill, its purpose simply was to extend to certain classes of Christian. Dissenters the same relief in respect of municipal offices which had been already granted to them by all Acts of Parliament regulating the conditions of admission to other places of public trust. This being the only question before them, he thought the amendment of the hon. Member for the City of London utterly irrelevant. It was hardly fair that the House should be called on to affirm a principle of an extent so wide as to sanction the admission of persons of the Jewish persuasion not only to municipal officers, but to seats in that House, in a bill of which the object was to relieve Quakers from an oath which they could not conscientiously take. He should feel it is duty, therefore, to vote against the amendment.

Mr. George F. Young

said, the hon. Member for Surrey, in asserting that the amendment would sanction the admission of Jews into that House, as well as enable them to hold municipal offices, had confounded two objects totally distinct. The Jews were not excluded from municipal offices; the question was, whether they should continue to hold them under the absurd and anomalous tenure by which they are at present compelled to fill them, or whether a more sound and rational system should be introduced. Would any man maintain that a Jewish sheriff, elected by the citizens of London, and liable to a fine of 600l. if he refused to serve, should be compelled to sign a declaration that he will discharge the duties of the office, "on the true faith of a Christian," or be subjected to heavy penalties, from which he could only be relieved by the act of indemnity annually passed? The object sought to be attained was merely to abolish this barbarous form of procedure, and if the House declined to relieve all who were placed in the position he had described, they would commit a positive act of injustice towards those who were excluded.

Captain Pechell

remarked, that Mr. Salomons, a well-known member of the Jewish persuasion, had lately canvassed a borough in the county with which he was connected, and that the prejudices against him felt by many at first were entirely removed before the canvass was finished. He hoped the House would see the necessity of now granting an immunity, the concession of which was demanded by a vast majority of the nation.

Sir C. Burrell

must say, as Mr. Salomons, his late opponent at Shoreham, had been referred to, that he believed the character of that gentleman for respectability stood very high. Truth obliged him to add, however, that the supporters of Mr. Salomons were, with few exceptions, of an inferior class in the social scale; how their votes were obtained, he would not say. The conduct of Mr. Salomons' supporters during the election was not at all creditable to them. With regard to the matter immediately before the House, he should certainly give his vote against the amendment.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that if the constituency of Shoreham did not in future boar a very good character, they must ascribe it to the efforts of the hon. Baronet to set the House right on the point, as no one could have said anything against it but for the information kindly supplied by him. He could not content himself with giving a silent vote on this occasion, and the reason was, that the motion, as the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Kemble) said, involved a principle. The hon. Gentleman had used this argument against the motion of the hon. Member for the City of London, he (Mr. O'Connell) did not think in a legitimate way, for, by the hon. Member's manner of arguing, it seemed as if he would support the principle if it were separately laid down. It appeared to him to be a paltry and pitiful mode of legislation to be hair by hair and bit by bit admitting persons into offices without the exaction of religious tests. He did not know anything so derogatory to Christianity as those religious tests for admission to office; they became mere oaths of course; (here was no sanctity about them, and the flippancy with which the ceremony was gone through in the usual routine of office was really anything but creditable to the religious feelings of the parties. If religious feelings existed, what should be the foundation of them? Justice to every creed —noninterference with private judgment—permission to every man to enjoy the fullest liberty of conscience—the renunciation of all claim to dictate the religious opinions of others. No man in that House had a right to inquire into the religious opinions of any individual; conduct alone ought; to be regarded, and if it were such as to entitle a man to civil rights, the morn conscientious he was in refusing to take an oath repugnant to his conscience, the greater title did he possess to the respect and esteem of his fellow-citizens. Instead of shutting the door to public eminence against such men, they ought to throw it open wider to their access. He would implore the hon. Member for Leeds not to oppose the amendment to the motion for going into Committee. The hon. Member had a particular object, but that to a certain extent involved a principle, and would be of small importance if it did not. Why not at once admit the principle, and accede to the amendment? Were any gentlemen more cherished in society than the class of Jews; were any persons better calculated to fill offices with credit; would it not be an act of injustice to exclude them from the benefit of this law? Municipal offices were at present held by Jews by a sort of trick and dexterity of law, and was it not most discreditable to say that we allow that to be done surreptitiously which is not done openly?

Mr. Hume

said, that the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Inglis) had assented to the 87th section of the Act 3 and 4 William 4th, which enacted, that no native of British India, nor any natural-born subject of his Majesty residing therein, should, by reason of his place of birth, descent, or colour, be disabled from holding any place, honour, or emolument, under the East-India Company. Why should the hon. Baronet withhold the same privileges from the Jews of this country which he had consented to grant to every native of our Indian dominions? Why should he deny to natives of England those rights which were enjoyed by her subjects in a distant region?

Mr. Baines

rose, but gave way to

Lord John Russell

who said, his vote would be very much governed by the opinions held by the hon. Member for Leeds, who had prepared the Bill. With regard to the difference between the hon. Member for Dublin and the hon. Member for Surrey, he had no hesitation in declaring his support of the principle involved in the amendment; and if he thought, he could forward the progress of any measure by asserting that principle, he should be most happy to do so. But the question with respect to this Bill was of a different nature. when the Bill for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act was before Parliament, it was returned from the House of Lords with certain additions to the declaration proposed in it, which were adopted by the House. Therefore, if there was any discredit in giving way to a partial admission, as the hon. Member for Tynemouth contended, the House was then guilty of that fault, because while they maintained that the Test and Corporation Act should be repealed, they inserted in the declaration which was adopted, the words "on the true faith of a Christian," manifestly excluding the Jews. Certain other words were added to the declaration, which, as he understood at the time, were intended only to give it the character of greater solemnity. For that purpose the words "in the presence of Almighty God" were introduced, which gave to the form the character of an oath rather than a declaration, though they did not convert it to an oath. Now, in passing such a Bill as his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds proposed, it might be very well contended that the intention of the Legislature was not to admit Jews, but that it was not their intention to exclude persons having a conscientious objection to an oath by putting words in the. declaration tantamount to an oath. That was the principle on which the Bill of his hon. Friend was founded; but if, besides accomplishing this object, they could accomplish the object of admitting Jews, and if his hon. Friend thought the principle could be acted on in the Bill with advantage, he should be happy to embrace the opportunity, and assert again the principle he had asserted when Bills for the relief of the Jews were brought before the House by an hon. Friend of his now in India (Mr. Macaulay), and by his right hon. Friend near him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer.) But, if his hon. Friend were of opinion that the introduction of such a provision at this time was likely to be injurious to his Bill, then he should say the best course they could adopt would be to limit the relief to the parties for whom it was originally contemplated, and the argument for the future admission of the Jews would not be weakened, but strengthened, by the admission of another class of Dissenters. It was, however, entirely a question of policy, and he laid the matter before his hon. Friend and before the House with the assurance that his hon. Friend's vote should be guided by his determination.

Mr. Baines

thought, that both duty and policy bound him to adhere to the course he had already marked out. On introducing this Bill he stated distinctly that it was his intention to relieve Quakers and Moravians from the obligation to take an oath in order to enable them to enter on a municipal office. That was his object, and beyond that he did not mean to go. He had no objection that relief should be given to the Jews; on the contrary, he thought it highly desirable that they should have relief, but he appealed to his hon. Friend the Member for London, and his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin, if the cause would in the slightest degree be prejudiced by the course he intended to take. If the House would permit him, he would introduce in the Bill after the word "Moravians," the term "Separatists," which would extend its benefits to another denomination of Christians.

The House divided on the Amendment: —Ayes 156; Noes 172: Majority 16.

List of the AYES.
Adare, Viscount Dennistoun, J.
Ainsworth, P. Divett, E.
Archbold, Robert Duckworth, S.
Attwood, W. Duke, Sir James
Ball, N. Duncan, Viscount
Baring, Francis Duncombe, T.
Beamish, F. B. Dundas, Frederick
Bellew, Richard M. Dundas, hon. J. C.
Berkeley, hon. C. Dunlop, J.
Bernal, R. Easthope, John
Bewes, T. Eliot, Lord
Blackett, C. Erle, William
Blake, Martin Joseph Evans, G.
Blewitt, R. J. Fazakerley, J. N.
Blunt, Sir C. Fenton, John
Bridgeman, H. Ferguson, Sir R.
Brotherton, J. Ferguson, Robert
Browne, R. D. Fergusson, R. C.
Bruges, W. H. L. Finch, F.
Bryan, G. Fitzsimon, Nicholas
Buller, Charles Fleetwood, P. H.
Buller, E. Fort, John
Bulwer, Edward L. Gibson, James
Butler, hon. P. Gillon, Wm. Downe
Callaghan, D. Goring, H. D.
Campbell, Sir J. Grattan, Henry
Carnac, Sir J. Guest, J.
Cavendish, hon. C. Hall, B.
Clay, William Harvey, D. W.
Clive, Edward Bolton Hawes, B.
Codrington, Sir E. Hawkins, J. H.
Collier, John Hay, Sir A. Leith
Collins, W. Hayter, W. G.
Copeland, W. T. Herries, rt. hn. J. C.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Hindley, C.
Craig, W. G. Hobhouse, T. B.
Crawford, W. Horsman, E.
Curry, William Howard, F. J.
Denison, W. J. Humphery, John
Hutton, R. Roche, William
Jervis, S. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Rundle, John
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Salwey, Colonel
Leader, J. T. Scholefield, Joshua
Lennox, Lord George Sharpe, General
Loch, J. Standish, Charles
Lowther, J. H. Stewart, R.
Lushington, Charles Stewart, James
Lynch, A. H. Stuart, Lord J.
Macnamara, Major Strangways, hon. J.
Mahony, P. Strutt, E.
Marshall, William Talbot, J. Hyacinth
Marsland, Henry Talfourd, Sergeant
Martin, J. Tancred, H. W.
Melgund, Viscount Thompson, Alderman
Morris, David Thornley, T.
Nagle, Sir R. Vigors, N. A.
O'Brien, Cornelius Villiers, Charles P.
O'Brien, W. S. Vivian, J H. E.
O'Callaghan, C. Wakley, T.
O'Connell, D. Walker, R.
O'Connell, M. J. Wall, C. B.
O'Connell, Morgan Wallace, Robert
O'Ferral, R. M. Warburton, Henry
Paget, Frederick Whalley, Sir S.
Parrott, J. White, A.
Pattison, J. Wilbraham, G.
Pease, J. Williams, W.
Pechell, Captain R. Williams, W. A.
Philips, Mark Wilshere, W.
Phillpotts, John Winnington, H. J.
Ponsonby, C. F. A. Wood, Sir M.
Poulter, John Sayer Wood, G. W.
Power, James Wyse, Thomas
Protheroe, E. Yates, J. A.
Reddington, T. N. Young, G. F.
Rice, E. R. TELLERS.
Rich, Henry Grote, G.
Roche, David Hume, J.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Thos. D. Buller, Sir J. Yarde
A'Court, Captain Burr, Daniel H. D.
Alsager, Captain Burrell, Sir C.
Ashley, Lord Canning, Sir S.
Bailie, H. D. Cantilupe, Viscount
Bainbridge, E. T. Cayley, E. S.
Baker, Edward Chaplain, Colonel
Baring, H. Bingham Chapman, A.
Barneby, John Chichester, J. P. B.
Barrington, Visct. Christopher, R. A.
Bateman, John Clive, Viscount
Bateson, Sir R. Clive, hon. R. H.
Bell, M. Colquhoun, Sir J.
Bethell, Richard Conolly, E. M.
Blair, James Courtenay, P.
Blake, W. J. Dalrymple, Sir A.
Blennerhassett, A. Damer, D.
Boiling, William Darby, George
Borthwick, Peter Davies, T. H.
Briscoe, J. I. D'Israeli, B.
Broadley, Henry Douglas, Sir C. E.
Brownrigg, S. Duffield, T.
Bruce, Lord E. Dugdale, W. S.
East, J. B. Marton, George
Eaton, R. J. Maunsell, T. P.
Ebrington, Viscount Meynell, Captain
Egerton, Wm. Tatton Miles, W.
Elliot, hon. John C. Miles, P. W. S.
Ellice, Captain A. Morpeth, Viscount.
Ellis, John Muskett, G. A.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Packe, C. W.
Estcourt, T. H. S. Paget, Lord A.
Farnham, E. B. Pakington, J. S.
Follett, Sir W. Palmer, Robert
Forbes, William Palmerston, Viscount
Forrester, hon. G. Parker, J.
Freshfield, J. Parker, M.
Gladstone, W. E. Patten, John Wilson
Gore, J. R. Ormsby Paul, H. S.
Goulburn, H. Pemberton, Thomas
Greene, T. Perceval, Colonel
Greenaway, C. Pinney, William
Grey, Sir G. Powerscourt, Visct.
Grimsditch, T. Price, Richard
Grimston, Visct. Pringle, A.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Pusey, P.
Halford, H. Rae, Sir Wm. Bart.
Harcourt, G. S. Ramsay, Lord.
Hardinge, Sir H. Richards, Richard
Hastie, A. Rolleston, L.
Henniker, Lord Rose, Sir George
Hillsborough, Earl of Round, C. G.
Hodgson, F. Round, John
Hodgson, Richard Rushbrooke, Colonel
Hogg, James Weir Rushout, George
Holmes, hon. W. A. Russell, Lord J.
Holmes, William Sanford, E. A.
Hope, George W. Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Hope, Henry T. Seymour, Lord
Horsey, S. H. Shaw, Frederick
Houldsworth, T. Sheppard, T.
Houstoun, G. Shirley, Evelyn J.
Howick, Viscount Sibthorp, Col.
Hughes, W. B. Sinclair, Sir G.
Ingestrie, Viscount Smith, Abel
Ingham, R. Somerset, Lord G.
Irving, John Stanley, Edward
Jackson, Sergeant Stanley, Lord
James, Sir W. C. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Jenkins, Richard Stewart, John
Johnstone, Hope Stuart, H.
Kemble, Henry Strickland, Sir Geo.
Kerrison, Sir Edward Style, T. C.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Sugden, Sir E.
Knight, H. G. Talbot, C. R. M.
Langdale, hon. C. Trevor, hon. G.
Law, hon. C. Tufnell, Henry
Lennox, Lord Arthur Turner, William
Litton, Edward Verner, Colonel
Lockhart, A. M. Wilberforce, William
Logan, Hart Williams, Robert
Lygon, General Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Mackenzie, T. Winnington, T. E.
Mackenzie, W. F. Wood, C.
Mackinnon, W. A. TELLERS.
Maclean, Donald Baines, Edward
Mactaggart, J. Inglis, Sir R. H.

The House went into a Committee on the Bill. The word "Separatists" was inserted. The clauses were agreed to, and the House resumed.

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